Good times with inbound links

Thursday, October 09, 2008 at 11:17 PM

Inbound links are links from pages on external sites linking back to your site. Inbound links can bring new users to your site, and when the links are merit-based and freely-volunteered as an editorial choice, they're also one of the positive signals to Google about your site's importance. Other signals include things like our analysis of your site's content, its relevance to a geographic location, etc. As many of you know, relevant, quality inbound links can affect your PageRank (one of many factors in our ranking algorithm). And quality links often come naturally to sites with compelling content or offering a unique service.

How do these signals factor into ranking?

Let's say I have a site, example.com, that offers users a variety of unique website templates and design tips. One of the strongest ranking factors is my site's content. Additionally, perhaps my site is also linked from three sources -- however, one inbound link is from a spammy site. As far as Google is concerned, we want only the two quality inbound links to contribute to the PageRank signal in our ranking.

Given the user's query, over 200 signals (including the analysis of the site's content and inbound links as mentioned above) are applied to return the most relevant results to the user.


So how can you engage more users and potentially increase merit-based inbound links?

Many webmasters have written about their success in growing their audience. We've compiled several ideas and resources that can improve the web for all users.
Create unique and compelling content on your site and the web in general
  • Start a blog: make videos, do original research, and post interesting stuff on a regular basis. If you're passionate about your site's topic, there are lots of great avenues to engage more users.

    If you're interested in blogging, see our Help Center for specific tips for bloggers.

  • Teach readers new things, uncover new news, be entertaining or insightful, show your expertise, interview different personalities in your industry and highlight their interesting side. Make your site worthwhile.

  • Participate thoughtfully in blogs and user reviews related to your topic of interest. Offer your knowledgeable perspective to the community.

  • Provide a useful product or service. If visitors to your site get value from what you provide, they're more likely to link to you.

  • For more actionable ideas, see one of my favorite interviews with Matt Cutts for no-cost tips to help increase your traffic. It's a great primer for webmasters. (Even before this post, I forwarded the URL to many of my friends. :)
Pursue business development opportunities
Use Webmaster Tools for "Links > Pages with external links" to learn about others interested in your site. Expand the web community by figuring out who links to you and how they're linking. You may have new audiences or demographics you didn't realize were interested in your niche. For instance, if the webmasters for example.com noticed external links coming from art schools, they may start to engage with the art community -- receiving new feedback and promoting their site and ideas.

Of course, be responsible when pursuing possible opportunities in this space. Don't engage in mass link-begging; no one likes form letters, and few webmasters of quality sites are likely to respond positively to such solicitations. In general, many of the business development techniques that are successful in human relationships can also be reflected online for your site.
Now that you've read more information about internal links, outbound links, and inbound links (today's post :), we'll see you in the blog comments! Thanks for joining us for links week.

Update -- Here's one more business development opportunity:
Investigate your "Diagnostics > Web/mobile crawl > Crawl error sources" to not only correct broken links, but also to cultivate relationships with external webmasters who share an interest in your site. (And while you're chatting, see if they'll correct the broken link. :) This is a fantastic way to turn broken links into free links to important parts of your site.

In addition to contacting these webmasters, you may also wish to use 301 redirects to redirect incoming traffic from old pages to their new locations. This is good for users who may still have bookmarks with links to your old pages... and you'll be happy to know that Google appropriately flows PageRank and related signals through these redirects.

Comments:

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