Joining the In-Crowd: The Relationship Between Page Authority and Link Building

Joining the In-Crowd: The Relationship Between Page Authority and Link Building

Nearly every search you perform returns millions of results. You could never sort through all the pages on your own, so search engines do it for you. They put the pages with the highest page authority (also referred to as domain authority) on the first page of search results. The most authorized pages earn the coveted top spot.

Pages earn this authority by having quality content that attracts web users. Tweet This Web users frequently click into sites that have:

  • Trusted reputations outside of the Web (NY Times)
  • Shareable and easy-to-read content (Buzzfeed)
  • Nearly comprehensive information on a single subject (IMDb)
  • Encyclopedic information on almost any subject (Wikipedia)

Whatever it is about a site that attracts users, the site’s popularity builds its authority.

Having quality content also helps build page authority in another way: through links. Sites with original, accurate, comprehensive, well-written, thought-provoking, or otherwise trustworthy content naturally earn links because other web users will link to and share that content.

Are links just the Internet’s version of a popularity contest? They would be if search engines only cared about the sheer number of links to each page and domain. But search engines do more than count links; they also monitor how those links are related and what quality of content they point web users to.

Counting links and figuring out how they’re related helps search engines divide the authorized pages from spam pages and return the best results to you. Understanding how links relate to page authority can help you create links that will boost your site’s authority.

Types of Links That Boost Authority

Links join related content together, and they come in a few different varieties:

  • Internal links connect pages within a site.
  • External links connect pages from different sites to each other.

Both types of links can contribute to a page’s authority, if those links follow search engine rules.

Internal links boost page authority because they make a site more user-friendly. Tweet This Think of the last time you spent 30 minutes or more browsing your favorite non-social media website. You went to the site looking for one piece of information, only to end up on an entirely unrelated page. That’s because the internal links allowed you to navigate the site quickly and easily.

Search engines can tell how long Internet users spend on a particular site. If users close the window right away, search engines assume the content lacked quality. But if users linger on the site, search engines assume the information has value, so they refer other users to the site in the future.

External links look and act just like internal links, except that they connect to content outside of the current page’s domain. You see and click on external links all the time as you surf the Web. External links boost page authority each time someone clicks from another authoritative website to yours. Tweet This You use external links whenever you:

  • Click the link in your friend’s blog post about the Superbowl half-time show to a YouTube clip of the performance
  • Click a source link listed at the bottom of the Wikipedia entry for “Vampire bats”
  • Click a link to Etsy.com as you read a Buzzfeed post about inexpensive Valentine’s day presents

There’s another significant difference between internal and external links: external links contribute more than internal links to page authority.

How Search Engines Use Links to Rank Pages

Links between sites count as votes in a search engine’s popularity contest. But all votes are not equal online. Remember, search engines count not only the number of links but also how the links connect to one another. A link from an authorized page earns has more value to a search engine than a link from a spam site. Here’s why:

  1. Authorized pages link to other sites sparingly. Authorized pages are often a go-to source for information on a specific subject. They create quality content that people like and trust. That means lots of sites will link to authorized pages, but the authorized pages themselves don’t have much need to link to other sites.
  2. Authorized pages tend to link only to quality content from other authorized pages. When authorized pages do create external links, they’re picky about what they link to. They know that linking to spam content can hurt their authority.

The result of all this careful linkage is that the Internet ends up with various circles of authority. Authorized pages with the highest domain authority make up the innermost circle, the in-crowd, because they don’t associate much with sites outside of their circle.

On the other end of the spectrum lie millions of pages of spam content. These pages may have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of links pointing to them. Spammers create those links, hoping to trick search engines into giving the page higher authority.

But search engines are smart. They can tell these pages aren’t closely linked to authorized pages and domains. After search engines tally the votes, these pages usually end up in the outermost circle, near the end of search engine results.

Using Links to Join the In-Crowd

What about all the pages in between well-known authorized pages and disowned spam pages? Their goal should be to position themselves closer to the in-crowd through links. They just have to apply the same principles authorized pages use to gain page authority.

  1. Each site needs an intuitive system of internal links. Visitors to the site want to find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily. Effective web design and well-labeled internal links are key.
  2. Each site should create quality content that other sites will want to link to. For example, a plumbing company trying to boost its online presence can create a blog to attract more visitors to the site. Some of those visitors will link to the plumbing blog elsewhere on the web.
  3. Each site can link to other sites as well, but they should do so carefully. Do what authorized pages do: link sparingly and only to trustworthy sites with established page authority.

These principles of link building can help any page position itself closer to authorized pages. Using links correctly is a great way to get in with the in-crowd.

Whitney Sorensen
[email protected]