Link Popularity

Link popularity is a measure of the number of hyperlinks referencing a website. It is usually determined by the Page Rank algorithm (developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google Inc.).

Determining link popularity

The rationale for its measurement is that the more links refer to a website, the higher is its weighting or link popularity. This produces a result in search engines where links to important web pages with high link popularity will be displayed higher up in the SERPs. The linked webpage’s PageRank will be taken into account. The higher this is, the more valuable will be the backlink as well. Websites with high PageRank pass on more link juice.

Moz introduced an internal ranking factor for evaluating link popularity with the MozRank.

Difference to click popularity

In contrast to link popularity, click popularity includes the click behavior of users in the ranking process, in that only the clicks from visitors to the site count for the evaluation instead of linking in the document pages. This ranking system is, however, susceptible to manipulation, since it can be externally influenced.

Ranking based on the PageRank algorithm and thus on link popularity has generated some criticism. It is criticized that mere linking is more important in terms of the ranking than the actual reader interest. Moreover, link popularity is very prone to manipulation, for example by buying or exchanging links. In excessive link building, relevance of the links was often not paid attention to which meant misleading information for users.

The idea behind link popularity was originally that only websites which would get a lot of links would be the ones that offered added value. It was therefore actually a quality index. With the use of manipulative methods, however, the quality of the websites moved increasingly into the background, while websites with many purchased or exchanged links arrived at the top of the rankings.

Superseded by domain popularity

Link popularity is now increasingly being replaced by domain popularity. The difference is that in domain popularity, multiple links from the same website are counted only as one recommendation. Accordingly, the pushing of a website through countless links from one and the same site, as was customary in the context of link popularity, is no longer an option.

Relevance to search engine optimization

Google no longer solely determines its rankings on link profiles only. There was too much manipulation in the past with methods that violate the Google Webmaster Guidelines in order to achieve a higher ranking. Therefore, spam comments on blogs and forums, entries in web catalogs and directories, links from social bookmarking services, and similar dubious methods had been quite common in building link profiles within a short time, regardless of the quality.

Google, however, has expanded its algorithm in recent years successively. With big algorithm updates that have been named “Penguin,” “Panda,” “Hummingbird,” and similar names this has been changed so that the link profile is now only one of many ranking factors. High link popularity and now the domain popularity is still very important for search engine optimization and must not be neglected. However, only quality counts in this area today. This means:

  • Links from irrelevant blogs are viewed very critically.
  • An unbalanced link profile, which, for example, consists only of dofollow links or entirely of keyword links is extremely suspicious.
  • Buying links is frowned upon and penalties will be levied on the relevant pages once uncovered.
  • Spam links, web directories, and social bookmarking are no longer of importance to clean link building. Theoretically, it could be useful to intersperse a few of these links in the link portfolio to establish a natural link profile, but this is controversial.
  • Ideally, links should result from content with added value to which other site operators will gladly link.

It is noteworthy that there are still search engines whose algorithm is based on link popularity, for example, the Chinese search engine giant Baidu. It is based on the original Google algorithm, but has not followed suit with the updates of recent years. If you want to optimize your website for the Chinese market, you should address the subject of link popularity.


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