How do you define "link popularity?" I talk daily with SEO/SEM firms, content creators, interactive agencies, marketing firms, ad agencies, PR firms, and with other consultants. It’s amazing how varied people’s beliefs are with regards to link popularity, but as different as they are, all share a common purpose. Search ranking. I rarely have a conversation related to link building or online publicity where the topic of search rank does not come up.
Some very astute people think link popularity is purely an external numbers game: get all the links you can. The more astute know that "trust" is where it’s at. It’s all about trust. But finding consensus on a definition of "algorithmic trust" is a complicated thing. The way one site earns trust will be different than how another site must earn trust. And a site that has already earned some degree of trust often sees the residue of that trust benefit new pages on their existing site.
Example? I rank first for the term link bait strategies, but that page is almost brand new. Without having one single link from other sites pointing to that page, that page ranks first for a very competitive term (1,010,000 matches). Why?
In the movie Meet The Parents, Robert DeNiro talked to Ben Stiller about the "circle of trust." You were either in or you weren’t. I’ll use this analogy with Google. Google trusts my site. It’s old, it’s naturally linked. It’s never played on the dark side of the street. In contrast, Search Engine Land is a new site. It’s still earning its way into the circle of trust, which means despite articles getting many links, they still might not rank, as Danny’s written recently.
The circle isn’t a physical place. You don’t get a membership card or access to the Google Jet. What you get is a sort of reputational benefit of the doubt that your new content will be as trustworthy as your existing content has proven to be. Your own content algorithmically vouches for your own new content. In this case, algorithmic trust had nothing to do with external inbound links. It had everything to do with previously earned on-site trust.
In the course of seeking new links and publicity for new content on an existing site, don’t ignore your already trustworthy content as a driver of reputation for the new content. If you are in the enviable position of already having high rankings, if you’re in the circle of link trust, leverage it.
I see strong evidence that once you gain circle of trust status with any search engine, on-site factors like title tags and keyword anchors are also given more trust. Sometimes link popularity is right in front of you.
Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers, The Ward Report. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.