Google SEO & Search Engine Marketing Services

Link Building Factors – The Aspects That Really Drive Results

We are bombarded with so many link building methods in the SEO field that it is increasingly difficult to know where we really stand. There are so many factors of a page or domain link profile that help it to rank highly in Google.

Below I have put together a piece of research that has taken me literally months to put together. It explores every link profile factor that determines where you rank on Google for the keywords you are targeting.

The areas looked at were:-

  • Link Popularity
  • Link Diversity
  • Anchor Text
  • Link Quality or mozRank
  • Page trust or mozTrust
  • Domain Links
  • Domain Link Quality or Domain mozRank
  • Domain Link Trust or Domain mozTrust

The reason why I am using the SEOmoz metrics is simply because I believe they provide an unparalleled insight into link factors. SEOmoz’s tool is an actual link graph and attempts to mimic the way Google may actually score pages and domains. Google toolbar PageRank has long been an ineffective metric for assessing rankings; however I firmly believe SEOmoz solves this problem.

Test Structure

The research involved taking 50 competitive keywords such as SEO, search engine optimization, internet marketing, credit cards, car insurance and many more, then testing the pages that rank in the top 19 places for the keywords.

The reason for picking competitive keywords was to make sure the first 19 results or first 2 pages were heavily targeting the keywords, this would make for a more accurate test.

The first step was to get the metrics for the 50 keywords on 950 webpage’s (there was some overlap due to pages targeting multiple keywords). Each metric was given a combined figure and an average was worked out for each ranking positions 1 – 19.

For Example:

Average Link Popularity

  • Rank 1 = 34000
  • Rank 2 = 28900
  • Rank 3 = 45678

etc…..

Averages were worked out on all metrics, link popularity, link diversity, anchor text, mozRank, mozTrust, domain links, Domain mozRank and Domain mozTrust.

Each set of results were then re ranked according to each metric and then compared with the actual Google rankings. When rankings were established according to (for example) link popularity alone, this did not necessarily run in line with how Google were ranking the pages. Each difference in ranking position was noted and a final score was given to each metric according to how in line it was with Google’s actual rankings.

So the metric that runs the most accurately alongside the Google rankings will obviously be the most influential ranking factor as far as link profiles are concerned.

This is a long read, you may want to bookmark it and keep coming back to it, however once you have digested the data here I am sure you will be able to implement a more effective link building campaign.

Quick Results Peek

link building

Don’t worry the above graph is not the end of this article, in fact it is only really the start.

It shows the percentage of errors each metric produced according to how in line it was with Google rankings, the graph gives you a brief oversight of which metrics performed well and which made the largest percentage of errors, or which ones were the furthest out of line with Google’s actual results.

I hope you’re following this so far, as understanding this information will help you formulate a more effective link building strategy. Knowing where to focus your link building efforts is a must for the fastest most reliable ranking results, let’s go through the data in more detail starting with the least influential factor working our way down to the most influential link profile factor.

Results Explained

Number 8 – Link Diversity

link building

Link diversity relates to how many of your total links come from unique domains. This was a big shock for me being a link diversity advocate, I have always felt that having a diverse link profile will help you achieve higher rankings for the keywords you are targeting. This research suggests that even though it may be a factor it is one of the least important factors when deciding where to rank your site Google.

Number 7 – Domain Trust

link building

Domain trust was assessed using mozTrust which calculates the amount of trust the links to your ‘domain’ carry. This metric is looking at the whole domain and it seems again it carries some weight with regards to rankings but is far from the most influential feature. Building trustworthy links back to your site is always recommended but is it essential for high keyword rankings? Not as much as you might think.

Number 6 – Page Link Quality

link building factors

Now don’t tell me you’re not surprised to see this one here. I used mozRank to establish how much link juice flows to a ‘page’ from its link profile. Surely the more quality links pointing to a page the more link juice is passed, more link juice should equate to higher rankings, right? Well yes but guess what it is far from the most influential factor, proving that having quality links pointing back to your page is not enough, in fact a lower quality link profile can out rank a higher quality profile if it gets some of the next factors right.

Number 5 – Domain Link Quality

link profile factors

Again this uses SEOmoz domain rank to look at the quality of links pointing to a domain, or how much link juice is passed through the domain link profile. It is interesting to note that this comes in higher than actual ‘page link quality’ albeit only by a bit. Still when link building it is important to remember the quality of links pointing to your domain as a whole will have a significant impact on how well you rank for a given keyword.

