Aggressive Linking – The Only Search Engine Optimization Strategy You Need?

Is an aggressive linking strategy alone sufficient to garner high search engine rankings? A search engine marketing firm in England says it is, and has built a web site to prove that the strategy really works.

A longer, more detailed version of this article is
available to Search Engine Watch members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member is a web site with a dual purpose. The site is operated by a search engine marketing firm that has developed a linking strategy to help improve the rankings of its clients’ web sites.

In addition to offering a rich resource of information about the importance of links to search engines, the site’s owners are also trying to prove the effectiveness of their strategy by promoting the site solely using their linking strategy.

This strategy is outlined in a free, 33 page report available for download from the site. The strategy described in the report has been used with major corporate clients and small businesses over the last two years, according to Ken McGaffin of Linking Matters.

It’s a clearly written explanation of how search engines use link analysis as a component of relevance ranking. In addition to the report, the site offers worksheets and links to online resources concerned with linking, providing a useful roadmap for anyone trying to enhance the link popularity of their own site.

After 2 weeks of using only a linking strategy to promote the site, LinkingMatters’ McGaffin says that the site achieved eight first-place rankings, 13 top 10 rankings, and 15 top 20 rankings, for the keyphrases “linking strategy” and “linking matters.” Some of these top rankings were in Google, despite the site having a PageRank of zero, as reported by the Google Toolbar.

After 5 weeks, the site still has eight first-place rankings, but has now achieved twelve top 5 rankings and 23 in the top 20. McGaffin says, “For keyword phrase ‘linking strategy’ we are No.1 in LookSmart and MSN, and 11 & 12 on Google, AOL, IWon, Netscape and Yahoo web matches.”

The site’s home page also now has a PageRank of 4 out of 10, which changed last week, after Google updated its database in its regular monthly “Google dance.” Interestingly, the relatively low PageRank scores attracted some naive criticism, and led some people to doubt the veracity of the strategy.

“Some webmasters took PageRank as a yardstick rather than the quality of the content,” said McGaffin. I’d bet that these were inexperienced yet vocal participants posting to search engine forums. Knowledgeable webmasters realize that PageRank is just one component of Google’s ranking algorithm, and that the reported value on the Google Toolbar is often virtually meaningless.

Despite these criticisms, the strategy of gaining top positioning through linking appears to be working. Of course, there’s more to the story than a site simply getting links. The site was designed by search engine optimization professionals, so it’s search engine friendly from the get-go — though not overly optimized. Just competent blocking and tackling.

A far more important factor that has led to the success of the linking strategy appears to be the high-quality content offered in the free 33 page linking strategy report. More than 1,000 copies of the report have been downloaded, according to McGaffin.

It’s clear that many of the links to have resulted not only from people linking to quality content, but as a way of saying “thank-you” for the report. For those of you trying to improve your link popularity, this is a useful lesson: consider offering something of value like this report, rather than simply asking for reciprocal links.

For those that still doubt the importance of a linking-only strategy for improving search engine visibility, McGaffin has this to say:

“The whole exercise has been inspirational. We are even more convinced of the importance of linking and the need for guidance on how to implement linking strategies.”

Going forward, McGaffin says intends to publish new resources on a weekly basis and share some of the case studies they are currently working on. Undoubtedly garnering even more good will in the form of links from grateful webmasters who learn and benefit from the high quality content offered by LinkingMatters.

LinkingMatters is a 33-page report and web site that aims to help webmasters understand the importance of link popularity and how it can affect their search engine rankings.

A longer, more detailed version of this article is
available to Search Engine Watch members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member

The Week in Review

Local Weather + 5 Search Engines = WeatherBug
SearchDay, March 19, 2003
WeatherBug is an interesting service that brings you local weather from more than 6,000 weather stations, with a search box that lets you get results from five major search engines.

Stung by Unethical Search Engine Optimization, 2003 A True Story
SearchDay, March 18, 2003
Even knowledgeable, ethical professionals can get swindled by unsavory search engine optimization techniques. Here’s how one firm discovered — and fixed — the damage inflicted on an unwary online retailer.

The Second Eigenvalue of the Google Matrix
SearchDay, March 17, 2003
Want an analytical peek at some of the core components of Google’s famous PageRank algorithm? These two papers from Stanford offer some heavy-duty insights into Google’s operation.

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