Blog: SEO
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What is Link Equity? How Does it Impact SEO?

John Koinange

John Koinange is a digital marketing associate and regular contributor for the Lockedown SEO blog. His work has appeared in numerous online publications.

In simplest terms, link equity is the measure of how much impact a hyperlink from one website has on the overall search ranking of the linked website.

SEO experts almost universally agree that link equity is a search engine ranking factor, though determining the amount of “authority” and value a linking site transfers to another website is nebulous and difficult to precisely determine.

Link equity is sometimes known as “link juice”, though that term is now considered unfashionable in many SEO circles.

Some factors that affect link equity include: the authority of the linking page/site, topic relevancy between the linking site and linked site, anchor text, and context or placement of the link.

In current search engine algorithms, quality is more important than quantity. Earning a few editorial links from high-authority sites will help more than many low-quality links. Essentially, links that pass link equity influence page rankings on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Link Equity and PageRank

It’s virtually impossible to mention link equity without talking about PageRank. Initially, Google’s ranking algorithm used an internal metric based on a website’s backlink profile, called PageRank. This measurement was named after Google co-founder Larry Page, not the authority measure of a given web page.

Though it had been reported in 2006 that Google no longer used PageRank, Google representative John Mueller confirmed in 2020 that Google still uses it, clarifying that other signals may be stronger.

But you use PageRank...

Yes, we do use PageRank internally, among many, many other signals. It's not quite the same as the original paper, there are lots of quirks (eg, disavowed links, ignored links, etc.), and, again, we use a lot of other signals that can be much stronger.

For contextualizing PageRank, think of it as the measure of flow of ranking power from one site to another. For instance, if an authoritative site provided a follow link to a smaller site; it validates and boosts the confidence in the linked page. Consequently, followed links lend some authority to the linked site. (Editor’s Note: Many SEO consultants contend that nofollow links do not pass ranking signals. Our experience is that in situations where a site normally has nofollow links, such as some third-party lead generation sites, picking up those links is a valuable endeavor.)

As I’ve severally mentioned, the application of black hat SEO strategies is risky. Search engines are sophisticated and easily identify and penalize such practices. This brings up an issue known as ‘PageRank sculpting‘. It used to be a controlled method of allocating followed and nofollowed links to control the authority flow from page to page.

Truth is, Google noticed this practice long ago, and has taken steps to circumvent this PageRank manipulation since at least 2009. Their recommendation is to let page equity flow freely through your site, unless there is a specific circumstance that calls for the use of nofollow links.

How is Link Equity Determined?

While quantifying the specific impact a given link will have on your ranking, you can get an approximation by answering the following questions.

Is the Link Relevant?

The value of a link is dependent on its relevance to the linked page. The most valuable links are from sites that are topically related to your site. Links from sites that have nothing to do with the topic of your website are less valuable.

How Authoritative is the Linking Site?

Well-established websites tend to have more links and more authority. When these sites link to your site, they pass a portion of that authority to your site. In contrast, links from sites that are brand-new tend to pass less link equity. The more authority a site has, the more link equity it passes to a linked site.

Is it a Follow or Nofollow Link?

When a link is marked as nofollow, it is a signal to search engines to not pass link equity to the linked page. There are several reasons why a link may be designated as nofollow, such as sponsored or paid links. In comparison, follow links pass link equity / link authority.

While it is always preferable to get a followed link as opposed to a nofollowed link, nofollow links still have some value in SEO. Don’t discount their incremental value to your link profile.

Can Google Crawl the Link?

If a web page is marked noindex, it means Googlebot will not crawl the page or any links on that page. Some pages may also be noindexed via the robots.txt file, though this is less common.

What is the Link Location on the Page?

Always aim to position your internal links in the main content of a page. When possible, earn external links that are in the main content of pages. Links located at the sidebar and footer pages of a site don’t carry the same weight as those at the edge of a page. Work on the link architecture to maximize value offered to site visitors. In short, what’s the user intent while landing at the page? Answer this, and offer a content map that enriches the process.

In the same breath, examine how you can tap content clusters to squeeze more link juice. Content clusters are correlated webpages. Develop a pillar content topic and write sub-topics related to the main theme. Search engines recognize the main page (pillar) and with internal linking of the relevant content, distribute link equity to other pages.

What is the The HTTP Status of the Link?

Google rep John Mueller confirmed in 2016 that 302 (Temporary) redirects pass PageRank. However, most SEO experts prefer 301 (Permanent) redirects. In the practical sense of link equity, pages that resolve as 200s or as permanent 301 redirects retain their full link equity. Better safe than sorry, always use a 301 redirect.

Importance of Link Analysis Tools

Various third-party tools can help provide insight to the SEO process. Tools such as Ahrefs, SEMRush, or Majestic can determine the relevance and value of a link, offering real time data on the probable link equity of a given back link. Additionally, these tools can identify untapped backlinks that your competitors have that may be giving them an advantage. Almost all SEO consultants believe that a strong link profile, and link equity are a key component in websites that rank atop the search results.

Do You Need Help With SEO?

At Lockedown SEO, we help clients in the manufacturing and industrial sector the chance to rank higher in search results in their niche.

If you need help with SEO, reach out and contact us, and our team will be in touch within one business day.

John Koinange

John Koinange is a digital marketing associate and regular contributor for the Lockedown SEO blog. His work has appeared in numerous online publications.

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