The phrase “link neighborhood” has been going around in the SEO/SEM industry for several years now. The idea, essentially, is you are who you link to. And you can expand that, to some degree, to include you are who links to you.
Now, that second part is a tough one to swallow because you have no control over who links to you in a willy-nilly way. If BestSpamSiteEver.com decides to link to your web site, there’s not much you can do to stop it. And search engine algorithms are smart enough to know that. But they’re not perfect. As Rand recently discussed, you can hurt a competitor by getting spammy links to point to the same sites your competitor links to.
Think about that for a second. You’re “Site A” and you link to “Site B”, a quality, relevant site. But if Spam Sites C, D, E, F, G, and H also link to Site B, it could reflect back on you. As a caveat, I think this is only practical in the extreme. A small handful of such links shouldn’t trigger the guilt-by-association problem — unless “a small handful” represents a large portion of your links!
Rand ends that note with a sentence that mirrors something I’ve been seeing and thinking about:
“Word on the street is that Google is much, much better at categorizing link spam networks as a whole.”
Yes. Matt Cutts hinted at this in his BigDaddy Indexing Timeline post, which I’ve talked about before here on SBS.
Google has obviously upped the ante on how it measures and analyzes link patterns. It’s not so much about your link neighborhood anymore — it’s bigger than that. It’s about your Link Village or Link City. Google does a lot more dot-connecting when it looks at the link patterns that we all contribute to.
We already think in terms of PageRank and TrustRank, but here’s something to be thinking more about from this point forward: LinkRank.
Think of LinkRank like this: the value and trust of a site as measured by the full community of links in which the site participates.
What’s your LinkRank? Who are you linking to? And why are you linking to them?
More than ever before, linking to quality, relevant sites is in your best interest. And linking because it earns you a fast buck, or because it gets you five links in return is not.