Are You Splitting Your Link Popularity?

One of the biggest ranking factors today is link popularity. With the right link popularity and the right optimiztaion, you can rank well for just about anything you want. Unfortunatley, the reverse of this is also true.

Without the right link popularity, regardless how good your on-page optimization is, you aren't going to rank for anything that is even remotely competitive.

It's for this reason that webmasters invest so much time and often money into increasing their sites link popularity.

The question is...

"Are you making the most of your site's potential link popularity, or are you unknowingly splitting it between various versions of the same page?"

This is an all too common problem for webmasters that often goes unnoticed until someone such as myself takes a good look at a site.

The problem generally arises because there are often multiple ways to reach the exact same page. For example:

http://www.example.com
http://example.com
http://www.example.com/index.html
http://example.com/index.html

Could all point to exactly the same page. On the surface this doesn't seem like a big problem, but it can quickly become one.

You see, link popularity is not a site score, but a page score and for the most part, when an outside site links to you, they will link to your domain name..staying with our example above we'll say...

http://www.example.com

However, some webmasters may just happen to leave out the "www" and link to your site as

http://example.com

Now, most likely these will both lead to the exact same content, but technically, and to the search engines, they are different URLs and different "hosts".

It's important to remember that a link is seen as a "vote" of sorts in the eyes of the search engines. So with the above example, we now have 1 "vote" for www.example.com and 1 "vote" for example.com. Because of the webmaster inadvertantly linking to the non-www version of the site, we have split possible "votes".

The search engines will generally only show 1 version of a page, so the version with the most "votes" will end up in the search results, but unfortunately, the search engines do not combine the votes for the various versions of the page.

What does this mean to your rankings? Well, if say 10% of webmasters happen to link to your site without the www and the other 90% link to the www version, then the www version will be listed, but with only 90% of the possible votes it should have. It will NEVER rank as well as it could.

So, is there anything you can do on your end to fix this?

Actually, yes there is. In essence, when the search engines attempt to access the incorrect version of your site you need a way to tell them "Hey...this isn't the right version, go here."

To do this, we use a 301 Redirect. It's important to remember 301 as there are also redirects called 302 redirects. A 301 redirect is a "permanent redirect" and basically tells the engines to drop the URI they were requesting and only use the URI they are being redirected to. A 302 redirect is a "temporary redirect" and doesn't tell the engine to drop the original URL so it won't solve our problem.

If the above is confusing, don't worry, just remember you want a 301 redirect.

So...how do you go about implementing a 301 redirect?

Well, the method you'll use will depend on whether your website is hosted on a IIS server or an Apache server with mod_rewrite installed.

In my next article I'll cover exactly how to handle a non-www to www redirect.