The following is a guest post by M.-J. Taylor of Cyber-Key.com.
Years ago when Google regularly pushed PageRank (PR) data to its toolbar, figuring out the value of a potential link was pretty simple. The more PageRank, the fewer outbound links, the more valuable. Today, the toolbar isn’t even updated quarterly and webmasters have to do a little more analysis to assess the value of a link.
Where do you start? Look for quality and relevance. We might not be able to see the current PR of a page, but we do know that PageRank affects crawl rate, so it’s logical to conclude that a quality page will be cached recently. A page that has not been crawled within the past month is probably not pushing much link power.
Is the content relevant to your target page? Are the other outbound links relevant? What’s the quality of the other websites the pages links to? In other words, what sort of a neighborhood are you joining? Will the anchor text benefit your site?
Sometimes the page may not yet have the value you’d like, but if you know it’s a new page, you can look at the other similar pages on the site to determine whether that page will carry value in the future. For example, you might want to decide between two article directories. Examine other pages in your niche to see what sort of crawl rate they seem to be getting; look to see whether older pages have toolbar PR. Who else is writing for the directory? What’s the quality of their content?
Some websites are just gimmes! That is, you know a link from them is worthwhile – .edu and .gov sites if you can get them – and when they are relevant. Links from your industry association or from your local chamber of commerce. Charitable websites or links from any organization you sponsor.
New SEOs frequently ask, what about link exchanges? Link exchanges still have value when they are highly relevant. Let’s say you have a restaurant in a popular tourist destination. It makes sense that you would exchange links with your vendors, and perhaps with websites for accommodations or attractions in your area. You might even feel comfortable exchanging links with some other restaurants in your area. After all, most visitors and locals will patronize more than one place.
The key is always relevance and usability. Ask yourself: am I helping the visitor to my website? If the answer is yes, the link is likely to drive traffic between the two sites, and that alone makes the exchange is worthwhile. The important thing to remember about exchanges is that they should only be a small part of your overall link profile. You want as many links as possible to be one way.
Ready for more? Read this article on link building 101 for more tips and techniques to get the backlinks you need.
M.-J. Taylor is the founder of Cyber Key, Inc., an SEO web design firm based in Key West, Florida and Asheville, North Carolina. M.-J. is a marketing consultant and SEO copywriter. In her spare time she enjoys being a forum moderator on WebProWorld, V7n and SEOworkers.