Along with the Internet boom came the massive proliferation of websites. Since many websites are made not just for private use but to make money as well, websites find themselves having to compete with other websites of the same category when it comes to reaching and keeping their target audience.

SEO and Factors Affecting Page Rank

In order to reach their target audience websites find that they have to rely on search engines to list their site among the top results of specific search strings. This is because of the fact that it is impossible for Internet users to memorize each and every website they need to and are interested in visiting due to the unbelievably large number of websites dealing with almost all kinds of information and offering all kinds of services and goods out there. Most Internet users doing research are found to not type websites’ URLs directly but instead usually click on the top results that their preferred search engine gives. Because of this fact, websites who wish to be noticed by a large audience actually has to be noticed by search engines first.

To get noticed by search engines, web designers use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. SEO is the method used to increase a website’s ranking in search engine results listings. Using SEO websites have a greater chance of getting noticed by search engines and thus get noticed by their target audience. Each search engine has their way of ranking websites but has at least several common ranking factors. The importance of the factors, however, varies for each search engine and some of the factors themselves are unconfirmed by search engine engineers. Although there are many factors that do affect a websites ranking in search engine results only two very important factors will be discussed in this article – content and links.

Despite the unknowns SEO experts agree on most of the factors and their importance. According to SEO experts the 10 most important factors that can influence a web document’s rank at the major search engines, namely Yahoo!, MSN, Google & AskJeeves, for a particular term or phrase are the following:

• Title Tag
• Anchor Text of Links
• Keyword Use in Document Text
• Accessibility of Document
• Links to Document from Site-Internal Pages
• Primary Subject Matter of Site
• External Links to Linking Pages
• Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community
• Global Link Popularity of Site
• Keyword Spamming

Importance of Links in Page Rank

As shown on the list above links rank among the top factors that affect a web document’s rank. As a matter of fact it was listed five times. Links, however, can affect a page rank both positively and negatively. Both internal and external links can affect a websites ranking. However, if many of the links on the website are dead links or links that lead to 404 pages then instead of being an asset those links actually create a negative effect. The quality of links found on a page is therefore very important. They should have relevant anchor texts to point visitors to more information they need and should lead to relevant pages as well. Dead links is considered to be undesirable and will subtract from page rank.

Importance of Links to Visitor Retention

Links do not only affect the websites page rank but will affect visitor retention as well. Dead links is a sure turn off to visitors. Visitors who click on links expect to go to an existing page with relevant information. If there are dead links on your website visitors might conclude that the site is updated that frequently and that the site is not of good quality. If this happens they will automatically try other websites that they feel caters to their needs and is less irritating.

It is also true that links to relevant sites might affect visitor retention for the worse since visitors might opt to stay with the relevant site. However, good anchor texts leading to relevant sites are still important. Remember that if your website really is a quality website although your links may increase the traffic to other sites visitors would still stay with your site and keep on coming back. Aside from that, visitors might perceive your website as a good starting point in their online activity and thus keep on coming back because of your links.

Importance of Content

As mentioned earlier, although you might have no dead links and your links may all be relevant, your website can still suffer if it is not a quality site or a site with quality content. Quality content means relevant and fresh content delivered regularly. Dated content is almost always a website killer. Visitors often go on the net to look for relevant and timely content, unless they are doing research in history or some other well established facts. However, being such a dynamic community, more often than not it is the new trends, new information, new products, new discoveries, and everything else new, that people who go on the net look for. Although the content of the website might be interesting and well written, visitors will not opt to go back more than twice or thrice if they see that the content is not updated periodically. After all what is the use of reading the same article over and over. Some websites even have last updated dates dated more than three years back. As soon as visitors see that date they will know that the content is dated and will most probably never visit the site again.

The Deadly Combination

Dated content and dead links should never ever be taken for granted if you want your website to be a success. A website with either of the two will be penalized enough by visitors who opt to never come back or by search engines that will rank the website a little lower. But a website with a combination of dated content and dead links is sure to be relegated to the end of search engine results listings. And if people ever do visit the website with such a low ranking, they are bound to never return to visit the site again.

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