Ramez Naam from MSN Search has two slides. Links are for three things, (1) discovery (what pages exists), (2) reputation (how important is this page) and (3) annotation (what is this page about). What are good principles of links? Offer links in your pages that are useful to your users. He said use shorter and more readable links. He said use descriptive links. He said make sure your link navigation is useful. Search engine algorithms change rapidly, so use these principles, because those will help 6 months down the road. Giving specific help now may not help tomorrow, so principles are key.
Kaushal Kurapati from Ask.com is now up. He shows the general link analysis slide with A pointing to B point to C, etc. Then he shows the community, Teoma, link analysis approach with hubs and authorities within communities. Global popularity... Clustering techniques to cluster these links.... All links are not equal... Be cautious of reciprocal links and purchasing links (it is like buying votes or reviews). Avoid link farms, cloaking, hidden links and links in images are not understood. Become an authority on your subject, focus on your business and content...
Adam Lasnik from Google (minimatt) without a presentation will keep it short. We are all interested in having webmasters make links that are useful for their users. It is not a numbers game, he said. He said the optimal number of links is 42, of course he is joking. It is not a numbers game. It is about making your links relevant. A garden site with links to mortgages, is not relevant. Do your links pass the "smell test" or the "common sense test." He then said if all the links say the same thing about you, then something is a bit sketchy.
Rajat Mukherjee from Yahoo said he will go off links become we are kind of obsessing over links. Because search engines are doing a lot more outside links to determine popularity. "7 links for highly effective people." (1) ysearchblog.com, track this blog for good info. (2) answers.yahoo.com, social search, Yahoo! sees a strong indication that users also vote in this base. Answers is a very specific case of this. (3) builder.search.yahoo.com is a different way at looking at content. People don't have a great search experience on searching on your site, so this helps. (4) myweb.yahoo.com is a very strong social search element, social bookmarks. (5) siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com shows you your inlinks in detail. (6) help.yahoo.com/search shows you all you want to know about Yahoo! Search. (7) search.yahoo.com is the main search engine.
Q & A Time:
Q: He built a site, really good site and finally sold it. Now he is building a new site. But he is building up the links slowly, even though he can get links in a second because of his past situation. It is really annoying going slow when he can do it overnight. He said he doesn't want to "irritate you," the search engines. A: Yahoo said go organic and natural. MSN said don't think of it as a speed issue but a relevance issue. If they are relevant, there won't be any problem. Google said if they naturally want to link to you, then let it happen. If they want to do it on their own, and you're not twisting their arm. Don't worry about what other people are doing. Continue what you are doing. Ask said that it should be fine. You see this in blog links. Slashdotted, digged, etc. (Matt Cutts is in the room he (looks like he) is itching to talk, but he is holding back).
Q: Running in a very competitive industry, they have invested a lot of money creating the the site. He has seen people link to him with from very bad places. In an effort to harm his reputation. A: Google said it is something what they have heard and they understand. But links are just one factor, there are many ways to judge the spam level of a site, the trust level of a site. Bad links by themselves in-themselves won't typically hurt you. I would not worry to much about that, Google said. Yahoo said there are thresholds, like when tech.yahoo.com launched, it got tons of links above that threshold. If you go above a threshold, you will be manually review (did he just say that). Ask.com said if there are bad links, they will be discounted and not counted. MSN said as long as there are positive signals you should be ok?
Q: Do you consider non hyperlinked urls written on content, like www.yahoo.com, written out, to be a link? A: MSN said they don't count those. Google said, "i understand," the AP has a policy to never link, so a lot of readers may be aware of that and you may still get traffic from it. The purpose of pagerank, it won't have that "same type of weight."
Q: Bill S. asked links pointing from your pages from older more mature sites and there are some "web decay" going on with broken links. There was a search patent on issues with web decay and soft 404s. How do you deal with that? A: Yahoo said in general they do track from an authority perspective how long a site has been around and how long those pages are there. If you are talking about repurposing a domain for a new set of content, those things do get flagged and get reviewed. MSN said they use every possible piece of info will be used. How old is the page, when it was registered, etc. Pages with broken links are bad for users, so take care of your pages. Ask.com repeats that, yes, it is bad for the users.
Q: If I have a page that have 404s for a year or so, will there be a discounting factor, if I put something back up? A: Ask.com said they dont have a time discount based on that, but they have to find the URL again. Google said you have choices, you can do nothing with it, or 301 it to a new page or continue to update the page. The last two options will be more favorable then the first option. Yahoo! added that it may be useful for your users who have linked to you in the past.
Q: When will you start counting in RSS feeds that you index. A: Ask.com said they look at them separately in blog and feed search compared to web search. In blog search, those links are looked at. They do circle that content on the main web search (RSS Smart Answers, I assume). Google said they also have a blog search engine. He doesn't know how they are handled in the main search engine.
Q: Real estate question about link resources pages, should they be removed? A: Google said there has been a lot of work to determine the relevancy and purpose of the links, if your example is not taking the users first, then...If you feel those links will give your users a benefit, because the link has more unique content.... If not, in the aggregate, then that is "kinda junk." Yahoo! said it is also an issue on how your pages rank. If you rank well. Danny brings up the nofollow attribute.
Danny asks the audience, how many of you are "less freaked out about who you link to?" and Matt Cutts raised his hands. Danny also said that Eric Schmidt said link buying is ok, he may be joking.
Q: Rand asks Ask.com, tell us about the growth of the blogosphere, and how it affects normal web search... A: Ask.com said that blog and feed search... Bloggers talk about many different things. Not a real answer... on this. but what can you expect? MSN said the question was philosophical, so he will give a philosophical answer. Google adds, and I am pulling out a quote, although it may not be "topical, it still may be relevant."
Q: Danny asked are you looking at a link to a page and the value of the page trust or are you looking at the whole domain and trust of the domain? A: Yahoo! said there are other algorithms that tell you the trust of a site, not just links. They also do look at a site's aggregate popularity. Google said it depends, sometimes it may be inappropriate to share the link love of a page and aggregate that across a whole domain. It is probably clear in which times it is done. MSN said diddo on Google. Look at Geocities, the domain as a whole doesn't make sense. Ask.com said they do have a domain level trust but it plays into a whole bunch of things and it doesn't always come into play in rankings.
Q: I have two URLs one with my main site and one with my game portion of the main site (on a different URL). How do I merge the game site into the main site? A: Google answered 301s, when you want to point to new pages to old pages, generally 301s are a good way to go. 301s will past PageRank, will be not be instant but it will happen.
Q: A follow up on the 301s... If you run a super site and then 301 to a new location. Will you eventually get full credit for the links coming in? And how important is it for us, or it is necessary for us to go back to the sites to change the links? A: MSN will give you full credit with proper 301s. There is no critical need to change those links. But it is a little better for the user to get those links change. Google said they will also pass the full value through. He diddos MSN.