If you have seen the film Donnie Brasco – there is a memorable scene where the character Sonny Black introduces Donnie Brasco to a mafia kingpin in Florida, and says “Donnie is with me”, and that one phrase lets everyone, including the kingpin, know that Donnie is trusted, respected, and one of the ‘good guys’.

This is, in effect, how link building works. Imagine your website is Donnie Brasco, and the mafia kingpin is Google. Sonny Black is a website that has been around for a long while, and is well known and trusted by Google. If Sonny Black links to your website – what that link is doing is it is giving your site a reference and a vote of confidence – and it is say “This site is trusted”.

Link building is the art of having high quality sites with a high PageRank linking to your site. The PageRank is the proprietary system Google uses to rank the quality of your site based on the number of other high quality sites that link to it. The higher your page rank, the greater the authority you will be considered to keywords featured on your website. The more inbound links you have from high quality sites making reference to things you talk about in your websites content – the greater the chances of you being considered an authority on your subject, and the greater the chances of your gaining higher search engine rankings for your important keywords.

So – we return to the film Donnie Brasco. Initially in the film, the title character starts a conversation in a bar with the film’s other main character, Lefty, and the two become friends of sorts. As the film progresses, they become closer and Lefty starts to consider Donnie as a son. This is an excellent allegory to an established site with a medium PageRank (Lefty) linking to a new un-established site (Donnie). Lefty later in the film introduces Donnie to Sonny Black – and Donnie becomes trusted by Sonny. This is exactly how link building works on the internet. New website (Donnie) is trusted by medium PageRank site (Lefty) and linked. Then a higher PageRank site (Sonny Black) links to the new site, by way of the reference of the medium site. Finally – the high PageRank (Sonny) site refers the new website (Donnie) to Google (the mafia kingpin) and says he is trusted – thus making the new website ‘a made man’ in Cosa Nostra terminology.

When Things Go Bad – People Get Whacked!

Just as in the film Donnie Brasco – things online can go bad. If you are a site that is linked to a site that has been found to be breaking the rules, cheating, or doing illegal things there is a strong chance you may be found guilty by search engines by association. This happens in the film Donnie Brasco for the character Lefty. Lefty was linked to Donnie, and when Donnie was exposed as an undercover FBI agent – the Cosa Nostra was left with no choice by to punish Lefty for his close association. Harsh – but there is a lesson here for all of us to learn from; be careful to who you link to online.