Whilst there is no concrete understanding of the specifics of how Google passes link juice, there is a number of patents, tests and widely accepted theories that can all be quite confusing to wrap your heads around.
In this post, I’m aiming to teach you my understanding of how Google passes link juice, the different types of backlinks you can build and the differences between them, how link dampening works and a few explanations around some interesting Google patents.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Link Juice?
- 2 Do NoFollow Links Pass Juice?
- 3 What Is Link Dampening?
- 4 Optimizing Your Backlinks For 2019
- 4.1 Domain Age
- 4.2 Page Age & Page Freshness
- 4.3 Anchor Text
- 4.4 Surrounding Text
- 4.5 Backlink Velocity
- 4.6 Domain & Page Level Relevancy
- 4.7 Tiered Link Building Is A Must
- 4.8 Are Google Actively Using Traffic, Bounce Rate, Social Signals & Brand Value As A Link Signal?
- 4.9 How Long Does A Backlink Take To Pass A Ranking Signal?
- 5 Conclusion & Thank You
What Is Link Juice?
Backlink (or Link) juice is the value a page passes to another page on an external website in terms of a ranking signal to that other website.
Nowadays the term has been overused and hijacked to the point it’s almost scoughed at as a term.. but there’s not really an alternative term term that’s nearly as widely known.
Do NoFollow Links Pass Juice?
That being said, they can still be used to pass ranking signals that help your DoFollow backlinks. They can be used to make a backlink profile appear more natural and as a “trust” signal for your site’s authenticity when you acquire NoFollow links from sites like Wikipedia or Forbes.
What Is Link Dampening?
Link dampening is the real world technology that Google uses to corroborate what we in the SEO community call “OBL” or, Outbound Backlinks.
This term comes from the original PageRank algorithm in which you’d get a value of 0.85 from a page that would go down by 0.15 every time another external link was on the page. It wouldn’t go from 0.85 value to 0.7, it’d go down to something like 0.722 and the third link would drag the overall external link value down to about 0.612 and so on.
This isn’t the exact formula that Google use to this day, and there are an abundance of other attributes that go into determining the value of the ranking signal a link can pass. However, it’s a good lamens terms way to explain why OBL is an actually important metric and link dampening should be taken seriously when it comes to optimizing the juice of your backlinks.
As I said above, there’s an abundance of factors that go into play when it comes to how Google take backlinks into consideration. In the rest of this guide, I aim to give you a detailed insight into how you can better optimize your backlinks in 2019.
P.S. Before we get started, this is only for English language Google SERPs with competition. If you’re competing in foreign SEO, then this is the guide for you.
Google still uses a domain’s overall age as a signal for how much authority a link can pass – It’s why brand new sub-domain Web 2.0s pass hardly any juice now-a-days without being powered up and aged over the course of months.
From our testing, once your domain has surpassed Google’s overall page cache of 2 years.. So being within Google’s cache for 2 years and having a domain age to match, you’ll get the most optimal links out of a website.
Page Age & Page Freshness
This is where the debate around edits vs. guest posts comes into play all the time.
Whilst it’s ideal for you to have your link consistently within the Google cache, if you do trigger the freshness algo’s around page updates (By updating content, rich media, last updated meta date, links etc) then you can often miss out on the lost link value of having your link placed on an aged page that hasn’t been updated within Google’s cached version comparison besides that singular link.
Anchor text is the term used for describing the keyword used to link between a website. As an example, the anchor text of this link, is “this link”.
In HTML Code, Anchor Text looks like this –
We’ve talked about this in multiple guides already, but it’s probably still the most important signal in link building – Both because if you get it right you’ll see the pot at the end of the rainbow, but also because if you get it wrong.. Well, you could end up throwing however much you invested into the entire project in the first place, at least until you can resolve the penalty and get past the after burn effects of getting one.
In terms of how you should specifically go about optimizing your anchor text, I don’t believe there is a standard guide I can give you anymore that’ll work for every project, because they’re all so very different.
However, Jack Vivian (DFY Links Manager) put together a competitor analysis SEO Guide that will give you a complete overview of how to structure a link building guide based on analyzing your own and your main SERPs competitors sites and backlink profiles, as well as how to select your anchor text anchor that analysis.
Last year, Google updated one of there backlink related patents to include using the surrounding text of your anchor text in analyzing the value and relevancy a link should pass – It would make sense, and since we learned of the patent update we’ve been actively trying to optimize the surrounding text of our niche edits service.
We have found the best way to optimize surrounding text is to try and include partial match wording within the text whilst still maintaining a natural sentence.
