How Google evaluates links: 7 characteristics

Last week, Google announced changes in the way they evaluate links. How does this affect your website rankings and how exactly does Google evaluate links?

What exactly did Google announce?

Google announced several changes of the ranking algorithm. The most important change was the change of the backlink analysis:

"Link evaluation. We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable."

What does this mean for your web page rankings?

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t go into detail. As mentioned in Google’s statement, Google uses "characteristics of links" to figure out the topic of a linked page.

We’ll take a look at the characteristics below. Then we’ll try to find out which element could have been changed.

Google link characteristics

Characteristic 1: the text of the link

The anchor text of a link has been the most important factor for a long time. If many sites link to a page with the anchor text "green apple" then the page will get high rankings for the term "green apple".

Characteristic 2: the link power of the linking page

Links from pages with many inbound links have a higher influence than links from pages with few backlinks.

Characteristic 3: content and page proximity

If you sell shoes on your website then the link to your website will have a bigger impact if the text that surrounds the link to your page is about shoes. If the link to your website is surrounded by totally unrelated text then the link won’t count as much.

Characteristic 4: link attributes such as nofollow and title

Links that use the rel=nofollow attribute don’t affect the position of your web pages on Google. Some webmasters think that using title attributes can have a positive effect if these contain the targeted keywords. Others think that this could trigger a spam filters.

Characteristic 5: redirects and shortened URLs

Redirects and shortened URLs such as //bit.ly/a4X4th are URLs that redirect to another URL. Should these URLs carry full weight when it comes to calculate the position of a website?

Characteristic 6: the age of a website

The older a link is, the more Google tends to trust that link. Links that remain for a long time seem to have a bigger impact than links that come and go.

Characteristic 7: the affiliation of the linking sites

Links from websites that have the same owner and links from affiliates may have a different influence on the rankings of a web page than links from websites that are not affiliated with the page.

Of course, we can only speculate what Google has changed. It is likely that Google now only considers the anchor text of a link if that link is placed in the right context (page and content proximity). Another possibility is that affiliate links (redirected or with page variables) will have less influence on the rankings of a page.

If you have followed the tips and tricks of this blog in the past then Google’s change won’t have any negative influence on your website rankings. Just continue to get good backlinks and optimize the content of your pages. You can analyze the different links that point to a website here:

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