How to Estimate the Value of a Link Based on Aging Factors
Given how equipped you are to gain new links by this point, it’s a good time to show you how to use aging factors to analyze the value of each link you obtain. Chapter 1, “Trust: The Currency of Google,” provided a cheat sheet for determining the TrustRank of a website: Simply Google the keywords in the home page’s meta page title and see whether the site ranks anywhere on the first few pages of results. Because the meta page title tells you which keywords a site wants to rank for, finding out whether it does in fact rank for those terms gives you an indication of its TrustRank. This test does require some judgment, though. If the keywords in the home page’s meta page title are extremely competitive, it might still have a lot of TrustRank even if it shows up on Page 10. For instance, a site that ranks on Page 10 for the keyword online degree probably has a ton of TrustRank. However, if a site is attempting to rank for online veterinary degree (I truly hope such a thing doesn’t exist), and it shows up on Page 10 for that keyword, it probably has very little TrustRank.
Determining the age of a website is another way to guess at a site’s TrustRank, and hence the value of a link from one of its pages. Generally speaking, links from older websites are more valuable. The huge caveat to that statement is that, if the website hasn’t attracted any inbound (coming in from other websites) links over its long life, its outbound links (going out to other websites) will have no value to your website. However, it is easy enough to look at the links pointing to a website and see whether many of the web pages hosting those links look old (see Figure 4.2).
Figure 4.2 A website with a dated look. It is a good bet that the links on this page are many years old.
So how do you determine the age of a website in the first place? You can use the InterNIC whois lookup, located at http://www.internic.net/whois.html, to see when a domain was established.
Although it might seem that the most valuable sites are the oldest ones according to the whois database, keep in mind that it is not the age of the domain that confers TrustRank, but the age of the website that sits on top of the domain. So if you see that a domain was registered in 1997, don’t drop everything to gain a link on that site, because it is possible that the domain was parked for 10 years before a website was built. Even if a website was built right from the start, if the website was later taken down and the domain was parked for any substantial period of time, Google will have perceived that the domain was transferred to a new owner and reset whatever TrustRank it earned in the past. So before giving a site credit for being well aged, you should ask, “Has a website been continuously running on this domain since it was registered?” And note that if a website has in fact been running, uninterrupted, for many years, it retains its TrustRank no matter how many redesigns of the site occurred; Google expects that. Google resets the TrustRank of a website only if the domain has been parked.
If you really want to be thorough in investigating a website’s potential value as a linker, you can attempt to determine the age of that website’s own inbound links.
Just to reorient you, when we go down this road we are dealing with three different sites. The first is your own website. The second is the website you want to obtain a link from. And the third is one of the websites that links to the website you want to obtain a link from. You are looking into the age of that third website’s links to estimate how much TrustRank that second website has, to see if you’d like it to link to the first website—your own (see Figure 4.3).
Figure 4.3 A visualization of the three sites you need to keep in mind when you are trying to estimate the TrustRank of a link from another website.
To evaluate the TrustRank of another website, you need to find the links pointing to it. There are two main ways to do that:
Google its URL—Googling the URL of a web page enables you to see what other pages reference it. Assume you are interested in the age of the links to http://www.sculptor.org/Children/. Googling this URL brings up the page http://42explore.com/sculpture.htm. This page (as of the time this book went to press) features sculptor.org and contains a link to http://www.sculptor.org/Children/. At the bottom it states, “Updated, 04/01.” So we can assume this link is 10 years old. Are we certain this link was not added later? Of course not. But based on the statement at the bottom of the page and the lack of any evidence to the contrary, it would be a reasonable guess. If other pages that reference http://www.sculptor.org/Children/ display similar clues, we could guess that at least some of those links really are quite old. Based on this fact alone, we can conclude that a link from http://www.sculptor.org/Children/ would be valuable.
Use a link-checking tool—You can use any good link-checking tool such as ahrefs.com or Google Webmaster Tools to locate the web pages that link to the website you’re evaluating. Let’s assume we’re interested in investigating the home page of cartoondollemporium.com as a potential link partner. Plugging that URL into ahrefs.com shows thousands of pages that link to the site. One of those pages is the following:
Looking at this page, I easily spot the link to Cartoon Doll Emporium under “Princesses Clipart and Graphics.” This page contains a note at the bottom that says “Copyright 2007-2009.” It also has some broken graphics on it, indicating that it probably hasn’t been updated since 2009. Therefore, it can reasonably be assumed that this link is several years old. As with Googling a URL, there is no guarantee that a date published on a website is accurate, but all things considered, it makes for good evidence that cartoondollemporium.com has at least one well-aged link.
Determining the age of a web page’s links is similar to determining the age of an antique. Most of the time you will not know for certain, but you can search for various clues that will each increase the chances that the link is from a certain date. We already saw two: a notation about the last time a page was updated, and a copyright date at the bottom of a page. Here are some other clues about a link’s age:
- The link is within the text of an article that has a date somewhere in the URL. For example, http://www.10weablog.com/?m=200801 is a page that was likely created in January 2008.
- The link is in a blog or article that lists the date of publication somewhere on the page.
- The link is on a page that allows comments with dates on them.
- The page containing the link has a PageRank of 4 or higher on the Google toolbar. (A page usually will have been around for a while before it receives a high Google PageRank.)
- There are dates anywhere on the page containing the link. You might find, for example, a contest that states that entries may be submitted no later than January 5, 2014.
- There are references on the page containing the link to events that can be traced back to a certain point in time. For example, a reference to Donald Trump running for president probably indicates that the page was created in 2010 or 2011, the period in which he was discussing a run. (Let’s hope there are no other such periods.)
If none of those methods work for you, it is also possible, although tedious, to use archive.org to determine when a site added the link in question. There you can look through archives of almost any website to pinpoint the general stretch of time when a new link appeared on a particular page.
If you’re just looking for the quickest way to determine whether a site has a good number of old links but you don’t want to spend a lot of time on it, simply look at the number of unique domains linking to it using a link checking tool that allows that function. If you see links from at least, say, 50 different domains listed (ignore spam and social media pages), the site probably has good link history and thus a good TrustRank.