Links were the first major “Off-the-page” ranking factor used by search engines. Google wasn’t the first search engine to count links as “votes,” but it was the first search engine to rely heavily on link analysis as a way to improve relevancy.
Despite the chatter around other signals, links, along with content, remain the most important external signal for Google’s search rankings. But as you’ll find, some links are more valuable than others.
Lq: Link quality
Links are an indicator of success within online marketing. But this doesn’t mean “get as many links as possible” or “XY number of links equals success.”
Links should be a KPI within your greater online marketing strategy, similar to the more generally accepted KPI (particularly for content) of social shares. Links are not the end goal, but instead a means to achieve the end goal.
What’s a quality link? It’s one of those “you’ll know it when you see it” types of things in many cases. But a link from any large, respectable site is going to be higher on the quality scale than a link you might get from commenting on a blog. And, links from sites that are topically relevant to your site, may also count more
Link text/anchor text
Amazon has millions of links pointing at it. Yet, it doesn’t rank for “boats.” It does rank for “books.” Why? Many of those links pointing at Amazon say the word “books” within the links, while relatively few say “boats,” since Amazon doesn’t sell boats.
“Anchor text”, or the clickable part of the link you see, helps humans and search engines determine what may be coming next and are seen by search engines as the way one web page is describing another. It’s as if someone’s pointing at you in real life and saying “books” and indicating you an expert on that topic.
You often can’t control the words people use to link to you, so capitalize on your opportunities to influence anchor text, within reason.
Number of links
Plenty of sites have found that getting a whole lot of links can add up to SEO success. Even more so if you’re getting a lot of links from many different sites. All things being equal, 1,000 links from one site will mean far less than 1,000 links from 1,000 sites.
Long ago, the sheer number of links used to be far more important, but the number has decreased steadily in importance as search engines have learned how to better evaluate the quality of links.
Tactics such as targeted content and link baiting campaigns, writing products reviews and broken link building are a handful of ways to attract links to your web pages. Avoid automated software and spamming blogs, both are against the search engines’ terms of service.
For more information, see our categories,
Link Building and How to: Links