Link popularity is a search engine optimization technique designed to improve the rank of your Web pages on search engine results. It measures the quantity and quality of other Web sites that link to yours and is an important strategy for marketers to increase the visibility of their Web pages on search engines.

Originally pioneered by Google, link popularity is a factor used today by major search engines in determining the relevance of a Web page. The philosophy of link popularity is that important Web sites will have relevant links pointing to it. In essence, an incoming link is a “vote” for your Web site.

You might hear of link popularity referred to as “off-page criteria” — meaning that link popularity is a search engine optimization technique that is outside of the bounds of your actual Web pages. “On-page criteria” are the use of meta tags, keywords and other SEO tactics within the pages of your own site.

Think Quality, not Quantity
In the early days of link popularity, many Webmasters focused on getting as many incoming links as possible, under the assumption that all incoming links are created equal. This led to the birth of link farms, which were nothing more than a group of Web pages all linking to each other, regardless of subject matter. Since then, search engine algorithms have become much more sophisticated and now devalue links from link farms or even penalize sites that participate in them.

Another tactic that has evolved is the reciprocal link. In this case, you put a link on your site to another site and send an e-mail to the other site owner asking for a link in return. Reciprocal links can be valuable, but they must be relevant. 

What’s more important than the number of links coming into your site is the quality of those links. Quality is related to the reputation and relevance of the site that is linking to yours. It’s better to have a dozen links from respected companies or online directories in your industry than to have one hundred incoming links that have little relevance to your business or customers.

The other factor search engines take into account besides quality and quantity of links is the text that appears in the incoming link, called the anchor text. When you can control the anchor text of an incoming link, use keywords and your company name as part of the text. Sometimes you can provide the exact text to the site that is linking back to yours, or even text to use in an Alt-Img tag if your logo is being used to link to your site.

You should also consider what page you link back to on your Web site. Your home page may not be the best option. A content-rich, more relevant page deeper in your site may be a better choice, depending on the nature of the site linking to yours.

How to Get More Links
The easy routes to link building – such as link farms – are unethical practices and don’t pay off. Search engines algorithms have caught up to them; your site may be penalized for engaging in such tactics.

That leaves old fashioned research and hard work to build incoming links. Here are some ways to do it.

  1. Write relevant articles and submit or distribute them to industry directories or other Web sites related to your business. Most sites will include a link back to your site.
  2. Distribute press releases through news feeds such as http://www.prnewswire.com or http://www.businesswire.com. Be sure to include a link back to your site in the press release.
  3. Begin a campaign to ask your business partners, distributors, resellers and key customers to link to your site.
  4. Join relevant industry organizations and get listed on their Web sites with a link back to your site.
  5. Submit your site to relevant industry directories or free directories such as dmoz.org.
  6. Read industry blogs and comment on the postings with a link back to your site.
  7. Start a blog for your company, which can often lead to incoming links from those who read your blog.
  8. Publish articles on your own Web site and submit them to social media sites such as Digg (www.digg.com), but make sure they fit into one of the categories offered.

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