The impact of inbound links
In the early days of search engines, what counted was page content. The limitations of this soon became evident when specialists in search engine optimization routinely cracked every new algorithm. Search engineers found that inbound links were another indicator of site popularity and content, and that incorporating this in their algorithm produced better search results. The concept of link popularity was born.
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Initially, the use of link popularity was fairly crude, counting links to give well-linked sites a "boost". This evolved into analyzing the apparent importance of the linking site, the theme of the linking page or site, and the text used in the link (anchor text). Cooperative link programs, often called link farms, sprouted as webmasters banded together in massive link exchanges across many sites.
The use of link popularity entered a whole new phase with Google's use of their PageRank technology. Google used linkage patterns to value each page by its inbound links, and then pass that value to other pages by its outbound links. In addition, Google made good use of anchor text (link text) to determine what the target page was about.
With the advent of PageRank, the use of the term "link popularity" became less common. At the same time, link development became a critical step in promoting websites.
Even today, linkage remains very important in promoting a site.
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