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So how do you value a link??

August 13th, 2009 : · 6 Comments ·

Let’s start with Google Page Rank. It’s a topic that can generate a lot of passion and a lot of opinions, some of which is based on an individuals analysis and experience, but far too often it’s based simply on what someone reads on a forum.

One of the first things you learn in SEO is not to follow or believe what you read in forums, but believe what your eyes and data tell you.

There are a lot of myths perpetrated on a lot of forums regarding Page Rank, and really anything related to search engines.

I’m not going to come out and claim I know everything about how page rank operates, nor every dark secret about SEO, anyone that claims they do is a liar. And that would include most of the folks who work at Google. Only a few are really privy to that info.

But the continuing obsession I see from many regarding Google Page rank is not only foolish, in many cases, it is just plain wrong, and more importantly, really wastes a lot of valuable time that could be used pursuing more profitable activities.

Let’s talk about a couple basics.

1) Don’t put much stock on what you see on that little green toolbar. At best it is nothing more than a really rough estimate of your true Page Rank from a snapshot in time that often is many months ago. It has virtually no relationship to your CURRENT internal Google page rank, which more than likely is a constantly moving and adjusted value.

2) The toolbar’s main purpose has always been as a data gathering tool for Google. Sure it offers you some features other than the little green bar, but just be aware that if you are using Page Rank checker, you are passing info on to Google about your surfing habits.

If you have no issues with this, no worries, but if that’s all you need a better option if you are using Firefox is to grab this extension.

So does Page Rank matter?

Well it’s pretty clear that the influence Page Rank has on actual rankings is very mixed at best.

Now let’s not confuse Page Rank and Authority. Remember, Page Rank is factored on a page by page basis, Authority is more likely site specific.

Let’s say you got a link from a major authority site, whose front page has a PR of 8, but your link is somewhere on an internal page that shows little or no page rank. What is the true value of that link?

A link from an authority site regardless of the PR of the page is going to be weighted more heavily than a link from a page on another site with an equal PR, that has far less authority.

Page Rank may be indicative of the general authority status of the site, but the PR of the specific page is not what passes the real value to your site as far as the effect it will have on ranking.

Authority also can be talked about in terms of trust, how much is the link from a site trusted?

So use Page Rank as a very basic guide to trying to come up with a site’s authority or trust.

Another important factor to consider in determining the value of a link, is the spidering frequency that a site receives from Google. A real easy way to check this, and it’s far from fool proof is to just check the cache date of a specific page.

If you have a site that is both deeply indexed, and getting the internal pages deeply spidered on a frequent basis, the site has some quality to it, regardless of the actual Page Rank being displayed.

While it is generally true that sites whose PR is higher tend to get spidered frequently, that is not always the case. But so can sites who PR is low or zero why? Well, if your site is indexed, your PR is higher than zero, and you have no idea of the true internal PR Google is using. There are a few tools that try and guess it, but it’s just that, an educated guess.

The reality is there are many factors that you need to look at when trying to place a value on a link, and far too many people are only looking at the Page Rank of a site and that is a huge mistake.

I have a lot of sites that are ranking in the top 5 for fairly competitive keywords that have a PR of 0 or maybe a PR of 1.

These are not new sites or sites that just showed up in the top spots recently, these are sites that have been hanging around the top 1-20 positions for quite a while.

The first thing I look at when trying to place a value on a link is the possible authority status of a site. Again, I’ll use the front page PR as a guide but it is just a very rough indicator of authority, but if a site has some perceived authority I don’t care what the PR is of the page my link will be on, as long as it is spiderable.

You can also try and gauge authority status by looking the Alexa rating of a site. Is the trend going up or down? Is traffic steady or very spiky?

I then focus on site saturation which can easily be done by entering

…into Google.  The more pages indexed the better.

I then look at the cache dates of the front page and some random internal pages. It’s important to make sure the internal pages are getting spidered fairly often as well.

Another possible item you can look at is the actual age of the domain. do a whois search. An older domain is always better, but not if the domain has had multiple owners, and has been dropped at a registrar multiple times, so this one I don’t worry about too much.

I rarely concern myself with the PR of a specific page.

So, even if a site has a low or no PR, even on the front page, if that site is getting indexed heavily with very frequent cache dates, I’d still gladly take a link from that site.

Google tends NOT to aggressively spider crappy sites, at least not consistently.

I’m still amazed when I see threads of excitement on forums stating that Google has done a Page Rank update, Great you now have a very rough estimate using a totally generic methodology, of what they thought of your site some time in the past.

And also remember, Google updates the toolbar PR, probably 3-4 times per year, at most. Why not more often? What’s the need? They get exactly what they want out of the toolbar now without having to expend much in the way of resources to get that data.

- Dave -

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Denny

    I’ve made this mistake as well. I’ve also noticed that relevant authority also seems to give me more link juice.

    In other words, if my insurance site is getting links from other insurance and financial sites that seems to give more credibility and relevancy to my site.

  • Ion Andrei

    I found your post very interesting. Few months ago I was totaly newbie, maybe I am stil, however, just reading everything on the net, I decided to make a website and a blog, and with back links I have got them at rank 2 I suppose, in less than 3 months.
    I have never calculate how valuable are the back links I’ve gathered, but I can tell you for sure that all the time when I have checked my site and my blog, the first results were always the big bookmarkings sites, like Digg, Mixx, Reddit, etc and the main article directories, EzineArticles and GoArticles, and the only press release I have made. Now I have more than 450 backlinks to my site and more than 350 for my blog, and I have done it all for free, but with a titanic work. Anyway, I consider that any back link related to your topic has it’s value, no matter the page rank of that site.
    Talk soon,

  • Patrick Seah

    I agree with you Dave. I think if folks just try to improve your site structure, creating more quality contents and build better quality inbound link, you should be able to achieve much better rankings. Of course that easier to say than done. Even if you have achieve top rankings, there is a possibility of dropping rank position.

  • Ami

    First thanks for the authority loophole software. Very useful tool

    On this topic I totally agree with this comment ‘I’m still amazed when I see threads of excitement on forums stating that Google has done a Page Rank update, Great you now have a very rough estimate using a totally generic methodology, of what they thought of your site some time in the past.’

    I think that people get distracted by things they can quantify, like PR, whether or not this translates to the desired results, which are increased traffic and increased conversions

  • sixminutememberships

    Hi Dave,

    I Don’t worry too much about page rank either. I am very like you in that I look for a consistant performer that has withstood the passing of time and all the Google slaps of recent years.

    To me site Authority is the best indicator of a site’s value, thats what I aim for.

    Thanks for sharing


  • Jeremy

    thanks Dave,

    very helpful info, now I know what to look for when choosing sites to add content to.

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