In last month’s issue, I discussed links and their importance in search engine optimization. Now let’s get acquainted with some powerful tools to aide us in our link building efforts. Yahoo! Site Explorer offers a quick way to review competitors’ and your own inbound links.
PageRank Search provides Google results alongside with PageRank scores. Bear in mind that Google link results (e.g. “link:www.practicalecommerce.com”) are not comprehensive. Select the options of 100 results per page and order by PageRank
PageRank Lookup lets you check PageRanks of multiple URLs simultaneously. The tool comes in especially handy when a home page does an immediate redirect and you can’t get a PageRank reading for the “true” home page (i.e. the URL with nothing after the first slash).
Neat-o lets you review whether the keywords you are targeting are present within the anchor text of your inbound links. Contact high PageRank endowed linking sites with whom you have a relationship or influence and ask them to revise their anchor text. As you may recall from my previous articles, anchor text is critical for SEO because all the major engines take the anchor text that you have used and associate the words in the anchor text with the page that you are linking to.
SEO-Links Firefox extension
SEO-Links Firefox extension provides link counts and rankings for the anchor text by simply hovering your cursor over a link. It’s great for evaluating how successful a text link advertiser is.
Thumbshots Ranking presents visually the common results between two sets of search results. Use the tool to find commonalities in inbound links between you and your competitor (e.g. “link:http://www.yourcompany.com -site:yourcompany.com” and “link:http://www.yourcompetitor.com -site:yourcompetitor.com”) on Yahoo!, MSN Search or Google.
Some Words of Caution…
- Take PageRank scores with a grain of salt; they are merely indicative. Scores displayed in the PageRank meter are months old and hugely imprecise. Furthermore, it’s not the same PageRank as what is used in Google’s ranking algorithm.
- Many types of links are likely to get discounted, including reciprocal links, links from affiliated sites (on the same IP range or hostname), footer links, site-wide links, links with the exact same anchor text, and links contained on a page called links.htm / links.asp or similar. Remember that the more links on the linking page, the less PageRank you’ll get.
- The best kinds of links are ones that appear to be earned rather than bought or bartered, from relevant “authority” sites on noncommercial domains (e.g. .edu, .gov, and .mil), with anchor text containing relevant and popular keywords. Authorities and hubs are important concepts in SEO. An authority site is one with lots of inbound links from topically relevant sites. A hub site is one with lots of outbound link to topically relevant authorities. A site can be one, both, or neither. An authority or hub will often times get preferential treatment by search engines, in addition to the links from such sites being more valuable.
- Try to keep the URLs of your site as simple as possible (see my previous article on optimizing your URLs, online at practicalecommerce.com), as it will encourage people to link to pages deep within your site – a good thing!
- If you don’t have valuable, fresh, “link-worthy” content, then nobody will link to you no matter how much effort you expend in requesting links (unless money’s involved, of course!).
- Don’t link to “bad neighborhoods,” hide links, or create unnatural link structures (that look too “perfect” to be a naturally occurring neighborhood). Of course, don’t receive such links either; and if you already have, you’ll need to contact those dodgy sites and ask (demand) that they remove the links.