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|Does Google "Age" Your Backlinks?|
I was at a conference last week and this topic came up - with disagreement among SEOs who have significant experience. The question is this: Does Google "age" backlinks - those that point to another domain?
If the answer is yes, do they age like a fine wine, getting better and better as time goes on? Or do backlinks age more like bread, getting moldy and finally becoming so decrepit and stale that they are no good at all. There are a few possibilities, and some of them are hinted at in various patents.
- One is that as months go by and a backlink stays in place, then it potentially gets a bit of a boost - because it's more trusted as it proves that it's stable.
- Another possibility is that as a linking page ages and show no further life, no change, and gathering no further backlinks of its own, then the links it offers to target pages have less and less value.
- And yet another is that a new fresh backlink is at its most powerful when first found - part of the "freshness" obsession.
- And then there's still another point of view - that the patents don't mean very much and that a backlink's value will only change as the linking page's own value goes up or down, or the number of links on the page changes.
I do have my own viewpoint on this, but it's pretty much based on a feeling built up over time, rather than coming from a disciplined test. Has anyone here done some testing? Or seen an example that lines up with one of the ideas I listed? Maybe there's another possibility in play?
[edited by: tedster at 3:07 pm (utc) on Jul 26, 2010]
I personally believe that as a link ages it gathers more trust and therefore strengthens. I also believe that a fresh link doesn't generally help until a few months have passed (unless it's some high PR 7+ link). Sadly, I also believe in #2..as a link ages and as the linking page gets less views it deteriorates further strengthening #4. So....What is your viewpoint Ted? I'm interested in your thoughts because I am no expert and would love to better understand a link's value over time as well.
Personally I'm not sure about no.2 - that doesn't seem logical. If a link is relevant to the content it appears in, then the fact the page gets less views over time doesn't seem too significant to me, especially if it's static content or a news article.
I feel no.1 is the most logical and I would also tend to think age plays a factor, strengthening over time although with two provisos: a) aging will not necessarily be especially significant and b) I feel Google will gradually devalue linking as a ranking "trust" factor as the algos get more reliable in detecting good content, so the latter might negate any aging effects through a natural process of evolution anyway.
|I do have my own viewpoint on this, but it's pretty much based on a feeling built up over time, rather than coming from a disciplined test. |
Gut feeling here too, and lots of mental note taking. I think that A-B tests are almost impossible for hard-to-obtain "fine" links, particularly in real life competitive situations. The best I've been able to do in these circumstances is to try not to muddy up the waters when I've gotten a link worth evaluating.
As I see it, different links, like different wines, age differently... but the differences may be due to specific factors inherent in the types of links and sites. With wines, chemistry and storage are key factors. Toss in a few ingredients like acidity, sugar, tannin/phenols, alcohol content, etc... add the effects of heat and oxygen, and you may or may not have a link worth drinking.
Some links, I've observed, appear to build slowly and get better over time. Very hard to isolate this from other factors, of course, including additional upstream inbounds, particularly with big sites over a long time period. It may be that these are simply stable links on good, stable sites, and the neighborhoods they're in tend to attract positive attention in the long term.
Blog links, in contrast, have a quick rise and then diminish relatively quickly too... either because they move down and eventually rotate off the front page of the linking site, and/or because there may be a QDF type factor built into blog links which gives them a short life as well. Secondary links to a blog or news article can help keep them from fading... but if these secondary links are also from blogs or forums, they too will fade.
Other links, and these have been the most curious for me, seem to have a honeymoon period. They react more slowly than blog links, both up and down. I'd put some directory links in this group... and it may be that Google evaluates them to see if they receive other confirmation. Or it may be that they rotate off the "new listings" pages in the directory.
All linking pages are subject to changing conditions upstream of them... anything from code changes to business changes to algorithmic changes, all of which can positively or negatively affect inbound link juice. Some pages have good enough content to attract inbounds once they become sufficiently visible, which can mask other upstream changes. In some market areas, links will be affected by upstream link buying and selling as well. Large corporations do some notoriously dumb things on their sites and servers that can suddenly cut off link juice to their subsidiary companies. For the most part I'm surprised how long some inbounds seem to stay viable.
I agree with Robert Charlton that backlinks from blogs and forums will usually lose value over time because they come from pages that gradually get pushed deeper into the site.
