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If the the long-tail phrase is not a part of the url would having backlinks from other sites using the long-tail phrase as anchor text help?
That's a little like how I conceptualize the difference between fledgling and venerable sites. But that's not to say that big swings aren't possible for established sites. A simple change in an search algo could have a dramatic impact on an established site, particularly if the change has a sweeping effect on the weighting of many sites with which your own site has a relationship with. But those sorts of changes can easily be differentiated, in large part because you'll see all sorts of frenetic discussion on the WebmasterWorld forums for a spell :)
Let's say you have 20 backlinks to your site and the average PR comes out to 5. If you add 10 more let's say the average PR of the backlinks is now 4. Would that help me in the SERP because I added more backlinks or would it not help? Also, let's say some of these backlinks came from websites related to my subject. Would that help in the SERP?
One thing that's in the patent - and that has been evident for some time - is the fact that they also look at link age, new link acquisitions, and decay rate of links over time. It's a little easier for "newish" websites because they don't have an established history. The longer the site has been up, the better the data Google has to determine your site's normal pattern for link building / link decay rate. That's good if you harness it from the beginning and establish a good trend of growth. However, it's bad because it makes it easy for Google to see big spikes in growth that are out of the ordinary. (they will determine if the spike is due to a flash-in-the-pan news story or trend, or SPAM) Also, they compare your trend with "related" sites to determine if you are out-pacing your site peers which could trigger a review too. Link building is a very delicate thing and you have to have a very strategic approach.
Google does take domain related information (age) into account in their algo to help rank how important a site is.
Link decay is the rate that links to your site drop off. You don't want to have a high decay rate.
Read though their most recently released patent app. It's great reading and it's nice to see a lot of research confirmed. It's got a whole bunch of information about what they look at in regards to links.
[edited by: SEOMike at 4:31 pm (utc) on Sep. 19, 2008]
Link building is such a science / art. I can't tell you right off if a link partner "type" is a good fit or not. I've personally developed a 28 point check that each potential link partner has to pass before I'll try to get a link from them. It takes a long time to get good at link building.