Search Engine Optimization that Works in the Long-Term
Search engines are constantly tweaking their ranking algorithms and when that happens some pages lose their top ranking positions. One such event was the infamous Florida Update. Many pages were practically kicked-out of the top 1000 pages for competitive keywords.
With recent updates, webmasters have been thinking that Google does not use PageRank because low PR pages can get very good rankings. Before that everyone was saying that PageRank was THE factor for top positions. Now, everyone is saying that keyword rich anchor text links from many different sites is the key for the top ranks.
All these recent events seem to indicate that search engine algorithms are totally unpredictable, right? Wrong!
All search engines are going in the very same direction. The scientific literature related to information retrieval and recent search engine patents reveal the not-so-distant future of search engine ranking algorithms.
Introducing Topic Specific Link Popularity
For the last few years search engines relied on General Link Popularity to assess the importance of every page. Relevancy was based on a combination of General Link Popularity (importance) and keyword matches on page and off page (anchor text of links for specificity).
General Link Popularity is measured by summing the weight of ALL incoming links to a page. With General Link Popularity ANY link improved the importance of a page. Webmasters started to buy high-PR links from totally unrelated sites. Pages were getting unrelated votes.
To combat this problem, Google implemented a Topic Specific Link Popularity algorithm. When a user specifies a query, Google determines the importance of a page by the Link Popularity it gets from RELATED to the keywords pages.
A link from a page will give you considerable Topic Specific Link Popularity when:
1) the page itself is optimized for your keywords
2) the page has a high General Link Popularity (PageRank)
3) the page is from a site owned by someone else (you can't vote for yourself)
From a search engine's point of view, implementing a Topic Specific Link Popularity algorithm is a very tough task when the queries need to be answered in less than a second.
All you need to know is this: the top ranked pages for competitive keywords are the ones with the highest Topic Specific Link Popularity.
You need links from pages that have high PageRank, are optimized for YOUR keywords and are owned by someone else.
How do you get these links?
1. Search for your keywords on Google and look at all pages that rank for your keywords. Seek links from these pages.
2. Reciprocal Links. Swap links with sites that can give you a link on a page optimized for your keywords. Look for pages with high PageRank that have your keywords in their title and in their incoming links. Reciprocal links work provided that they come from optimized for your keywords (related) pages.
3. Buy links from some of the top ranked for your keywords pages.
4. DMOZ and Yahoo's directory usually have pages that are very well ranked for your keywords. You absolutely must get links from these pages. If you have a commercial site, don't hesitate and buy a link from Yahoo immediately. It is well worth the $299.
5. Find out who links to the top ranked pages for your keywords. Many of their links will not be topic specific, but many WILL be. Try to get links from the related ones. A page is related when it has your keywords in its title, text etc.
6. Form a link exchange ring with some of your competitors. That's a brutally effective strategy. Basically, you link to your competitors from your main optimized page (usually the home page) and they link to you from their most optimized page! Such rings can dominate the top positions and will be very difficult to outrank (it is difficult to get that amount of topic specific links). The caveat here is that the link exchange is on the main page and is not buried somewhere deep.
One more very important tip.
Increase the relevancy of the page that links to you by using your keywords in the anchor text and the description of your site! Yes, having keywords in the links pointing to your page increase your rankings not only by associating the keywords with your page but also by increasing the relevancy of the page that gives you the link! That's the reason SEOs think anchor text is the most important factor. It is NOT. You can get a monstrous ranking boost from a link that does not use your keywords in the anchor text provided that the page has high PageRank and is optimized for your keywords (an example would be a DMOZ listing).
What about getting unrelated links?
Let's say you buy a high PR unrelated link. The page that links to you does not have your keywords in the title and text. The only factor that makes the link relevant to your keywords is the anchor text to your site and your description. You'll still get some benefit but that's nothing compared to a link from an optimized for your keywords page.
Your site can't get into Google's top 1000 results?
If your site lacks Topic Specific Links, it may get filtered out from the results even if it has a good amount of PageRank (from non-related or affiliated sites). You need some threshold amount of Topic Specific Link Popularity to get into the top 1000 pages for very competitive keywords.
Two Final Points
1. Only one link per site can give you a Topic Specific ranking boost. Look for a link from the most optimized for your keywords page.
2. If you find a page that ranks well for your keywords, go for the link EVEN if that page has a lot of links on it.
To recap: the more optimized a page is for your keywords (measured by PageRank and keywords found on-page and off-page) the more Topic Specific Link Popularity Boost you will get from a link.