Other types of backlinks could steadily rise in value for the first few months after their discovery, then begin a long slow decline.
Google record the date found of Back links as an when found. Google will also use this information when dating the age of a domain for example: a domain is only as old as the oldest link. If its been around but parked for 10 years and only got a proper page a year ago and a single back link at that time it would only be considered a year old.
BLs have an effect at time found, but if they are super Juicy (say a PR6 with no other outbound links), that juice will be gradually passed over maybe 2 years.
In fact such a powerful link may not actually help ranks at all to start with nor pass any juice because it is so out of keeping with the natural links of the domain.
I suspect Google also never forget you had a link, while it may have diapered, they most likely then use this data to count the link churn you have had and this will no doubt be used as a factor when judging your Trust Rank.
i suspect that google algo is only capable of assigning a value to the link entirely dependent on the algo valuation of the page the link is placed on.
So if the page becomes more prominent or the link structure of the site pushes more link power at the page, the links out of it gets more valuable, if the page declines in incoming link power, the outgoing links get less valuable, e.g directory links that get pshed further back as newer links come in, or blog article links that get archived and attract no more incoming links
I am for number 4,
Even if we knew the exact answer to the questions, how would that help us? I don't see any actionable information here.
There's nothing we can do about the age of links on other people's sites. We've either got 'em or we don't, so why fret about it?
Keep your focus on gaining new links, and let the nuances of aging look after themselves.
knowing might influence our choice of strategy, plus pursuing and getting a bundle of links the algo actively penalises might well be considered,,, undesirable
I have a site that has not been regularly updated for several years.
However, due to it once being a good resource, it had a a few decent inbound links, but particularly several from a huge 'household name'. About a year ago it suddenly tanked in the SERPs. I didn't take too much notice, but upon checking recently I noticed that this site had changed all its, once static, outbound links to some convoluted procedure including 302 redirects.
Make of that what you will. But I think that links from this household name site had been pretty much responsible for my site's high ranking for the best part of a decade.
|backlinks from blogs and forums will usually lose value over time because they come from pages that gradually get pushed deeper into the site |
Given that the assumed "degradation of signal" is a function of WP's software design, and not any form of conscious downward weighting by the linking authority/site, I would call the engineers or algo artists who programmed such a downward weighting of blog links . . a bit . . lacking? :P
If there is such a "blog link effect" then it's a flaw which likely needs fixing . . in algo tweak #103,483.
[edited by: Webwork at 4:04 am (utc) on Jul 26, 2010]
|Even if we knew the exact answer to the questions, how would that help us? |
How about this idea - monitor for new backlinks for your best backlinks. If their page starts to go stale, then build THEM a backlink or two.
Webwork, there's nothing lacking here.
If a post moves off the home page of the blog, anything that post links to isn't on that page anymore, right? There's no downward weighting, the algo simply stops giving weight to a link that isn't there anymore! There's nothing lacking about that.
The link WILL get whatever link juice strength the post archive page(s) can deliver, and such page(s) must earn their Page Rank form the pages that link to them.
It would be more accurate to think of the link having a temporary boost while the link is on the blog's home page ... but the permanent link value will be whatever the blog's permanent pages can deliver.
|If their page starts to go stale, then build THEM a backlink or two. |
That might make sense .... I'll hold that thought for when I run out of ways to cultivate links directly for my own pages! :)
|the algo simply stops giving weight to a link that isn't there anymore! |
My money is on Wordpress giving Google a case of the quirks, quirks that Google continues to tussle with. The initial "public problem" was the handling of multiple copies of every post. Google allegedly got a handle on this, though I can't recall reading "exactly how". Possibly G chose to appoint category archive pages - where ALL posts go from the moment of publication (correct me if I'm wrong) - as "the content" (for indexing). IF that's the case then it may also be reasonable to assume that any ranking effect - other than SERPs where "freshness matters", i.e., news - likely comes and only from links in the WP "archives", and not the homepage.
If so, then what about degredation of the signal of links "in the archive"?
Is the mere "pushing down" of archived articles by the system a signal?
