Recently, I tried to obtain a link from a large town hall in Spain. The town hall concerned has a .org PR5 site but, try as I might, they refused to place a link to my site from theirs – despite my site (Culture Spain) being directly relevant to them in a number of ways.
Well, it became clear that they simply did not know about the importance of a link in building the authority of a site in the eyes of the search engines, such as Google. They thought that what I wanted was to ‘steal’ their traffic, which they thought would see the link and be directed onto my site – and away from theirs.
However, what I wanted was not their traffic but a link purely for the search engines to see – showing that the town hall .org site effectively ‘liked’ or ‘approved’ of Culture Spain. This concept, I am afraid, was well beyond the town hall and, I fear, confuses other people too.
So, what is the importance of a link from one site to another – for the search engines?
Well, perhaps I can provide you with an analogy.
Imagine that you come to Spain, for example, but that you have no friends here. So, when you go to do something, maybe some tricky paperwork at the health department, you have no importance to the people working there. You are just another nuisance from the street, disrupting the peaceful time of some slothful bureaucrat who may or may not do what you want – but certainly only in the time scale he wants. Frankly, you would be unimportant to him and he would know it and that there was nothing you could do if he was obstructive and slow.
Now, imagine that you come to Spain but it just so happens that you are great friends with the king, the prime minister, your regional president, your local mayor, the head of the civil service and the manager of the health department.
Well, when you go to do your tricky bits of paperwork then the bureaucrat will behave very differently. In fact, you may even find that your tricky paperwork is collected from your house, sorted out incredibly fast and returned to you in record time by the health department – any problems having been miraculously overcome.
Because you have power!
Power – because of the people you know and who acknowledge you as a friend. The king of Spain, the prime minister, the head of the health ministry and so on are influential and would not be friends of yours, if they did not think that you were important. So, you become powerful by association and everyone knows it and will respect you and react to you positively in a way that someone with no friends (let alone powerful friends) would find amazing!
Well, the search engines also look to see how powerful and influential is your web site and any content that you place on the Web. The more powerful you are – the more highly placed on search results will be your web site and any content published by you. This, of course, is critical and is what will bring you traffic day after day, month after month.
So, how does a search engine know that your site or content is reliable, respected, well thought of, and deserving of being ranked highly on any search results (above any other web site) relevant to your activity?
You guessed it – by looking at your site’s ‘friends’. If your site has a link from the BBC, from universities, from high PR sites relevant to your activity and so on then the search engines will believe that your site is influential and authoritative – otherwise those sites would not put a link to your site onto theirs.
So, link building is not always about trying to get a link on another site to redirect traffic from one site to another – it is about showing the search engines that you have powerful friends. If this is done then your site and any published content should supersede, on search result ranking, sites of lesser authority (by definition, your competition).
For Culture Spain it would be helpful to have a link from the town hall with the PR5 .org web site. However, if they do not give me the link (they will not!) then I shall just have to find another that will. I know the importance of links and that is one reason why I have a PR5 site after 18 months or so – which is always at the top of the Page 1 search results for its main search term ‘culture Spain’…