Google search advocate John Mueller says that SEO advice that mentions “link juice” is unreliable. Is that so?
I wondered about the context and wondered if that was true. There are different opinions.
After Barry Schwartz shared the news on LinkedIn, a lively discussion ensued.Even Moz and SparkToro founder Rand Fishkin commented: Maybe we should all write more about it! ”
About link juice and bad SEO advice
Mueller was answering questions about outgoing links when he dismissed link juice. He essentially ignored the original question and only responded to the unwanted “link juice” mention.
Mueller’s tone this time around is neutral, but on Twitter he came close to ranting.
- “Anything that talks about ‘link juice’ should be ignored.”
This is nothing new. He’s just repeating over and over again what he’s expressed in the past.
Here is a similar quote from him twitter account Back in 2020:
- “Forget everything you read about ‘Link Juice’. Everything is outdated, wrong, and very likely misleading.”
So is link juice such an abomination? Is it like the “snake oil” SEO experts still offer? Let’s see the big picture.
Snake Oil: A Popular SEO Panacea
There’s a reason the SEO industry has had a bad reputation for years. The metaphorical snake oil is marketed in many ways, and many websites have been victimized by his misguided SEO advice and tactics.
A synonym for misleading promises of miraculous cures for all sorts of ailments, “snake oil” has often been compared to SEO.
In 2022, there are still more #seohorrorstories on Twitter and other social media than inspiring success stories. Outsiders, as well as SEO experts themselves, are rather focused on these negative news.
Of course, the SEO industry isn’t the only one guilty of selling and spreading snake oil.
Over the years, many of our clients have asked us to practice unethical SEO. To this day, ethics must be adhered to to avoid getting caught in a vicious cycle of shady SEO practices. We also receive regular email requests for paid links and other similar offers.
History of Link Juice
When Google entered the crowded and messy search engine market, it had a revolutionary ranking algorithm that used the so-called “PageRank” to determine a website’s authority. It’s named after Google co-founder Larry Page, not an actual “web page”.
SEO specialists have started using various slang terms for PageRank. “Google Juice” and “Link Juice” are the most popular.
Since its inception, Google has continued to gain market share, performing quite well on PageRank alone.
First generation search engines such as AltaVista, Yahoo and Infoseek were easily fooled by simply using:
- Keyword stuffing.
- hidden text.
- Misleading meta tags.
Once Google got big enough to dominate the market, unethical SEO practitioners mainly artificially inflated the number of incoming links (also called backlinks) so that Google could rank them higher. focused on.
PageRank no longer guarantees high-quality search results, and over time Google began adding ranking signals to its algorithm.
As link juice became more and more abused, Google continued to add ranking signals, sophisticated technologies like AI, and quality concepts like EAT.
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How does Link Juice work?
I won’t get too deep into the topic of link juicing as others have done before. WooRank’s evergreen guide is worth reading for a quick overview. Their visualizations are particularly self-explanatory.
In theory, the website authority of a linking site is spread more or less evenly across the pages it links to.
In practice, however, the process is much more complicated and the value of a link depends on many other factors, such as:
- anchor text (I’m the anchor text!): too many keywords is a red flag. Not worth enough passes.
- Placement on page: For example, footer links count less than content links.
- Site and page context: Irrelevant or off-topic contexts pass fewer values.
- additional attributes: HTML rel attributes such as rel=”nofollow, UGC, sponsored” devalue links.
- number of links: A linked list with dozens of links may not pass important values.
Is the content a new link?
By 2019, Google shifted its message to focus on quality content. From the outside, pivots seem to imply that “the content is the new link”. Eventually, one of Google’s primary SEO docs, which was primarily focused on links, was updated to cover primarily content.
For years, Google officials have been wary of the industry’s focus on link building. Instead, it emphasizes the need for quality content every time a question comes up.
Now, Google tends to overemphasize content, making people aware of it, and undervalue links, so SEOs stop obsessing over content.
In Google Search Essentials, content is mentioned 6 times, including top, in the “Key Best Practices” section, but links are only mentioned 3 times.
In my opinion, we need to look at both trends and find a compromise.
Links are still very important, but their impact has diminished over time and the importance of content has steadily increased.
So is link juice real?
The colloquial link juicing term actually sounds a bit vulgar, but the concept behind it (Google’s original algorithm) is still valid and used to determine website and page level authority or value. will be used.
It’s a gross oversimplification of the highly complex Google algorithm, which involves a lot of checks and balances (as Kaspar Szymanski puts it together), ensuring good rankings that are hard to manipulate.
After all, you have to attract links to your website. Otherwise, other content of similar quality will rank higher in organic search results. So while using the term link juice might sound a little dated, it’s still not a full snake oil.
What do the experts say? Fishkin isn’t the only one talking about Link Juice.
Brian Lonsdale, co-founder of Smarter Digital Marketing Ltd, said:
- “If Google doesn’t want you to do something, it means it’s working.”
Submit Express / Reputation Stars CEO Pierre Zarokian added:
- “I’m not fooled by it. The Google algorithm has been based on link juice since 1998.”
What term should be used instead of link juice?
You can say a lot to mention Link Juice without sounding like a back alley drug dealer.
Jessica Levenson, Global Head of Digital Strategy and SEO for NetSuite and Oracle, articulates:
- “Frankly no one should use that word. It’s the worst word ever, apart from the link and its purpose.”
What else can you say instead? Terms that sound more technical include:
- link authority
- link value
- link equity
Assertive Director Daniel Foley Carter explains:
- “I call it link equity. No matter what Google says, anyone who’s been in the SEO industry knows that this kind of thing is taken very loosely.”
If it’s too boring or technocratic for you, you can follow Brent Payne’s advice.
- “I use Link Tequila. It’s more fun. I love tequila.”
Not enough link equity
However, if you use the synonym for “link juice”, remember that the concept is fading and doesn’t work in isolation like it did in the early days.
In 2004, when I started in SEO, ranking blank websites was still commonplace.
You can even get thin content pages to rank for competitive keywords just by directing your link juice at them.In 2022, that’s a rare exception.
Focus on creating great content to attract great links
As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Although Google doesn’t focus on links in its algorithms or public rhetoric, our technology still relies on links to some extent.
It is still very difficult to gain organic search visibility on Google with content alone. However, if that content is endorsed by a link from an authority site, it greatly increases your chances of appearing in the top positions on Google.
So how do you get there without buying paid links or manipulating Google? This works for many content SEO practitioners.
Create a “linkable asset”
For years, website owners wanted to buy SEO services instead of creating content that could actually earn links. I lost a lot of potential clients when I explained that I couldn’t artificially inflate the rankings of an empty site that had only self-promotional material as content.
Linkable assets are all kinds of comprehensive and valuable unique resources that are likely to be recommended by other publishers. Examples include in-depth guides, original research, and breaking news.
Attract links naturally
Ideally, when you publish link-worthy content, just wait until people notice you and link to it.
Of course, this is theory. In fact, it’s most likely to be overlooked unless it already has an established audience.
In such cases, you should at least refer to a content expert who has an audience. They can help you get the ball rolling.
Reach out to “linkaratis”
Influencers, journalists, and industry professionals are usually very busy, and social media mentions alone may not get their attention.
In that case, good old email outreach is the tool of choice. So-called Linkarati often accept profitable offers that match their interests.
Rather than mass-mailing hundreds of strangers, choosing the right people and focusing on a few will give you initial traction until others organically notice you.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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