Google is not the Internet. Google merely sifts through the Internet, or as much of the Internet as it can find at least, to show you what you want to see.

That’s right: the Internet is so big that Google can’t even find all of it. However, it’s safe to say that Google has found most of it. Indeed, it has indexed billions upon billions of web pages, and that amount grows bigger with each passing minute.

So, your Google search results are not the end-all be-all of the entire Internet. Rather, they are Google’s best shot at sifting through the endless piles of information out there to provide you with the most relevant results for your search terms.

How does it determine what information is relevant to your search terms? Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google on the basis of complex algorithms that would scan the Internet to categorize and evaluate the quality of all existing sites. There are a number of ways that Google determines this, but it was not until Google began looking at links as a major factor to determine search results that it really began to dominate the search engine game. As we discussed in our last article, links act as votes of confidence for web pages, which allows Google to better evaluate a site’s trustworthiness. As such, link building has become an important practice in the field of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

How Exactly Does Link Building Impact SEO?

When Google evaluates your web page to try to decide where it should fall in the search rankings, there are essentially 2 pieces of criteria that will be examined. Those criteria are (1) relevance, and (2) reputation. That’s what we’ll be talking about today.  

Criteria #1: Relevance (a.k.a. Content)

The first thing that Google looks at in a webpage to determine how to rank it is the relevance of its content. So remember: content is king! Nothing will help you more than consistently publishing high-quality content. This content must, of course, be optimized so that you can get the most bang for your buck, but that’s not what we’re focusing on today. Today we’re here to talk about criteria #2.

Criteria #2: Reputation (a.k.a. Links)  

When you are part of a community, your reputation is important. You might not be accustomed to thinking of it this way, but the Internet is a community just like any other, and when Google is trying to decide where to place you in their rankings, one of the things they will consider is your e-reputation. Are you well-known? What do people think about you? Who do you associate with? These are all important factors that go into determining your reputation.

If you have a good reputation—that is, you are an authority in your field, and widely regarded as being both trustworthy and useful—other sites will want to link to you. When a site links to you, it is a vote of confidence for you. That site is vouching for your credibility, not only to their visitors and customers, but also to search engines like Google.

When Google finds a link to your site, it will be used as a factor in their algorithm to determine where you fall in their search results. So as you accumulate more inbound links, Google will take notice, and your search rankings will reflect that. Of course, for this to work, you’ll need to have content worth linking to, hence Criteria #1.

Note: Not All Links Are Good Links!

It’s important to remember that, just like in “the real world,” you will be judged based on the company that you keep, so it’s extremely important that you choose your friends carefully. As Google continues to develop its search algorithms, it has learned to evaluate the quality of the links you receive as well as the quantity.

If you receive a high volume of links from sites that are considered to be low-quality, untrustworthy, or spammy, these links will actually hurt your search rankings. Of course, it’s difficult to prevent low-brow sites from linking to yours, but in general, simply pursuing positive link building will yield great results. And if you have accumulated a troubling amount of negative links, you are not without recourse.

We’ll go deeper into how to control the quality of the links that you build in our next article. Stay tuned!