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Search engines index the entire Web by following link after link to page after page of content. Brand new pages can be hard for search engines to find because there aren’t any pre-existing links built to them.
For a search engine, links from one site to another are like a vote of confidence and trust. If a page on Site A links to a page on Site B, the page on Site B can be said to be “a trusted resource” of value to visitors of Site A.
As search engines index the Web, they count one-way, inbound links to each page online. Pages with more links can be said to be more “authoritative” because more individual sites “trust” their content resources.
All else equal, pages with more authority will rank higher in search engine results than pages with less. Gaining a higher listing than a competitor for a popular search term greatly impacts both traffic and demand.
Studies have shown that users place confidence in the very first results appearing for a search query. A click-through from a search engine indicates that a searcher thinks the resulting page will be relevant.
You can learn more about Jonathon Colman at http://www.jonathoncolman.org/