Arguably one of the most influential books in the past five years is The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. The book focuses on the economic forces creating thousands of sales niches found in online retailing (i.e., iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, etc.). In the book's 2008 update, Anderson included an additional chapter titled, "The Long Tail of Marketing." Here, he discusses the influence of "incoming links" (e.g., inbound links) and how they are reinventing online marketing strategy because:
* Attracting inbound links drives online word-of-mouth (WOM) and
* Generating online word-of-mouth is what influences 21st century consumer behavior
I find Anderson's analysis intriguing because it's a "plain-spoken" explanation of how Google calculates PageRank. I'll do my best to capture Anderson's explanation here.
The Online Social Impact of an Inbound Link
Anderson makes the case that an inbound link is a measure of influence and the best way to measure WOM. Why?
* When someone or another organization links to your content (i.e., your blog or your product / service webpage), you've received a reference or recommendation -- the ultimate act of online generosity.
* A link to someone else's content signals "you should leave my site and go to this other site" because this other site has great content that's worth learning about.
* Providing a link to another site symbolizes "a vote of confidence." In essence, this vote is a "transfer of reputation" from the referring site (aka "the trusted source"). An example of online reputation transfer is what you see in the blogging community when bloggers provide attribution to each other when either linking to other blogs or citing a fellow blogger's work.
Importance of Inbound Links in Google Organic Search Rankings
Inbound links determine how high you rank in organic searches because the Google algorithm values inbound links when determining relevance and authority:
* Online content earning high numbers of inbound links will receive higher placement in Google organic searches. That's why you want your content to provide value to other consumers. That value can take many forms such as providing "how-to" advice in addressing a problem or providing entertainment value. Either way, you want consumers to share your content and link to it in blog posts, Twitter tweets, Facebook discussions, LinkedIn forums, and social networking sites.
* Therefore, if you want to get found in Google, you have to create lots of valuable content generating lots of inbound links. The more inbound links your content earns, the higher your placement in Google's organic search rankings (and hopefully, higher consumer awareness that you can convert into increased sales of your products or services).