How To Rank In Google

Lesson #2: Page-Level Link Features

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The first lesson in this series on how to rank in Google was pretty meaty. It covered a number of important concepts, so I hope you read over it a few times to make sure you understood them.

Once again, the top 9 most important factors for ranking in Google are:

  1. Domain-Level Link Features
  2. Page-Level Link Features
  3. Page-Level Keyword & Content-Based Features
  4. Page-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features
  5. Engagement & Traffic/Query Data
  6. Domain-Level Brand Metrics
  7. Domain-Level Keyword Usage
  8. Domain-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features
  9. Page-Level Social Features

Now we're going to cover #2.


Page-Level Link Features

What is it?

Page-Level Link Features is just a fancy way of saying the quality and quantity of links aimed at a single page of your website. 

How important is it?

According to the 150 experts surveyed, page-level link features are an 8 out of 10 on the scale of importance for ranking in Google.

What can I do to improve it?

You want to get high quality links to the page on your site that you are trying to rank, including links from sites that are important in your market.

Detailed Explanation

In addition to how popular your site is overall, Google also values how popular each individual page of your site is. You improve the link popularity of your page by getting links to it from high quality sites.

Sites like:

  • Authority sites in your market/industry
  • Well known journals for your market/industry
  • Popular blogs for your market/industry
  • High quality directories for your market/industry
  • Well known general information sites (like Wikipedia)
  • For local businesses, popular review sites (like Yelp)

The more of these kinds of high quality links your page has, the more Google will favor it in the search results. While not weighted as heavily as the site's overall link popularity (domain authority), the individual page link popularity is still a very important factor in getting Google to rank the page.

Should You Buy Links?

To expedite things, some people choose to buy links or pay people to create the links for them. This is a common practice, and I won't say it's not effective. Look at the backlinks aimed at just about any site in competitive markets and it's pretty obvious that webmasters are buying links.

If you choose to do this, just keep in mind that there's risk involved. Google does not want to rank websites that buy links or have them created rather than earned. Google is just a machine and often can't tell the difference between the two, but if it gets discovered that your site is using paid links you can pretty much guarantee that your site will be "slapped"--pushed way down or even out of the search results completely.

I won't be hypocritical here. I personally use manually created links (but never links created by software automation). I even run a service that builds these manual links ( I'm not telling you not to do it, just be aware of the risk.

Link Baiting

Link Baiting is the Search Engine Marketing phrase for creating content that people will want to link to. This is not an easy thing to achieve. You need to really throw yourself into content if you want others to link to it. Be passionate. Make sure it uses visual elements (graphics, infographics or even video), has a lot of depth and usable knowledge. Controversial content also tends to work well as link bait.

Once you have some link bait posted to your site, a great way to start getting it to generate links is through social media. Post a link to the page to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Anywhere and everywhere that people might see it and start talking about it. If you have the means, promote the post using the paid advertising/boosting systems of the social media sites you post it to.

If people love it, they'll share it, and some of those who see it will link to it. 


Understanding Anchor Text

In years past it used to be very important to make sure that you get the keywords you want to rank for into the anchor text of lots of links aimed at your site. The anchor text is the (typically) underlined text in a link. For instance, in this link -- click here -- "click here" is the anchor text. 

So if you wanted a page to rank for "blue widgets", in the past you would make sure that most of the links to your site looked like this: blue widgets

However, because anchor text was so important in the past, it was heavily used by website owners to influence Google's results, so Google changed the way it looks at anchor text. Now having your keywords in the anchor text more than just a small percentage of the time will have the opposite effect! This is known as "anchor text over-optimization."

Google is pretty good at figuring out what keywords a page should rank for based on the page title, page content and (to a lesser degree) the content of the pages linking to it. Besides that, you can influence what Google thinks your page is about by the way you structure the page (more on that in the next lesson). There's no need to stuff the anchor text of your links with your keywords. It's harmful to your rankings to try and do that now.

Only a few of your links should have anchor text that exactly match the keywords you want to rank for. It's not "natural" behavior for links to always contain keywords in the anchor text, and Google doesn't like to see that anymore. So make sure you just sprinkle your keywords in the anchor text of the highest quality links to your site.

Most of the time your links will contain what links naturally contain: your brand name, your domain name or URL and a variety of other text that isn't keyword related (e.g. "click here" or "this page", etc.).

