Deadly links and why they matter to your SEO efforts

Can links that point to your Web site harm your ranking in search engines?

The short answer is yes. Links are a major factor by which search engines like Google list your site on results pages, for good or ill.

Sites that Google considers authoritative have more influence than those Google considers less authoritative; thus, a link from The New York Times is given more weight than a link from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, for example. 

Likewise, links from “neutral” sites are given more weight; so links from .gov, .mil and .edu domains generally have more weight than links from .com, .net or .org domains.

Topical links are more valuable than off-topic links. Links from automobile sites and/or blogs to your classic autos site count for more than links from a site devoted to quilting.

Links with keywords that are relevant to the page to which it is linking are more valuable than those that have unrelated keywords. So a link that includes the keywords “classic automobiles” is more valuable than a link that uses the word “resources.” However, if Google detects a pattern of inbound links using the exact same wording in the link text, the linked-to site may be penalized for a concerted effort to “game” Google by trying to artificially boost the site’s rankings.

Placement of the inbound links is also a likely factor that influences search engine rankings. Links coming from the front page of a site are more valuable than links from a links page. Links from within the body copy of an article are more valuable than links placed on the bottom of a page. This is why links from blogs are so valuable; they often link within the body text of posts.

The volume of links matters most when the incoming links satisfy many, or all, of the preceding criteria. A lot of links from a handful of sites with little authority tends not to have that much of an effect on search rankings.

Google is always looking for indicators of “natural” popularity while also being vigilant about efforts to deceive. Google’s first priority is quality search results. It is easy to switch to another engine if the one you’re using doesn’t satisfy your needs. The search engines can’t sell the advertising they thrive upon if they do not have the audiences advertisers seek.

If you try to honestly help Google identify your quality content, you should be all right. Offer quality content that others will want to link to and is a value-added resource to other sites, and then let people know about it
While it’s important to get links, do not buy links. Google is on the lookout for such practices and will penalize or ban sites that do so. Link farms exist solely to sell links that allegedly boost Google rankings. Google keeps track of these “bad neighborhoods” and penalizes sites that appear to be buying links.

As Nancy Reagan once said, “Just say no.”

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