Link Building 101, Part 1

We’ve all heard of link building. But what is it, and how does it work? More importantly, how can you use it to increase your rankings in the search engines?

In this two-part article, we’ll first explore some general terms and then dive into some practical tips. In addition to this article, you should also regularly visit Search Engine Watch’s Promotion and Link Building section for more in-depth articles on this subject.

Link Popularity

Let’s start by defining some terms. Link popularity is a measurement of all the links coming into your site (or backlinks), as well as a determination of the quality of those links.

Basically, search engines are saying that if your site is any good, other sites should link to it. If nobody links to your site then it has little relevance. The more links you have, the more “votes” you have on how popular your site it. Thus, the act of link building can be likened to campaigning.

All search engines factor link popularity into their algorithms, but they calculate it differently. As a general rule, Google is more interested in the quality of the links, while Yahoo is more interested in the total number of links to your site.

A good way to check this out is by going to Marketleap. Click on “link popularity check,” type in your site address (and maybe your competitor’s site), and see the results.


Google uses PageRank to determine the quality of a given site measured on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the highest. To see this number, you can install the Google Toolbar or use any of several browser add-ons. From Google’s perspective, having one link from a site that has a large PageRank counts more than many sites that have a lower rank.

A page that Google has already rewarded with a decent PageRank (or PR for short) is sometimes called an authority page. Once you have a PR of 1, your site has some power. When your pages achieve a PR of 3, 4, or 5, you have “link juice” to pass on to other pages.

On-site SEO

The allocation of PageRank from one page to another within your site is sometimes called on-site SEO. An advanced form of the discipline is known as “PageRank siloing,” or “PageRank sculpting.” If you have a Web page with good PR, you can use that page to get other pages higher in the search engine rankings for specific keyword phrases.

While off-site optimization plays a larger role in gaining natural organic traffic, you can still see between 20 and 30 percent boosts in rankings by properly optimizing your pages with on-page factors. We’ll cover off-site optimization in Part 2.

Internal Linking Structure

Start with your title and header tags (for more info on this, refer to “Site Structure 101, Part 1“). What I didn’t go into detail in site structure is looking at your internal linking structure. Basically, you want to link stronger pages to weaker pages of your site.

This concept of getting backlinks to a page internally is sometimes overshadowed by trying to acquire backlinks from external pages. Why not use the same concept and apply it to your internal linking structure and reap the rewards?

Nofollow Tag

Now, let’s say you have a shopping cart or link on your site that leads to a page that you don’t care to send link juice to. You can add a nofollow tag to the end of the link in your HTML code. This conserves your link authority and applies it to the links where you want to pass authority. A link using the nofollow tag looks like this: a no-followed link

Next week, in part 2, we’ll look at off-site SEO and methods you can use to generate external links back to your site.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies London February 17-20 at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Don’t miss the definitive event for U.K. and European marketers, corporate decision makers, webmasters and search marketing specialists!

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