When websites—especially popular, well-known websites—link to your page, your website has not only been given free promotion, it will also command higher status in organic web searches, thanks to the Google Page Rank formula. The number of ‘inbound links’ a website collects, the more relevant it’s considered. That’s why collecting links is currently a hot trend in the world of online marketing. But as people grow keen to the benefits of inbound links, and develop new ways to disingenuously acquire them, the Page Rank formula continuously revises how links will weigh on website status.
Google devised the Page Rank formula in order to both signify a quality website and qualify that site for higher listing in organic searches. Page Rank—which is most often discussed simply as PR—assigns a 1-10 score. If you’re trying to increase traffic and get your website noticed (whether to attain customers, grow your brand or sell ads) you want a score of PR3 or higher. Top sites boast PR7-8; select few are 10s. Though the actual equation for this formula is highly guarded, it’s been known to change to accommodate the ways that people use the web.
In the beginning of page ranking, inbound links were considered a highly relevant factor when determining a site’s relevance and popularity. It establishes that others are reading and affiliating with your website. In some circumstances, a link is posted for perfunctory reasons, such as when websites are partners. Other times, links are supplied to browsers as suggested reading for similar content—in effect, it’s akin to a recommendation or business referral. The person with the most (and most prestigious) referrals is going to seem like the most qualified candidate, the most credible resource.
However, it wasn’t long before savvy web marketing professionals developed ways to elicit and trade links. These days, it’s common practice for sites to proffer inbound links quid pro quo. Now, links have become a cheapened commodity; they go for trade. And once something can be bought and sold, it can no longer be considered objective.
To make up for the compromised status of inbound linkage, Page Rank has reduced the merit of reciprocal links. If sites swap links, they essentially cancel each other out. More valuable are singular links—where one page links to another, and the other does not return the linkage. Because this looks like pages are offering impartial validation—and it’s less likely they’re in cahoots—these links may be given more weight within the complex Page Rank formula. But that won’t stop marketing sites from working around the new PR red tape. Currently in fad are triangle trades, wherein one site links to a second, the second to a third, and the third to the first. Everyone gains one inbound link, and no penalties are deducted by the PR system.
Despite all of the complicated PR mechanics (and the fact that they seem to change faster than you can refresh your browser) the bottom line is that it’s still profitable and advisable to collect links for your website—but you may want to eschew trade propositions in favor of one-way inbound links, for now.