The exact formula that Google uses to determine the rank that a page shows up in a Google search is a closely guarded secret. Not only is it a secret, but it is a secret that is constantly changing – Google is constantly tweaking and updating their ranking algorithm. Although the exact formula is a mystery, much is known about some of the factors that are core components of their search ranking algorithm. Inbound links, those links coming into a website, have been at the core of Google’s formula from the beginning. Lately, Google has made some significant changes to the way it looks at the inbound links for your website.
Quality vs. Quantity
Inbound links have been an important part of Google’s search algorithm from the beginning and that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the way that Google looks at inbound links. Over the years, changes in the way the search engine views these links have resulted in changes in the search engine optimization (SEO) best practices regarding link building. Link building is essentially the acquisition of these inbound links. In the early years, quantity was a preeminent factor in the way inbound links were viewed. The website with the most inbound links ranked highest in the search results. (This is a bit of an over simplification. There are other factors that are also core components of Google search algorithm. For the purpose of clarity, in this article we’ll focus on just one factor – link building.)
Because quantity was king in those days, Internet directories were in great demand. This led to lots of links, coming from directories that no one ever looked at, except to add their website to. It also led to the practice of websites having a page of reciprocal links (a practice frowned upon today). Over time search engines began looking more heavily at the quality of inbound links, not just quantity.
Link quality comes down to association and relevance. A relevant inbound link is a link that points to your site and uses important keywords as a part of the link instead of something generic like “click here.” Another example of inbound link relevance would be links to your website coming from an industry trade association that you are a part of.
In the industry trade association, you would also gain points in the search engine’s algorithm for the association of your inbound link. You can think of association as a way of measuring reputation, whereas earlier they had mainly looked at links like a popularity contest. As a result, SEO best practices for link building began to include seeking links from high authority websites. Trade groups and associations are examples of websites that are considered to be authoritative in an industry.
Over the last few years, what was once regarded as a fad – social media, has quickly risen in importance and prominence. Now even something as “old school” as the evening news program asks you to follow them on Twitter and find them on Facebook. If you’re not sure how to put social media to work for your business, this free special report is a great place to start – “5 Ways to Grow Your Business Using Social Media.”
In January 2012 Google released Search Plus Your World. Essentially Search Plus Your World personalizes your search results to include search results that were authored, liked, +1’d, favorited, etc. by those you are associated with on Social Media. This personalization trend will have a huge impact on what goes into search engine optimization – making a website rank at the top of Google and the other search engines.
Link building in 2012 comes down to relationships. In order to have a great relationship between Google and your website, you’ve got to cultivate relationships between your website and other websites and thought leaders in your industry. Social media offers a lot of great opportunity for doing this.