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Hubs & Authorities: Local Community Link Structure

December 2003

Why Links Matter

All successful businesses have feedback loops. To be competitive a search engine must rely on some third party factors to determine the quality of a resource. By linking to a website you are assuming some responsibility for what is at the other end of the link.

Lets Trade Links

Many webmasters know that search engines grade the web based on link structure thus wholesale link exchange occurs often. Internet organization is still rather primitive, but search engines are looking for ways to minimize the effectiveness of these link exchanges.

Some link rings which are noticed get entirely deleted from the search engine index. While it is hard to control who links to you, the people you link to can get your site penalized if you just exchange tons of links with the sole purpose of improving your search results.

The Problem With Link Rings

Having a certain PageRank or link popularity has a certain intrinsic value to it. If a website is successful due to artificial link exchange, then the webmaster may not realize when it would be worthwhile to stop. In addition some of their link partners may not know when it would be a good idea to stop. Eventually after enough links to garbage accumulate in a local community the entire community may be deemed as trash.

Effectively Grading Links

While individuals may manipulate search results, it is rare that an entire industry of competitors will aim to manipulate search results. Thus within a local community it is fair to assume that the most cited resource is probably a solid authority for that industry.

Teoma organizes its search results in this manner and Google has a patent for this technology titled "Ranking search results by reranking the results based on local inter-connectivity."

Physical Example

This concept can be applied to any topic, but is easily demonstrated if you think of physical location. For example, I live near an island called "Block Island." On the web there are lots of pages, but few pages are about that specific island. If we search Google for "Block Island" we will see that the top results are

  1. the Block Island home page
  2. the Block Island Ferry
  3. the Block Island newspaper

Other sites may be able to sneak up and list well for the term, but due to grading local linking inter connectivity these results will remain at or near the top for a long time.

If I were a small business owner on Block Island I may consider it a nice treat or added bonus to give my visitor a link to the Block Island Times home page. Each industry may fight amongst itself for top rankings, but many of the sites specific to things on Block Island will provide links to these sites without even thinking about it.

How it Works

When a user performs a search the search engine compiles a list of results in order of relevance. Then the search engine reviews the local link structure to see how the documents relate to one another.

A resource which links to many other resources in a given field is considered a hub. A resource with many inbound links from these hubs and other related sites is then considered an accurate authority on the subject.

See it in Action

Teoma is the search engine which was purchased for $4,000,000 a few years back to power Ask Jeeves. While Ask Jeeves is consumer centric, the Teoma website does a better job of displaying the core technology which powers their search.

Since Teoma is based on defining local authority it is not surprising to see the slogan "search with authority." The search results which appear on the left hand side of the page are the authority websites for the given search.

The right column has two sections. One which says "refine" and another which says "resources." Refine gives alternate related search terms which may help you better drill down to find the idea you are looking for. Resources is a list of some hubs for that search phrase.

If we search Teoma for "Block Island" we will see that it is possible for a website to both be a hub and authority. The Block Island home page is strongly knit into the Block Island community.

What Links to Get

If wholesale link exchange is bad, then what links are good? Going back to our earlier example of Block Island my recommendations for a Block Island business would be:

Further Local Link Structure Reading

Enough Talk - Lets go on Vacation

advertisement: Block Island Real Estate - Sullivan Real Estate is the oldest family owned real estate firm on Block Island.

- by Aaron Wall, owner of Search Marketing Info

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