I claim no expertise, but IF G is considering the effects of the WP app itself then I can't see homepage links on WP websites having the same juice as homepage links on a variety of other sites, except as they may pertain to a "fresh-rank" type variables. There's simply no "voting to homepage an article or link" with Wordpress. The article and embedded links go there automatically, just as they disappear automatically. If I were designing an algo then the only "signal" I would take from the fact that something appears on a WP homepage is one that says "Hey, this is fresh meat and everyone is talking about it. Up the ante! Up the rank . . until the buzz dies . . which tends to be in about 2 days."
I hope I'm not too far off topic, but given the ubiquity of WP as a publishing platform I suspect WP has given G multiple headaches, not just multiple copy headaches (though all those "extra outbound links", and not just "duplicate content", were probably giving some extra fits to G's algo.)
A blog post can have many backlinks to it, some maybe static. Would the aging factor still be in effect here?
As a blog owner adds more posts over time, so that more archived pages are created, the PR to each individual achived page is gradually diluted. Possibly this could be counter-acted if the blog is popular and continues to attract new backlinks. Otherwise, backlinks from an archived page will decline in value.
Something similar also happens with forums, as new threads are created, so that the PR transferred to old threads is gradually diluted.
I'd say if you get a link from a standard blog, then you really want the permalink for that article to have power. Otherwise, when your link falls off the home page - poof! If it's a really good blog, this is another case where I would consider a bit of link building for that permalink, even though it doesn't directly affect my website.
Still, this is not a case of Google aging the backlink. It's more of Google continuing to update their link graph, and your link eventually fell to a page with a lower amount of link juice to offer.
|...I would consider a bit of link building for that permalink... |
This is what I was referring to when I said...
|Secondary links to a blog or news article can help keep them from fading... but if these secondary links are also from blogs or forums, they too will fade. |
Too many people will build links to permalinks from other blogs, so links from within the overall blog or forum community apparently fade over time. The structure of most blogs is inherently temporal. They rely on constant updating. I'd look at a front page blog link as a temporary boost.
So yes, absolutely help build links to your articles or permalinks and to key pages that link to your permalinks. Publicize an article if it says something about your business that's significant... even if it doesn't link to you. If you have the time and budget, consider sharing hints with your business fans to optimize their sites.
|Is the mere "pushing down" of archived articles by the system a signal? |
No more so than news going off the front page of a newspaper is a signal. The algorithm tends to align with the qualities of perception and the realities of life.
In the "real world", it's hard to keep even vitally important issues in the public consciousness. "On the front page" has become a figure of speech. We live in a "five-minutes-of-fame" kind of world... another figure of speech. Ephemerality is inherent in a society of mortals, and it's amplified in a world that changes rapidly. Throw-away media is both a symptom and a cause.
Once upon a time, rulers of empires built palaces and pyramids and engraved their exploits on stone tablets. Cities fade, empires crumble, and entire ecosystems can disappear when someone presses the wrong button. Who cares that much about a single blog article?
its a bit dumb really, i think, if they downgrade links based on their age.
its like this... when your link is new its like your book appearing on the New York Times bestseller list. You'll get a big boost. But when it drops off the list, the benefit will dwindle. that sounds reasonable.
but does it mean your book is any less good when it drops off the bestseller list? of course it doesn't. it was new, that's all, so everyone talked about. but now everyone's said their bit they want to talk about something new. but it doesn't mean that your book is any less relevant than it was before.
the same with links. once everyone has spent two weeks blogging "look at this, look at this, it's amazing" its bound to drop off the front page. but its still amazing.
another example: movies.
when "The Godfather" came out we can imagine that it got millions of links saying how great it was. but these days it doesn't get so many, because there's not so many people talking about it. but its still a great movie. why should all those old reviews be discounted? it doesn't make sense. things dont get worse just because you put a bit of time between them.
In my findings I have noticed #1 to be the most truthful, and maybe #4 if I am understanding you correctly, of the four you listed and can provide you an example of my experience on this topic.
We have an aged domain that had competitive keywords ranking #5-#8. We stopped getting new links for the site, and over the next 5-6 months those same competitive keyword rankings went to #1-#4, basically each went up 3-4 spots. We made no changes during that period, and I feel the aging of links kept kicking in for the better rankings.
The SEO experts at your conference may disagree, and if so, it might be because the sites to which they have their aged links on have completely gone down in value, which is maybe what you were saying on #4.
