Link Juice: what it is for and what role it plays in SEO

Term link juice (or link equity) denotes the amount of value passing from one web page to another when they are linked. It is an important concept for SEO-focused link building.

But how exactly does it work, and what is its role in web marketing? Many wonder if link juice still exists, especially after Google’s algorithm update called Penguin.

Many pseudo-strategies used to quickly climb Google’s SERP, especially those unrelated to user satisfaction and search intent, lost effectiveness.

The truth is that it is far from dead; it has just become more efficient in recognizing the quality of links, unlike the years before the mentioned update, where it only recognized quantity.

In this article, I will try to answer all your questions, and more precisely, you will discover:

  • What is meant by link juice?
  • What its purpose is?
  • How to manage it best?
  • Some examples of link juice.
  • The parameters considered in link evaluation.

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What is Link Juice or Link Equity?

Translated, it means “link juice” in analogy with fluid physics. To understand what link juice is in simple terms, consider that every time a web page is linked from another, the latter transfers its authority value to the former.

Link Juice is a term widely used in SEO and indicates the “weight” of links, a vote that the Google algorithm assigns to each hyperlink based on calculations that take into account a website and its components.

For this reason, it is also called link equity. When discussing this topic, it is essential to consider:

  • Popularity: how often content is linked and clicked.
  • Usefulness and relevance: how useful content addresses user needs and how much argumentative coherence exists between related web pages.
  • Reliability and authority of the sites in relation.

These variables are closely related and quite complex to calculate. We will analyze them later.

As you may know, Google, the premier search engine, has never explicitly disclosed how its algorithm works, and these “scores” are not public domain.

Over time, various third-party tools have developed systems attempting to interpret how the search engine spider evaluates websites.

To mention some link juice tools:

  • MozBar allows checking Page and Domain Authority, and Spam Score.
  • Majestic allows checking SEO and backlinks.
  • Ahrefs allows analyzing backlinks, keyword research, competitor content, and organic positioning.
  • SEOTesterOnline allows performing a check and verifying the site’s optimization level.

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What is Link Juice for?

Now that it’s clear what link juice is, you can easily understand its functions and applications.

The main one involves satisfying the ranking factors that help the algorithm evaluate and position a web page in the search engine’s SERP, so it’s important not to overlook it for optimization.

The level of authority distributed depends on the number and quality of links on the page. Just as internal links add value, outgoing links dilute that value.

link juice examples

Assuming that links relate to each other only when topics are relevant, as Google would like, choosing to link to a blog article.

For example, signals to the search engine spider that the content of that blog is appreciated by the user enough to “recommend” it to other users. The spider interprets this action as a signal of usefulness.

How to manage Link Juice?

Now that the importance of link juice is clear, it’s time to see its practical application. There are two main ways to manage it and enhance it on your web pages.

  1. Direct method: through appropriate optimization of internal linking and a good strategy of link building.
  2. Indirect method: by creating curated and interesting content to encourage backlinks.

Below, I will explain in more detail these two methods. Also, if you are wondering how to increase link juice, I will provide you with valid tools to manage it effectively.

Internal Links

With proper strategic marketing planning, internal linking once optimized results in a better distribution of link equity to all pages of the site. Usually, the page with the highest concentration of equity is the homepage.

To understand what link juice is in the link-building strategy and how it is applied, consider that the structure of all web pages is hierarchical and branched.

Consequently, the authority value cascades from the home to the child pages, thus strengthening the entire site. The navigation menu itself consists of links that point to other sections of the site.

It is important to create it considering which pages deserve more attention and which ones we want to “push” more.

It’s not just a technical matter but benefits the User Experience: in the creation of a website, it is essential to design precise paths that we want users to follow because the structure of internal linking is primarily for the user experience and achieving the site’s goals.

Like most on-page SEO practices, optimizing internal link juice begins with an analysis of the focus keyword, its related terms, and its semantic field.

This helps identify possible connections between topics already present on the site to link them.

Also, it’s advisable not to use exact keyword phrases exclusively as anchor text (the visible and clickable part) as this may be interpreted as spam by search engines.

A good technique is to use synonyms and related terms, focusing on the semantic domain of the focus keyword.

Some useful tools for analysis and keyword research:

  • Google Suggest
  • Google Ads Keyword Tool
  • Ubersuggest
  • WooRank
  • Use of “site:” and “intext:” operators to identify synonyms and related topics

Some useful tools for an analysis of internal linking:

  • The “force-directed crawl diagram” feature of ScreamingFrog provides a mapping of the site structure.
  • In Google Search Console, under Search Traffic, you can check the number of internal links for a page.

External Links

When focusing on improving the internal structure of the site to achieve a better distribution of existing equity flow, external link juice optimization aims to increase the quantity of this flow.

How? Through link-building and link-baiting strategies, always consider the main aspects: topical relevance and authority of the sites under consideration.

