Before I get rolling on this I feel I need to make an important distinction:
When attempting to affect the position in which a given page shows in the Search Engine Results there are generally two lines of work that are performed.
First we have SEO or Search Engine Optimization. This is the work that is done ON a website (which in the Search Engines’ eyes is actually a collection of interlinked individual pages) to help guide the engines to associating pages with the topics we want them to. This also includes designing pages so they are Search Engine friendly meaning it is as easy as possible for the Search Engines to move through a page and rapidly determine its focus. This also includes a well designed linking strategy within a site’s pages to maximize and control the flow of page rank as it is passed from page to page.
This is an area that once upon a time was the key to ranking highly in the Search Engines results. These days, the on-site work still needs to be done to maximize results but it is all that happens off of your site that is most important to the Search Engines.
Search Engine Marketing or SEM is the collection of tactics and efforts that take place off of your site for the purpose of increasing a page’s standing in the Search Engine results. This can be made up of many activities but at the root of it all is linking.
In the evolution of SEM there was a time when simply having the most links pointing to a page got you the results you wanted. It didn’t matter from where those links came as long as there were lots of them. That can still be true to some extent today but the game has changed.
There are many factors that a Search Engine considers (at least the ones we are aware of) when determining its "opinion" of what a link does for your page. These factors include:
- The age of the domain from where the link is coming
- The relevance of the page content from where the link is coming
- The relevance of the link anchor text
- The page rank of the linking page
- The overall "quality" (a nice subjective view) of the linking page
- And a number of other factors
Taking all of that into consideration the impact of fewer, high-power links as opposed to a ton of lower quality links would start to explain how some pages with seemingly low link counts (relative to the other ranking pages around them, are able to make it onto the first page of the SERP’s.
Logic says then that website owners would serve themselves well to put their efforts into securing links from high PR, well respected sites (which can take some serious work) as opposed to going the easier route which is the acquisition of tons of lower quality links.
This leads to one more issue…
What the client expects.
I purpose that we as SEO practitioners and consultants owe it to our clients to explain the situation and shift their focus away from expecting to see a rapidly growing number of links over time to seeing instead the results they desire — top ten placement for their target search terms.
What’s your take on this?