Why the Value of a Link is Different for Search Engines Based on Link Features and User Data

Here at SEO Positive we know the value of looking at Google patent files. By examining the technology Google is filing patents for you can start to get an idea of the way different routines and algorithms influence the search engine’s behaviour – and so where we, as SEO professionals, need to be focusing.

Link-based ranking systems, which work by elevating a web page in the SERPs according to the links it receives elsewhere on the net, may not be a simple matter of numbers. In other words simply generating a lot of backlinks to a web page you are optimising for may not give it the shot in the arm you thought it would.

Here at SEO Positive we have discovered that some link-based ranking algorithms may be looking at the value of each link rather than how many links there are. One of the simplest ways in which links may be ranked by order of importance is by looking at the pages on which they sit.

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Google and all the major search engines prefer to give weight to links that come from sources the search engine already trusts. Domain name at the upper level can be important here –  a .org address, for example, is generally given a better weighting by Google than a .com, because it’s assumed the .org site will be authoritative on its subject.

SEO Positive looked at an early Google paper, explaining the idea of Page ranking (the term, by the way, is reference to the surname of a Google developer, and doesn’t actually refer to web “pages”) with reference to a “random surfer”. Essentially the idea was that this random surfer would be on a web page and follow links at his or her whim, every time he or she got bored of being where he or she was. The Page rank score was Google’s way of predicting the next random click.

Then we looked at a more recent Google patent, which talks instead about a “reasonable” surfer. The “reasonable”  surfer looks at where the links he or she is considering come from, and weights the min order of importance according to their origin. So a link generated by an authoritative page for the market or subject area has a more valuable link than one coming from a sponsored ad site.

There are of course more link attributes that might be considered. We had a think here at SEO Positive HQ and came up with a few other ideas for ranking links according to the ones most likely to be followed – font size, for example, or whether the link is displayed in a different colour from the rest of the text in which it sits.

The location of the URLs of both source document and destination document are also potentially important. If Google sees that both are hosted in the same place, it may assume that the links are worthless.