Links were the first major “Off The Page” ranking factor used by search engines. No, Google wasn’t the first search engine to count links as “votes,” but it was the first search engine to massively depend on link analysis as a way to improve relevancy.

Today, links remain the most important external signal that can help a web site rise in the rankings. But some links are more equal than others….

Lq: Link Quality

If you were sick, which would you trust more? The advice of five doctors or fifty people you didn’t know but who offered their opinions as you walked down the street.

Unless you’ve had a really bad experience with doctors, you’re probably going to trust the doctor advice more. Even though you’re getting fewer opinions, you’re getting those opinions from experts. They’re quality opinions.

In the same way, search engines do count all the links pointing at web sites (except those blocked using nofollow or other methods). But they don’t count them all equally. They give more weight to the links that are considered to be of better quality.

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.

To learn more about link quality and how Google in particular examines links, see this tutorial from us:

These articles from us provide some additional tips on getting quality links:

Also be sure to check out our Link Week column, which provides information about link building every week.

Lt: Link Text / Anchor Text

Amazon has millions of links pointing at it. Yet, it doesn’t rank for “cars.” It does rank for “books.” Why? Many of those links pointing at Amazon say the word “books” within the links. Relatively few will say “cars,” since Amazon doesn’t sell cars.

The words within a link — the link text or “anchor text” — are seen by search engines as a way that one web site is describing another. It’s as if someone’s pointing at you in real life and saying “books,” declaring you to be an expert on that topic.

Often, you can’t control the words people use to link to you. But if you have the opportunity to influence this, you should seek to. It’s a powerful ranking factor.

To learn more about anchor text, see our tutorial below:

Ln: Number Of Links

While you want link quality over sheer number of links, plenty of sites have found that getting many links can add up.

In particular, viral linkbaiting campaigns can be effective and something even search engine representatives have suggested.

But in your quest for links, don’t fire up automated software and begin blog spamming. That’s a bad thing, in many ways, as we’ll explore later in this guide.

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