The Links effect and the credibility of websites
We know that a search engines ranking of your site is very sensitive to the size, quality and context of your back links. But why do search engines place so much emphasis on looking at them? The answer is that site owners just can't be trusted by search engines to objectively describe their sites and the sheer volume of them means Google needs a more independent way to order the web.
When search engines first appeareD they didn’t pay much attention to links. The web was thin, the volume of sites was low, and the competition within categories was sparse.
For the most part, they managed to do their jobs by just indexing text and scoring results on simple measures such as word frequency, density and other similar metrics. Some of them like the Yahoo! directory were even manually scrutinised and compiled.
The web explosion
Since then though, the ease of publishing to the web combined with common place access to technology, has seen the sheer volume of content on the web explode. Categories which were once sparse with topical websites, are now bursting at the seams with competing websites, same’ism, me too, and the over hyped, over sold, self promotion, and even downright misinformation, that can be expected of the real commercial world.
Content is not so useful as a differentiator
This means that the once plentiful degrees of difference between a handful of websites, that allowed them to be scored and separated in rankings by virtue of their text, has diminished to the point where text and general indications of what a site is about have ceased to be a useful way of differentiating the proposition and value of websites.
Fish and chips
Matt Cutts, an eminent Google engineer summed it up best in a story about fish and chips. He tells the story about coming to London and leaving his hotel starving for a good meal. He sees a board outside a restaurant that says "The Best Fish and Chips in London", so he thinks to himself, "Wow, fantastic. I've stumbled on a great restaurant. I don't need to read time out, ask my concierge, look on one of the many review sites like Top-table, or ask the locals. It’s all right here on the board." So he goes in, eats, and what do you know. It's horrible, and certainly not the best fish and chips in London.
In this friendly analogy, where Matt is substituting bill boards for websites, and the wider public opinion for links, it’s easy to see how a search engine, operating as the intermediary between websites and the surfing audience, needs a way to analyse beyond and through websites attempts at self promotion, delusions of grandeur, over selling and in some cases deliberate misinformation, to deliver back a useful response to searches.
The links effect
‘Links’, on the other hand, are different. Links come from the 3rd parties, and so are awarded based on merit. Thus, links can illustrate the value the rest of the web places on a site, almost like a voting system. Search engine spiders can recognise this and so create a more reliable and objective way to score a site’s value, and rank it on a more genuine and discerning basis.
This method is also more resilient to being undermined by the growth of the web and manipulation by simple and easily accessible methods. Even as the number of websites in a category grows, certain sites (due to their positive and widespread actions) will always consistently get more news mentions, more awareness, more recognition, more citations, and be more talked about. Link analysis recognises this and places value on this popularity to help the search engines cut above the chatter of text.
Links at the forefront of SEO
As such, links have become a critical part of how search engines determine rankings, making link building critical to the SEO strategy.
They are the bedrock of what we call a sites ‘Credibility’ and SEO in competitive markets needs to embrace this credibility management and development.
On the following page we will illustrate how search engines measure credibility and what we do to build and manage it for ranking improvement.
View Part 2