How Do Search Engines Evaluate Links?

Traditionally, search engines index and analyze links coming to and from site pages in order to determine the popularity of those pages. A page receiving a large number of links, especially from high-ranking sites, is a clear indicator to search engines that a site is valued by, and relevant to, a wider audience.

Google and Bing also factor social authority into their algorithms. They seem to do this by taking into consideration the number links from social media sites, and also, the authority of those individuals sharing content and links. It’s a mystery as to just how social authority is evaluated by Google and Bing, but it’s a sure bet that “likes,” follower ratios, post frequency, number of retweets (Twitter), and evan PageRank of social pages might all play a role.

Considering the above, the sole focus of a link building campaign should not be based on the raw number of links accrued, but rather on creating likable content. Here are some other considerations:

(1)    Quality
Links from prominent sites with higher PageRanks are weighted more heavily than links with little to no PageRank

(2)    Frequency of New Links
A sudden surge in the number of links, where no updates to the site have been made, can be flagged by search engines and compromise an SEO campaign. A more natural increase in links, such as additional links in conjunction to site or content updates, are more highly favored by search engines.

(3)    Variety of Sources
A site with many links from a wide variety of sites (especially prominent sites) is a good indicator to search engines that the site has inherent relevance and value.

The most efficient way to acquire these high-quality links is by regularly updating sites with unique, relevant and useful content. High quality content can attract links from a wide-range of prominent sites. By frequently updating content, sites can expect a sustained, organic increase in links. To learn more about how content can improve SEO strategies, see Does Relevant Content Really Matter to SEO?

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About William Tyree

William Tyree is a marketing technologist and writer, and is currently Vice President of Marketing for DemandResults. He has worked as a marketing and technology strategist in a variety of industries, including B2B software, entertainment, healthcare, legal, large nonprofit, eGovernment and food & beverage. His writing has been published in Harvard Review, The Atlantic, Japan Inc and elsewhere.

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