September 2002
Volume VI
Issue Nine
Entire Issue
Planet Ocean Communications

Link Popularity vs. Link Reputation - you decide
by Leslie Rohde

Terminology varies somewhat depending on who you talk to, but generally Link Popularity is a count of links to a page, whereas Link Reputation involves some form of analysis of the text of links that point to a page - aka, incoming text-links.

There are a number of tools and web sites that provide measures of Link Popularity and ways to compare the popularities of competing pages. These tools do have some limited use in finding linking partners. The question is, however, are they useful in obtaining higher search engine ranking?

Does the page with the most links rank higher? Or is it the quality of inbound links that dictates ranking? If Link Popularity really does lead to high search engine placement as some people claim, then we should see the top pages consistently having higher link counts. But is this the case? Let’s take a look.

The top ten sites of 2.7 million at Google for the term hats have link counts as follows:

Page Rank #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10
Link Count 982 982 468 38 166 626 116 628 46 126

We can immediately see that something other than Link Popularity is at work here.

In any case, it's obvious the notion that just increasing the link count will lead to higher rankings is not entirely true. And, if you've ever created or obtained 900+ links then you know what a challenging task that can be! So, ...what works the easy way and why did those pages with so few links score so well?

The answer is found when we analyze those pages in a manner similar to the way search engines analyze them. True, counting links is part of the equation. However, an even more important part of the formula involves...

  1. taking into account the incoming link text,
  2. comparing it to the text of the page it links to and
  3. matching this text to the user’s search query.

This more sophisticated analysis is called the Link Reputation approach.

By analyzing the top six listings from the table above in terms of Link Reputation, we get the following data...

Position # of links Directory Listing % of Keyword on Page % of Keyword in link % of Keyword in Linking Title
1 982 None 16% 56% 3%
2 982 None 16% 56% 3%
3 486 Yahoo 0% 64% 1%
4 38 Yahoo 34% 91% 25%
5 166 None 6% 46% 0%
6 626 ODP 4% 2% 27%

Let’s work from the bottom up.


So does Link Popularity work? Sure - but only if you overwhelm the competition with a brute force, sheer-quantity-of-links type strategy. As we've shown you, three of the pages in the top six for hats at Google have little more going for them other than link count - i.e., popularity.

Impressive, however, is the fact that the #4 page scored so well with so little link popularity - all because they focused correctly on building their link reputation. Based on what you've learned so far, which link infrastructure would you rather build: page #1 or page #4?

Personally, I'll take #4 any day of the week because by the end of the following week I'll have doubled the number of links. Through link solicitation, combined with building more good content on my internal pages that link to my target pages, in a very short time my page will be #1 anyway! ...and with a LOT less effort.

More Info:
OptiLink Link Reputation Analyzer

Best regards,
Leslie Rohde
Leslie Rohde - Windrose Software
Creator of OptiLink