Somebody recently made a post on the WebComp Analyst forum asking, basically, the following question: I have more links than my competition, but I'm not on page one -- why not? That's a good question, and one that I felt deserved some attention in a blog post.
In a recent blog post I show exactly how I do keyword research, and I spoke about how Google transfers "authority" from the home page to the inner pages of sites. That's why you'll often find a page ranking for a really competitive set of keywords even though it has very few links to the page itself: if the site itself is very well linked, then the inner page benefits from the "link juice" of the whole site.
However, in the video I state that it's the links to the home page of the site that give the inner pages authority. I have to adjust my stand on that. After doing a lot of deep research using WebComp Analyst, I've realized that it's the entire site's links that create authority, not just the home page links.
Let's take a favorite example keyword set of mine: "old time radio". I'm a big fan of OTR, and so I like to use that a lot. Here's a snapshot of the link results from the latest version of WCA:
That image is an analysis of the top 10 ranking sites in Google for "old time radio" (no quotes) at the time of my writing this post. First look at result #10, rusc.com: it has 1,141 links to it. Now look at #6 and #7: they have only 349 and 322 links to them, respectively (ignore the SiteLinks value for now--I'll get to that).
From just the home page links it would look like rusc.com should be at least in the #6 position. At first glance you might think it's because the links to rusc.com aren't well targeted for the phrase "old time radio" -- but they are (WebComp Analyst revealed that when I did a deep link analysis).
If you don't understand how Google passes authority, then you might be scratching your head wondering why rusc.com isn't ranked better for the keywords. Now look at the SiteLinks value. The SiteLinks number is how many links are aimed at the entire site -- not just the home page. It's the collective number of links to every page. Google uses that value to pass authority to the pages of the site (including, as in this case, the home page).
Once you know that, it makes perfect sense why #6 and #7 are ranking where they are -- they have a lot more links aimed at their entire site than rusc.com does.
One point to note here is that Google will apply links to other pages of your site much more heavily if they are related to the keywords being searched for. That's why the site ranking #3 is doing so well: the links aimed at the ranking page and at the entire site are very much related to the query -- even more so than #6 and #7. So just having 10,000 links collectively aimed at the pages of your life insurance site doesn't mean you can rank an inner page for gourmet bagels with ease.
One exception to that last statement is if you have an incredibly huge number of links aimed at your site (like Wikipedia, which has some 81 million links collectively--see #9 in the image). Once you achieve that level of linking, you can rank very well for most anything (e.g., Wikipedia, Amazon.com, About.com and other big authority sites). Each untargeted link is only counted a little bit by Google, but when you have 81 million links, "a little bit" is all you need.
Having an understanding of Google authority makes it much easier for you to analyze competition for any keywords you're targeting in Google. Failing to understand Google authority will cause your analysis to be very misleading in many cases, because it will often look like it should be easier to rank for the keywords than it really is.
That's where a tool like WebComp Analyst really shows its strength: it saves you countless hours of time doing the in-depth analysis you need to have at your disposal when targeting your keywords.
(P.S. I haven't updated the video on the WCA home page to show that it now uses the SiteLinks rather than the HomeLinks value -- that new video should be up first thing next week.)
Please post your thoughts and questions in a comment below.