You've heard the old real estate adage to buy the worst house in the best neighborhood. Well, the same is true on the Internet.
You want to be the worst site in the best neighborhood.
Let me explain.
Google tries very hard to understand what a site is about. One of the primary ways it does this is by looking at who links to you and who you link to. These links are essentially your neighbors and collectively they make up your neighborhood.
The quality of your neighbors matters. Not so much in terms of Page Rank, though that doesn't hurt, but by the topic of these sites. If your site is about surfing you'll want links from surfing blogs, famous surfers, surf competition sites (like Mavericks), surf equipment retailers and even a tide table. Do this and Google will quickly understand which neighborhood you belong to and begin to rank you accordingly for relevant search terms.
But what if you get links from a Victorian antique dealer, a florist, a Bridget Fonda fan page and a Pachinko repair site. Now, perhaps all of these sites linked to you because they like surfing but ... Google will be confused. (Remember, a search engine is like blind five year old.) It will have a difficult time knowing which neighborhood to put you in.
Google probably likes tract housing.
You know, the kind where all the houses in a neighborhood look nearly the same. Oh, the paint might be a bit different, and there might be three different floor plans, but the overall effect is that they're alike. Make sure Google knows what your 'house' looks like so it can put you in the proper neighborhood. Google doesn't do eclectic.
This is why quality link building is so important. Because the only other way to establish yourself is through global link popularity or quantity link building.
No, I'm not telling you to aspire to be the worst.
But when you start out you're going to be the new site on the block. You have no 'street cred', no 'Google juice'. You need to move into the best neighborhood by getting links from those sites within that neighborhood, the more authoritative and popular the better.
Over time you'll paint the place, put in hardwood floors, remodel the kitchen, trim back the hedges and put on an addition. You're building sweat equity and the value of your site will grow. If you're doing it right, you won't be the worst for long.
But in the beginning you'll be the worst site in the best neighborhood ... and that will be just fine.
Photo credit: Shilashon
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