Number 4 – Page Trust

link building

The metric for this was based on SEOmoz mozTrust which calculates how trustworthy the links are that point to your ‘page’. The research suggests that the trust links carry to your page is more important than the actual link juice that is carried. This is something to take into consideration when selecting links, does the domain you’re getting the link from carry any trust? Trust is usually based on how many suspect domains you link out to, the lower the better,

Well here we go the top 3 most influential link profile factors……….

Number 3 – Domain Link Popularity

link building

The sheer amount of links pointing back to your ‘domain’ as a whole will have a big impact on where you rank for a given keyword. You need to be building the link popularity to every page on your site not just the homepage, Google wants to see a highly popular domain and not just a link loaded page.

Number 2 – Page Link Popularity

link profile factors

Yes, you might have guessed, ultimately you need as many links as possible pointing back to your page, the total amount of links pointing back to your page is one of the strongest ranking factors of your link profile, get building and don’t stop.

Drum roll please!!!

Number 1 – Anchor Text

link building factors

I could have probably have guessed this before I started this research, anchor text is THE most influential factor of your link profile. Using your anchor text effectively gives you the strongest chance of ranking on Google for your target keyword.

So what does the research ultimately teach us?

  • Use your anchor text where possible
  • Build links like a mad man/woman :)
  • Build links to your whole domain and not just the target page

Obviously there are hundreds of avenues to go down from this research but let’s leave that for another time, I am guessing if you have read this far you are probably in need of a rest.

I would never normally do this but feel compelled – I would really appreciate you guys spreading this info as far and wide as you possibly can, not only has the research taken a great deal of effort but I think it also puts an end to a lot of link building myths, so please stumble, digg, email or just fire me a link if you can find it in your heart to do so :) Thank you.

You want to read the following articles if you are unsure of what the metrics mean:

Domain Juice and Authority
Domain Level Metrics

Disclaimer – I am not affiliated in any way with Google or SEOmoz.org. The views expressed in this article are opinions based on my own research and interpretation.

Line Break

Author: Tim (296 Articles)

is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 9 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Director of Search at Branded3, a Digital Marketing & SEO Agency based in the UK.

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{ 27 comments }

Brett Dalbeth October 12, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Nice piece of information there Tim. I’m still digging though the functionality on my site and hope to start a campaign soon.

Tim October 12, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Thanks Brett,

Let me know if you have any questions, always happy to help.

Porter October 13, 2009 at 6:42 am

That’s a whole lot of stats, glad it boils down to anchor text though, that’s what my gut has always told me was most important. Nice article, thanks for the very in depth explanation.

Tim October 13, 2009 at 9:25 am

Hi Porter,

Ye the anchor text has always played a vital role, one thing I didn’t mention in the article was that the metrics were based on anchor variations and not the exact text, I found out some interesting anchor text results which I will publish later this month, it seems anchor variations are been given a lot more weight than they once were.

mark rushworth October 22, 2009 at 6:57 am

sounds good, tho when you’re working at the tip of the sword every competative edge you can get against the competitors is a bonus.

I recently ranked a site into the top 3 for its 2 word term with just 14 IBLs this was mainly due to the structure and content on the site… so dont forget to add this into your equation. one of the things i find most useful is making the internal anchor text uniform i.e. pages are only linked to using benefical anchor text, everything else is removed (a trick from wikipedia) and this works brilliantly!

to get your link building going as quick as possible go for low hanging fruit, social media profiles where you can bulk out the page with keyword rich content and control the anchor text, and dont forget to get a nice username and build links to your profile by contributing to the community :)

Tim October 22, 2009 at 1:45 pm

@Mark,

Thanks for the input. When you talk about beneficial anchor text, do you mean optimising internal links? I link back to my homepage from every post using a target keyword, this has helped me rank for terms I haven’t even targeted in external links.

One of the things that really stood out in this testing was the amount of juice coming from site wide links, I was under the impression Google were putting less emphasis on them, guess not.

Tess November 14, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Very interesting research you conducted! I have read so much about increasing page rank, visitors, etc. I do believe that good on-site content that is properly optimized for key terms and phrases is crucial, along with lots of good quality backlinks. Also, adding fresh content occasionally to your website seems to give it a boost.

Thanks so much – I enjoyed your post:)

Tim November 14, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Hi Tess,

Thanks for your comments I appreciate it. I also believe good on site optimisation is essential but if you are chasing a high traffic broad keyword then, in my opinion, it is all abou the links.

MN Roofing March 25, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Wow this is so helpful! Thanks for taking the time to research this!! =)

Tim March 26, 2010 at 9:40 am

No problem, thanks for reading.

