With the recent revelation that Google labels our links, it makes you think even more about how the algorithm and Google Penguin handle links at the most basic level. Just want to share some theories that seem like logical extensions of this knowledge. Though we all kind of knew this was happening in some form or another all along, getting Google to actually publicly state that they label each link gives us confirmation and lets us run with our conclusions.
Google only told us a few of the label types that they use on links but they say something about how they are looking at them. Google only shared the three types, “Penguin Real Time”, “Disavowed”, and “Footer” as examples, but those examples tell us a lot in themselves. It tells us there is still some value on disavowed links and that they are specifically labeling which links are Penguin algorithm related.
Theoretically speaking of course, I like to think of a link ideally having a value of 1 and then that value is dropped or helped by the label that is placed on it, and that value helps decide your domain strength. A “Penguin” labeled link may actually have a negative value. This is smart and takes away more need from manual penalties that Google has been trying to do to reduce that manual aspect. If you have a lot of Penguin links that give you -1 scores, your site or pages are not likely to rank because your strength is cut down significantly. However, if someone did this to you unknowingly a long time ago, and since then you have climbed out of it with good links, your +1’s can counteract your -1’s and you can start to show up.
I am aware of some sites that suddently started to rank in September that had some nasty link profiles that they have been trying to disavow and recover from. The “Disavow” label would theoretically make it a 0 value, or maybe a -.05 or something that mildly hurts you because it happened but doesn’t drag you down as much as one that was not disavowed but is spammy.
The “Footer” label shows us that the location of the link in the content matters. We have always known this to some extent, but this confirms that there is a label for where it is. Now they didn’t come out and say that a value is associated with that, but following my theory, the “footer” link would be less valuable, say a .5, than a content link, which may be a 1. There may be “Reference” links from reference pages that have more or less value based on what Google determines. Perhaps a “NoFollow” link reduces the 1 to a .7? It should be pointed out also that Google did not say that every link had only one label, so you could be a spammy “Penguin” link and a “footer” link. How those “scores”work together gets in to the deeper and more complicated part of the algorithm.
So another think Google tells us is that the source of the link is more important than the site it links to. Links from empty profile pages on some membership site have much less value than in content editorial mentions from a reputable domain source. I imagine there are labels for this such as “Profile” and “Editorial” and maybe even “Hilltop”, referencing the piece of the algorithm called hilltop, where google recognizes being referred to as a reputable industry source. I often link to Search Engine Land articles here because it is one of the most trusted sources in the industry. I imagine Google even has sites they deem “hilltop” sites. The fun of theorizing about the algorithm.
That being said, content links from reputable domain sources are always the way to go. You do want to diversify your link portfolio and things like local sponsorships and chamber memberships are not always going to allow you that opportunity, yet are important links for local businesses.
As always, Google wants you to build links in a “natural” and “organic” way, so you should have a mix of link types, but having most of your links come from footers is going to devalue them, as Google knows web developers put links to their site in all of their client sites. Well, smart ones do. There is value there, but Google wants more than that. A link profile filled with profile links from low end sites that were built just so you could have a profile page is not going to get you anywhere.
If all of this is too much for you to worry about, but you still want SEO to work for you and to have a great link profile, give us a call. We know what we are doing and can make SEO work for you.