Lets say a link is ranked on a scale 1-10 for value, 10 being the best. If Site ABC has 100 links each at a 10, and 2 years later those same 100 links are now 50 at a 10 and 50 at a 5, your value easily could down, and will in my opinion, because of this although the links are aged.
I don't agree with #2. As for #3, it's easy to think the link is most powerful when first found, "freshness obsession", because they are seeing immediate results, which you should when you get a backlink.
Again, this is just my opinion and what I have observed. This is a great topic and very important.
If I'm reading the responses correctly, it seems people here feel that links from different kinds of sites are aged differently.
For example, links from sites that are more of a social media, UGC or "periodical" type of site might start our strong and then begin to fade -- as in freshness matters a whole lot. But links from a site that is more conventional or static/stable can start modestly and then build over the next few months. That lines up with my gut feeling about it.
But then there's the question of links that age for years. My sense is that if the linking page goes stale, then the links get devalued. I even think there may be periodic sweeps through the entire webgraph to downgrade links from very old and stale pages.
|its a bit dumb really, i think, if they downgrade links based on their age. |
I agree, londrum - and that's why I don't think it's just age of the link that matters, but whether the linking page is still "alive" on the web - still getting soime clicks when it does get impressions, still attracting the occasional backlink, etc.
How will it work if Google valued links based on historical behavior of linking page?
1. If history tells the page changes the links often, I would give credit to a link that has aged.
2. If history tells once a link comes on to a page will always remain, I would take aged link as rather stale.
3. If a page is not given to give any links, then I would keep the value same throughout its life.
It is probably at least that complex - if not more. As early as 2005, Google's Historical Data Patent [webmasterworld.com] detailed many many factors. It was in many ways a ground-breaking patent and it rocked the SEO world.
Here's just a taste:
|Consider the example of a document with an inception date of yesterday that is referenced by 10 back links. This document may be scored higher by search engine than a document with an inception date of 10 years ago that is referenced by 100 back links because the rate of link growth for the former is relatively higher than the latter. |
While a spiky rate of growth in the number of back links may be a factor used by search engine to score documents, it may also signal an attempt to spam search engine. Accordingly, in this situation, search engine may actually lower the score of a document(s) to reduce the effect of spamming.
Tedster - I agree it is at least that complex... probably more. Your question and none of the responses I read take into account different search queries, here's an excerpt from that same Historical Data Patent:
|" For some queries, older documents may be more favorable than newer ones. As a result, it may be beneficial to adjust the score of a document based on the difference (in age) from the average age of the result set. In other words, search engine 125 may determine the age of each of the documents in a result set (e.g., using their inception dates), determine the average age of the documents, and modify the scores of the documents (either positively or negatively) based on a difference between the documents' age and the average age. " |
Depending on what type of search query you're trying to rank for, it may be beneficial to have more old links than fresh links and for other queries it can be reversed. The site I work on has a ton of very old backlinks, our competitors that are ahead of us right now don't have nearly as many old authoritative links as we do... I'm thinking I'm in a field where Google is looking for fresh links rather than old links.
Interesting. I have a site that is really really hugely popular for about six weeks out of the year. I get a ton of links during that time - mostly blogs, newspaper and TV websites, and some government. This year a lot of Facebook links too. Then the rest of the year it's pretty dead. Some of the news links disappear or get archived; the other links stick around but don't send much traffic. The government links often stick around (out of webmaster lethargy if nothing else)
My TBPR, for what it's worth, kind of jumps around in a similar pattern.
After watching all this for the last seven years or so, my gut feeling is that the government links that stick around are still gold (even if they are from some tiny little village website with little traffic but a precious .gov TLD) but the date-based ones get stale and devalued.
Would be interesting to test whether this is true, if I had the slightest idea how to do it.
Lot of interesting comments. I was hoping for research as Tedster originally referenced. Lots of perspectives, not much hard research so far. Still lot of excellent comments.
|like a fine wine or do backlinks age more like bread, getting moldy and finally becoming so decrepit and stale that they are no good at all. |
They likely do both, depending on their surroundings. If the page linking to yours is on a site/page that has improved I'd imagine your page will benefit and will pass that benefit along. If the link is from some old, never used, forum profile it likely rotted any value away long ago.
they age like wine, in general, but as mentioned, if the site's value goes down, so does your links value.
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