30 Dec 2008
Have Your Links Lost Juice in 2008?
As the end of 2008 is upon us, we tend to reflect back on the good and bad we have done over the year. No, not referring to your naught to nice ratio, but rather how have your website links performed over the past year? Has your link juice been good, and the latest Google Indexing served to reward you with increase in Page Rank and site visitors?
Link juice is the colloquial term given to the drawing power associated with web addresses. There are two methods web surfers use to get to your pages. Either typing in the web address in their address bar, or clicking on a link. Remembering a long address to one of your sales pages or an article at your site is remote. There is a much higher chance they will visit Google, Yahoo or MSN and enter a word or phrase in the search box. Search engines then present a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Your goal is to show up close to the top of the SERP.
Links listed on a SERP all have a value associated with them known only to that search engine. Search Engine Optimizers have termed this value as a link’s juice. The higher the quality of the link’s juice, the higher it should show up on the SERP. Seem simple so far? In theory, it is. The complexity comes when the quality of that juice starts getting diluted; becomes weaker; resulting in your link moving down the list. Move to far, and no one sees or clicks your links.
What has happened to cause your page’s juice to lose some of its effectiveness? Did you do anything wrong? Could you have been victim of circumstances beyond your control? We will attempt to give you the overview you’ll need, as well as some resources to start a journey of self discovery and education that will ultimately leave you as knowledgeable as you’ll need to be to increase the quality of your link juice.
Search engines use proprietary computer programs, called algorithms to determine the ranking of links on those results page. Google uses something known as PageRank, which has been described as the “likelihood that your web page will get visited”. PageRank, or PR, is primarily determined by how many other web pages are linking to yours, what their PR is, how relevant their content is to yours and so on. There is a lot that goes into all of these machinations used to ultimately list out those results.
Remember back to January and February of 2008, what sort of changes have you made on your actual web page? Did you change the content considerably? Perhaps you changed the title on that page or keywords? Did the keywords some how get changed or removed from your META tags? Remember that any of these types of on-page changes can take months to be reflected in the SERPs. Forgotten actions easily cause PR reductions leaving you scratching your head later when updates occur.
As the year progressed, have the number of your inbound links decreased? What has happened to their PR? Make sure that most of them are of higher quality value. Google has repeatedly stated they will discount your PR if you are paying for inbound links or if you are selling your outbound links. This is seen as gaming the search engines solely for the purpose of manipulating your PR.
To help you determine how you page looks to search engines use the Website Grader. Input the web address you’d like to check, and some other information. You’ll be presented with a report that spells out what is happening with that page, and how to improve. Tools like Website Grader are a great way to check how your competition is working the elements on their pages. Use this tool to check out those ranking higher in the SERPs you’re looking to dominate.
Submit to web directories, but beware, however that not all directories are the same. If a directory charges for submission, be suspect if they are not using humans to review the submissions. Are 100% of sites accepted, does it categorize poorly, or is there no other content besides the links and brief descriptions? These all lead to lower quality links; the juice cocktail sites that have a lot of the goodness removed from their outgoing (your incoming) links . Steer clear.
For the past 12 months were you developing relationships with other professionals in your niche or industry? Quality connections evolve into quality links when you start referring back and forth. You’ll link to them for relevant information you write and publish. They are likely to return the favor in natural, organic ways. These links are high quality, sought after, coveted. Take them for granted at your own peril.
If during this last year, you failed to focus on creating quality content on your web pages, don’t expect to get anything more than coal! The more compelling your articles and posts, the more likely they will be referenced and linked to, naturally, over and over again. When writing and linking out from your content be aware as to whether you are using the 5 types of links properly. Using content from free article sites is acceptable now and then, however understand that thousands of sites may be using that exact content. The destination links which appear in the article benefit most, not your site. By writing your own quality content and submitting to the article directories, you may actually benefit more than using many articles on your own website.
Final thoughts on the overall effects on your links losing their juice? 2008 is nearly over and all you can do is focus on a better, nicer ’09. One angle you might decide to focus on is that a number of sources online speculate that PR is overrated, and has, very little to do with the quality or quantity of traffic delivered to your page. An informative article from Search Engine Journal states that “…Google may regularly devalue PR to better control their search results…” Talk about printing more money when your broke! There are many SERPs that have top listings with PR=0 or 1.
The future success of your pages have more to do with quality of content, and less with link juice. You’ll never be wrong for serving up high quality, keyword focused and well structured web pages. People use search engines because they want answers. If you are not ranking the highest on those results pages for your targeted keyword phrases, hopefully those that are have links to your pages on their sites, and thus direct traffic from the search engines to you via their pages.
Happy New Year! And may 2009 bring you all of your online goals (oh, and world peace as well!)
This post written by Vertical Measures’ team member – James D. Kirk