Start with backlink analysis, monitoring existing links, and identifying new potential ones while always considering the authority scores of the websites we want to associate with, to build high-quality link building.

Some backlink analysis tools:

  • Check My Links (a Google Chrome extension)
  • OpenSiteExplorer
  • Moz’s Link Explorer
  • Semrush
  • Search Metrics and Search Metrics Link Optimization

 

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4 special cases of Link Juice

How does link juice work when a URL is duplicated? And with 404 errors? Or with a spam site? Does authority value still pass with the nofollow attribute?

Below, I will explain these 4 special cases that are important to know and master when dealing with this topic.

The NoFollow attribute

It used to be possible to manipulate the distribution of link juice using the “nofollow” HTML attribute. This practice was called link sculpting or more commonly, Page Rank Sculpting.

Google doesn’t like attempts to manipulate its factors, so years ago, it made changes to this attribute to ensure that such practices, as conceived, were no longer possible.

The search engine wants to focus on creating quality content, as its ultimate goal is to provide the most relevant answers in SERPs, which are useful in satisfying the user’s search intent.

However, creating quality content, especially in high-competition market niches, is not always easy.

Nofollow has changed, but it still does not pass equity flow, and unthoughtful use of this attribute causes its dissipation.

Duplicate content

The problem with duplicate content is that the search engine bot doesn’t know which version of the URL to include in indexing, it can’t choose the correct address, and consequently, it struggles with placement.

The same applies to sites redirecting to a duplicate page: which URL to follow? Here, there’s a risk of unnecessary link juice loss.

duplicate content

It’s advisable to resolve the issue of duplicate addresses with the rel=”canonical” tag or with a 301 redirect. Of course, this should be done after conducting a thorough backlink audit.

Analyzing inbound and outbound links also helps identify any “broken links, i.e., 404 errors. A link is broken when the destination page is no longer accessible.

This can lead to link juice dispersion as well as a poor user experience. To correct these link-building errors that negatively impact user experience, you can use Check My Links, a simple Google Chrome extension.

This will help you find and remove all those linked pages that are no longer reachable.

Disavow

Disavow means “disapprove.” In SEO, it’s a tool that helps get rid of undesirable inbound links over which we have no control (spam).

For example, if a “bad website” links to one of our articles, we can prevent damage to our reputation and reliability by informing Google through disavowing that we do not approve of the link.

What growth in equity flow could we ever expect from a spam site? Thanks to this tool, all associations of dubious origin can be removed.

 

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What are Page Rank and Trust Rank?

These link juice parameters are considered in the evaluation of hyperlinks. How have they evolved?

Page Rank

To understand the link juice as known today, we need to go back to 1996, the year when Page Rank was born, the first-ever site ranking factor.

At that time, clicking and following a link were interpreted by the crawler as a signal of popularity. However, the concept of a high-quality site did not exist yet, and consequently, every link potentially provided the same amount of value.

The old model, defined as the “random surfer model,” is based on the probability that the user chooses to click on one link on a page rather than another without considering the content and that the user continues navigation randomly from one page to another.

A quantitative approach: the probability that a user clicks on a link is solely based on the total number of links on the page. The more hyperlinks present, the lower the probability that “that one” will be selected.

Later, the “intentional surfer model” takes over, completely modifying the previous one. Now, content is considered in the evaluation of links, and they are not all equal, thus not carrying link juice in the same way.

A decidedly more qualitative approach: this model predicts that the value attributed to each hyperlink depends solely on user behavior, and the more it is appreciated, shared, and clicked, the greater the concentration of link juice transferable from it.

Trust Rank

Trust Rank was born as a system to identify spam on the web and distinguish it from high-quality sites.

It aids the spider in assessing the reliability of a site, providing valuable assistance in checking the Domain Authority and thus building a cleaner link juice free of spam.

It is a semi-automatic process that can be divided into 3 phases:

  1. The spider selects a set of pages with unclear spam status.
  2. The expert analyzes the set of pages and communicates the results to the machine (which cannot be decided on its own at this stage).
  3. The machine learns from the specific situation and behaves similarly when faced with similar conditions in the future.

The Trust Rank is an analysis algorithm and is used to distinguish so-called “good sites” from spam. It is presumed to do so by analyzing parameters such as:

  • Link profiles, their quality, and relevance.
  • Age, size, and structure of the website.
  • Security, HTTP status, type of hosting, and information about the site owner (for example, an e-commerce site without information about legal address or VAT is not considered serious).

Final thoughts and free consultation

The journey to the discovery of link juice ends here. I hope this article has introduced you to and helped you understand an important piece of Search Engine Optimization.

If all of this piques your interest and you would like to know how to build a better link for your website, book a free Strategic Coaching session where one of our experts will answer all your questions.

For more tips on making your SEO strategy more effective, feel free to request more information!

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