The importance of link popularity is widely known and many articles, theories and applications have been written on the topic. We all know by now that having many web sites pointing to your web site increases your Google link popularity and can score your web site higher page ranking and consequently the site will be higher in the search engine 'natural results'.
What we don't know however, is that running a PPC (pay per click) campaign with Overture can increase a web site's Google link popularity. I wish I could see the raising eyebrows of some of you now. In the next few paragraphs I'm going to tell you how this method works and like everything in life its pros and cons.
So, running an Overture campaign (regardless of how successful the campaign is) will put your advertisement on thousands of web sites (refer to Overture Impressions). It's pretty simple; there are thousands of 'content' web sites that use Overture ads as their main income stream. Similar to Google ads, web sites are publishing Overture ads and once a user clicks on the ads, Overture pays a small amount to the 'content' web site (for example see http://www.brazil.com , right click on any link on this web site then properties, you'll see that this links back to overture).
Once your ad appears on many web sites it's ready to be indexed by Google. Google, using its famous crawler - GoogleBot, visits many web sites each day and there is a high chance that it will find, index and include the page that displays your ad in its natural results.
Sounds a bit farfetched? Let's have a look at this example, open a browser, go to Google and type www.orangejewelry.com/ -site:www.orangejewelry.com/ into the Google search box. What you will find is around 200+ links to this web site. These are Google's natural results; however, 90% of the links in this results set are 'content' pages that run Overture advertisement campaigns!!!
www.orangejewelry.com is a new web site on the web that runs PPC campaign with Overture, what they found out is that they get an additional value from the campaign in the form of 'loose links' in Google, which increases link popularity. Again, it's pretty straightforward; www.orangejewelry.com pays Overture to be visible on the internet. Overture pays small 'content' web sites to display www.orangejewelry.com ads. Google crawl these web sites, index them and include them in its natural results.
As I mention above, these links are 'loose', which means these are not real links to your web site. The reason is that the Overture ads are changing all the time and by the time that Google picks up the page, index it and put it in its natural results the real ad or link to your web site is not there, it's changing dynamically by Overture.
To prove this, do the exercise we did above, or click on the following link to Google. What you will find is that by clicking on the Google results, and going into one of the web pages in the results set, there is no mention to www.orangejewelry.com (for example: Brazil.com) ; however, if you click on the results cached page (for example: Cached) you can clearly see when the page was indexed by Google and that your web site Overture advertisement is there!!! Amazing ha?
The pros and cons are quite self-explanatory at this stage (I think) on the one hand you get link popularity boost from Google by running an Overture campaign (go figure, why Google do this as Overture is its main competition). This is by far the single most important factor to determine what sites are indexed by Google (see Google PageRank Information). On the other hand these links are not 'real' rather 'loose' as once the user clicks on them heshe doesn't get to your web site but to where your web site was advertised awhile ago.
My conclusion is pretty simple, if you have a new web site OR use Overture a lot to increase traffic to your web site, try to use this method smartly (for example, you can participate in categories in Overture that have many impression but low click rate, this will result in your web site ads are visible on the net for GoogleBot but you won't have to pay much for Overture clicks). Whatever you do, keep in mind that once you stop your Overture campaign, these 'loose' links in Google will stay there for only few weeks. What I'm still puzzled about is why Google indexes pages with links to Overture and not pages with Google ads, which they can have financial gain from (not very ethical though).
Note: this article was published on 01/02/2005 and all the links in this article are valid as of this date. Keep in mind that links to Google search results are likely to change every few weeks. If you read this article and it has broken or incorrect links, please contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In my next article I'll discuss the effectiveness of Overture campaign to online stores.
Gil Hidas is a web master and a database specialist.