It's also good to use descriptive anchor text with your primary keywords sometimes (e.g. if your page is about "blue widgets" your anchor text may be "learn about blue widgets here" or "advice on blue widgets" or "how to use blue widgets properly"). Descriptive anchor text is good -- keyword-only anchor text must be used sparingly.

A good rule of thumb is to keep the number of links that use any kind of keyword-rich anchor texts (including descriptive anchor texts) under 10%.

Like I said, Google does still look at anchor text to determine relevancy, but it doesn't like to see a lot of exact keywords in the anchor text. One way to get around this limitation is if your domain name contains the keywords you want to rank for (as an example, I have a site called "").

Having links with the domain or url as the anchor text ("" or "") will not be penalized by Google, and yet still contain the keywords you want to rank for and helps push your site towards better rankings for those keywords.

How To Check A Page's Link Popularity and Anchor Text

Once again I'll refer to Keyword Canine 3.0 (or KC3) -- the only SEO tool I use anymore.  The Domain Dashboard tool that I showed you in the previous lesson shows you the authority of any individual page you give it:

Keyword Canine Page Authority
click here for a full-size version

Notice the "PA" column. That stands for "Page Authority", and it's an indicator of how likely a page is to rank in Google based on a variety of factors -- the most prominent being the quantity and quality of the links aimed at that page. The higher the number, the more authority the page has and the more likely it is to rank in Google. 

You want to get that number as high as possible by building high quality links to your page.  KC3 also has another powerful tool, the Backlink Report, that's able to show you a list of all of the links aimed at any page of your site and what their quality is like:

Keyword Canine Backlink Report
click here for a full-size version

Notice the Anchor Text Breakdown. It shows you how many times each anchor text appears in links to your site. Also notice that not one link contains the exact phrase "backyard gardening", and yet ranks very well for those keywords.

Remember: you want to keep the number of links that contain your keywords to just a few (under 10%). Also, you want to try and get links from pages that are themselves well-linked (in KC3 that means a higher KCRank value).

You also want to make sure that you have plenty of DOFOLLOW links, since those are the ones that Google says they will count as votes toward the popularity of your page. If a link is NOFOLLOW (see the pink highlighted number in the above image), that means the website owner is telling Google "do not count this link as a vote."

Understanding the Relationship of Page Authority to Domain Authority

If you recall from lesson #1, Google values the link popularity of your entire site more than the link popularity of any individual page. However, the site's overall link popularity is the sum total of the popularity of each individual page. That means that it's important to get quality links coming into each individual page, because that's what ultimately determines the "authority" of your site as a whole.

Let me illustrate this concept. The human face is made up of many pieces: the eyes, nose, ears, mouth, teeth, hair, chin, cheeks, jaw etc. Having just one great feature doesn't make a person beautiful. A person may have a great nose, but if that's the only great feature on their face few people would think of them as beautiful. People may admire an individual's hair, but hair alone doesn't make you beautiful either. 

But put great eyes, a nice smile and good hair on a person and wow! Suddenly they're a real looker. It's the combination of great features that matters. Whereas individually those features may not be considered "beautiful", put them together and what you have is suddenly more than the sum of its parts.

Well, Google is looking to rank "beautiful" sites. Sites that have a number of great features (pages). The more great features (pages) it finds on the collective "face" of your site, the more beautiful it is in Google's eyes and the more likely it is to rank.

Improving the link popularity of the individual pages of your site gives the site a collective "face lift" in Google's estimation. Focusing all of your attention on one great page or one great section of your site isn't usually enough. You want to make all of the pieces come together in one beautiful collection that is more than the sum of its parts.

When you've accomplished that, your site becomes an "authority" site, the kind of site that Google loves to rank.

If the Page Authority statistic can be likened to the individual features of your site's "face", the Domain Authority statistic represents the beauty of a site overall. So work hard to make yours a perfect ten.

In Summary

To sum this lesson up, getting high quality links into the individual page that you want to rank is very important. Even if Google values the site's overall link popularity the most, it still puts weight on an individual page's authority. And since the domain authority is the sum of the individual pages' authority, it only makes sense to increase the link popularity and authority of each individual page as much as possible.

The next lesson will discuss what's known as the "on-page" factors that Google looks for when determining if a page should rank: Page-Level Keyword & Content-Based Features.


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