Jesse April 11, 2010 at 6:35 am

I am really interested in these results, however, I cannot fully understand what “re rank” means. It may be caused by my poor English( I am Chinese ), can you rephrase it just for me? I would really appreciate your help.
Take care,
Jesse

Tim April 11, 2010 at 11:47 am

Hi Jesse,

All re rank means is the ranking in order of the factor,

For example re rank could mean in order of link popularity, therefore the higher the link popularity the higher the rank. This was set against the actual rank to give correlation figure.

Hope this makes sense.

Lee April 11, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Another really well written and insightful post, I have been reading your blog for a while now and along with my other haunts I never usually comment publicly – But thought I would this time as your blog consistently impresses me as its the most honest one I read.

I’d love to see you write about everyday tools.. Or even a type of ‘A day in the life of..’. One last thing I have been trying to find a good tool for finding any external links that are pointing to 404 pages? In effect dead links? Don’t suppose you know of one?

Tim April 12, 2010 at 4:38 am

Thanks Lee,

Apprecaite the feedback. I’ll look at writing something like a day in the life of an “SEO consultant” or a day in the life of an SEO Agency. I don’t know of a tool like the ones you mention, but it’s great idea. I can’t see it being that hard to develop either.

I’ll give it some thought.

Simon Dance May 5, 2010 at 1:12 am

Great post Tim and an incredible amount of research,

Not unsurprising to see those factors in the top three, but despite this it’s alarming to see what lengths some companies go to in competitive verticals to drive up links to deep pages….

Thanks for sharing.

Simon

Tim May 5, 2010 at 3:29 am

Hi Simon,

Yes this was back in my freelance days, don’t know where I found the time to be honest :)

I think deep linking is essential and we find that many big brands use surprisingly aggressive tactics to make it happen, like using deep page directories! Still I’m pretty sure these type of links are dead. I think the only real way to drive valuable deep links is by creating great content and having the right connections to push it out there.

Thanks for the comment.

Hover Coupon June 5, 2010 at 11:36 pm

This post helped a lot, thanks!

There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding SEO but this made sense.

Online Payroll June 12, 2010 at 12:55 am

Simply Great piece of information. Thankyou for your time and brilliant work. Keep up the good work.

Tim June 12, 2010 at 2:06 am

Thanks a lot, really appreciate your comments.

SEO Essex September 14, 2010 at 12:32 am

Isn’t it funny that we are always going back the same old principles…Anchor Text!

Tim September 14, 2010 at 12:49 am

See my latest post, looks like the trend is changing, or maybe becoming more diverse

Warner Carter September 16, 2010 at 9:25 am

Tim:

Thanks for the great research. I read your post about anchor text diminishing in importance too. It makes me wonder why so many other purported link building blogs spout so much conjecture and theory while you report the results of actual experiments. I just found your blog and I am glad I did.

There are so many avenues to travel in link building one has to either boil down to what works best or invent a 96 hour day.

Tim September 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Hi Warner,

I appreciate your comments. I think when it comes to link building you have to be smart, no technique will work consistently forever, except maybe viral link building, however this is probably the least effective in terms of ranking due to the irrelevant anchor signals. I think every month you need to mix it up, try something different. I have never found a link building technique that works on it’s own consistently and that includes buying links :)

DotPeak Web Design October 20, 2010 at 3:03 am

this is a very smart post and it is extremely useful for my new job. Thanks a lot Tim. I will definitely keep it in my bookmark.

it consulting calgary November 8, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Really thanks to explain such things clearly .It helped a lot

Erik November 14, 2010 at 10:39 am

So basically, on SeoMoz

http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors

24% Trust/Authority of the Host Domain
Relies mainly on who links to with the link juice your getting,
22% Link Popularity of the Specific Page
How many and how much link juice your getting.
20% Anchor Text of External Links
The anchor text on those links.

So what they are saying is… 66% of all Ranking factors deals with link building, the number of links, the amount of juice, and the trust of the domain?

Wow, so SERPS is all about link building?:)

Thanks! I honestly have to say your blog is the only one that answered all my questions! Like I didn’t know what the heck was link juice until I came here. Really nice blog you have!

& What about link building methods such as Link-Wheels, Link Pyramids, Link-Pushes, should I do them or stay away?

Thank you O so much! – Erik.

Tim November 15, 2010 at 1:54 am

Hi Erik,

That’s right, where your site ranks is definitely up to the links you have pointing at your domain, the anchor text, quality of link and the view of your overall profile.

My opinion on tactics like link wheels is pretty clear, if you are going to use them, make the content 100% unique and don’t go over board with the anchor text. Link wheels are to serve one purpose and that is to mimic link bait, it gets dangerous when webmasters start doing it with spun content on multiple blogs that all look the same.

Thanks for your comments, always appreciated.

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