SES NY: Interview of Ankur Choksi, Director of Search Technology at Ask.com



Search Engine Strategies New York is next week! Are you attending? If so, I recommend you check out “Discover the Power of Linking” on Day 2 featuring Ankur Choksi, Director, Search Technology, Ask.com. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to catch up with Ankur to get his thoughts on link building strategies, read more below…

[Manoj]: If you were to compile a list of the top factors in terms of search engine rankings – would link quality be in the top 3?

[Ankur Choksi]: Link Quality is one of the important signals amongst various other signals that we use in ranking pages for a given query. We look at relevancy of the page for the query and then use various signals including link to determine the authority of the page. Links are referral from one page to another and it is valuable source of information, as a higher referral indicates higher quality of the page – provided the links are good quality. It is similar to referrals used as one of the factors in the evaluation of a candidate for a job position when the candidate has good skills required for the job position. People have used various ways to artificially boost the link signal for their sites, and we strongly discourage people from doing it.

[Manoj]: How in-depth does the Ask.com algorithm go to factor-in quality of links vs. quantity?

[Ankur Choksi]: Quality of links is much more important to us than quantity. Ask.com uses the ExpertRank algorithm that goes beyond mere link popularity. We rely on the “opinion of the experts” for a given topic of the query to find the best results. This requires many additional calculations at the time the query is executed, as there are different experts for different topics. When your car breaks down would you go to a person who knows about car repairs – or any random person you know? In 2001, Ask.com acquired Teoma, which was the very first search engine to use ExpertRank (it actually means “expert” in Gaelic).

[Manoj]: Why is it important to use theme-related anchor text for inbound/outbound links?

[Ankur Choksi]: Since anchor text is considered an important signal in ranking, it helps to use theme-related anchor text for both inbound and outbound links. Essentially, it strengthens the link signal. Conversely, irrelevant anchor text will devalue the link signal, and reduce the weight of that link on the page.

[Manoj]: How much value are reciprocal links given by engines at this time?

[Ankur Choksi]: Reciprocal link value typically changes with the value of that reciprocal link. When we deem these links to be artificial, then it hurts overall ranking. But if we deem the link to be of value, based on good content within the site, then it adds value to the page. Sites should also consider the quality of the site when they are creating reciprocal links – especially when the other site is low quality. Overlinking between sites should be avoided as general rule of thumb.

[Manoj]: Can you discuss the importance of developing a good external link structure on your website?

[Ankur Choksi]: External Linking is a signal that external sites recognize the content quality of a web page. But if an external link structure does not serve this purpose, it can also hurt. Again, we encourage people to rely on building good content on their sites, by organically having people link to these pages based on quality in certain subjects.

[Manoj]: What kind of role does Social Media sites play in link building?

[Ankur Choksi]: If people like the site’s content, then they will spread the word to other people through social media sites, and – organically – people will link to the site. However, there are a large amount of links in social media pages which are often questionable, and at times difficult to assess their value.

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