As an example, if we were trying to rank for “Red Shoes” but we also had the keywords “buy red shoes”, “cheap red shoes” as well as our own brand name.. We could have the entire sentence as:
You can always buy cheap red shoes at Brand Name online shoe store.
With the anchor text being the underlined wording.
This sentence incorporates all of our target keywords whilst still keeping the anchor itself fairly white hat.
Link velocity is the measurement of how many links your website and page is getting & at what rate per day or per month.
Backlink velocity is generally measured page to page – It’s why we can get away with a lot higher link velocity than most, because we actively link to supporting content just as much as we’re link building to our money pages these days.. Arguably, we’re often actually building more links to supporting pages just due to the higher volume of them.
There are certain techniques that you can use to be able to up your overall link velocity like building trust signal related links, having an EV SSL Certificate on an ECommerce store and splitting link building efforts between more pages on the site whilst optimizing internal linking.
For brand new websites, we preach less is more when it comes to link velocity and for sites that have been around for many years and been able to grow in size significantly.. We preach this is the time to heavily invest in an overall SEO campaign, not just link building – Though that will be a major part of it.
Domain & Page Level Relevancy
There is a scale in which your site and backlinks will need relevancy. The higher up the authority scale your site or your backlinks are, the less relevant they need to be.. Likewise the opposite happens the lower on the authority scale you go.
Now, what is on the authority scale?
Well, at the top we have sites like The New York Times, where they have MILLIONS of indexed pages and billions of indexed backlinks. At the bottom you have sites that have been penalized and are banned from even being within the Google index.
We try to actively optimize every single one of our page level backlinks to be as relevant to the page it’s linking to as possible. This means if we’re doing niche edit backlink insertions, then we’ll try to find pages that are topically relevant by having our niche/keywords in both the page title, page’s HTML headers and mentions throughout the piece itself.
If we’re building our guest posts, then we actively try to make sure the site itself is as relevant to the page as possible.
We also try to optimize the guest posts we write to be as topically associated with the page as possible – At DFY we will often go the extra mile for our high end guest post campaigns to do keyword research and topical SEO analysis to find content that’ll often empower the backlink with specifically optimized topical relevancy.
Tiered Link Building Is A Must
Ever since rolling penguin forced the algo to base link ranking signal value on a page-by-page basis, tiered link building has become the single most effective technique in a link builders arsenal right now.
Google analyzes your backlinks the same way it analyzes your own pages – It looks at the quality of the domain that page is on, it looks at the backlinks that page has, it looks at the content length, OBL and a bunch of other signals that I’ve been teaching you to optimize for in this guide.
This means that if your baclinks aren’t actively gaining or have backlinks themselves, then you’re often losing a vast amount of signals because you’ll no longer be able to count on the root authority of the backlink’s domain anymore. I wrote a whole separate guide here on tiered link building and how you can successfully implement it to great effectiveness on your existing backlinks and into your new link building strategies.
Are Google Actively Using Traffic, Bounce Rate, Social Signals & Brand Value As A Link Signal?
That doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to be using it in the future and you shouldn’t at least try to get your backlinks on sites/pages with their very own traffic and engagement metrics.
This question is one of the many, many SEO questions that should always be answered with – It depends.
BUT, I’ll try to explain a few concepts around why it may take Google a while to let your backlinks kick in.
Firstly, you have to take a look at indexing time, indexing priority and database update.
The amount of time it takes Google to index your backlink before they have ever even see the link and have the ability to pass a signal – This is actually why we recently acquired a U.S. based media company that specializes in PR for Google News and owns a site within the Google News Submission, well, we now own it.
Then you have to look at how much Google likes to crawl and index the site your backlink comes from – If it’s a large authority site that has well optimized pages regularly released, then the link will likely be at the top of the analyzing queue to be processed, rather than a site that routinely feeds Google thin or duplicate pages en masse.
The final stage is the effect that backlink has on your site – Google has analyzed the page, and assigned a ranking signal value to that backlink, now it has to take effect across every SERP. This could be instantaneous, it could take 2 weeks.. This is where the above 2 optimizations have the most effect on how quickly you’ll get a ranking signal, because you can’t tell Google when to pass it to you.
Conclusion & Thank You
Backlinks are getting increasingly harder to make work on your site and Google are trying to actively tune their algorithm’s around specific signals that they think will combat spam.
The thing is, if we do a bunch of reverse engineering, testing and optimize our own backlinks to fit into that specific criteria.. Then the SERPs are your oyster.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post, if you did please drop us a share in your favorite SEO community and if you have any questions drop them in the comments down below.