What is Link Equity (Link Juice)
Table of Contents
All over the internet, regardless of what pages you’re surfing through, there’s always going to be that familiar blue text that points you in another direction. From one webpage to another, you could, if you wanted to, jump from blue text to blue text until you end up somewhere completely random reading about zebra mating habits(I dare you to try it).
These connectors, formerly known as “links,” are what keep the web held together. From a user perspective, the links allow you to navigate to pages you’d like to see.
But from a Google perspective, links highlight the relation between web pages from one website to another, and through the algorithm, links play a large role in determining a webpage’s importance.
You see, links carry ranking power, much so, that a lot of SEO is dedicated to building these links through an off-page SEO strategy.
But what exactly is ranking power?
Well, that’s exactly what I’ll talk about in today’s article. This heavily sought-after power, known as link juice, is like the magical potion that elevates a website to page 1 rankings.
Link Equity (Link Juice) What is link juice?
Link juice, also known as link equity, is the ranking power or authority Google assigns to a link.
Now, what exactly does authority mean?
Well, that’s a complicated question to answer because it involves a lot of elements. It’s so complex that most people have just opted to break it down to a core idea known as link juice, without actually knowing what it is.
They just know that it's responsible for ranking websites.
And if you’re after rudimentary SEO knowledge, then, sure, that’s all you need to know. But to understand how ranking works at a fundamental level, we need to go deeper.
To start, you first need to understand how Google captures the web. They don’t just automatically get a list of all the websites on the internet–no, they need to go out there and find it themselves.
To do this, they use crawlers, which is just a bot that goes through each of your pages, scans what’s on there, and saves it. What is key here though, is that once it’s done that, it will go and click on every link on that webpage and see where it goes.
It will then do this until Google calls the crawler back and deposits the data into their servers.
So, what does this have to do with link juice?
It shows you that Google knows exactly where links are pointing to. They can tell how many links are going from one page to another, and they can also tell which pages have the most amount of links pointing to them.
Now, although I don’t work at Google, it doesn't take a 4.0 MIT graduate to realize that with the data Google has on linking, it is easy to tell which pages are more authoritative.
However, don’t make the mistake of thinking more links=more link juice as that’s certainly not the case and we’ll talk about that later.
How Does Link Juice Work?
Here is a great and simplified example of how link juice works from Woo Rank:
The more links you have, the more link juice you get. However, not all links are the same, some links carry MUCH more juice with them, and while we can’t necessarily see the exact amounts ever since Google made PageRank private, we can make educated guesses.
This is exactly how tools like Moz, Semrush, and Ahrefs work with their PA, DA, DR, or whatever they call their rating. They don’t know either, but they make calculated guesses using their form of logic to figure out what the value of a link is.
How Do You Calculate Link Equity?
It should go without saying, but these don’t tell the full story, but rather give a picture of it. Therefore, they lean more towards accuracy, than precision.
However, there are core patterns that many SEOs have realized that can affect the juice a link carries:
These patterns are:
The attribute on the link.
These are your nofollows, sponsored, UGC, and whatever other tags Google has put out there.
Sponsored pretty tells Google that you BOUGHT a link, which is something you should never do because Google despises paid links as it messes up the success of their algorithm. These links forfeit all their power.
Then you have UGC links, which again have minimal power because they tell Google that the user put the link in, and not the website owner, so credibility and therefore authority is lost.
Lastly, you have the no-follow tag. This tells Google's crawlers to not follow the link and reach the other webpage. However, this is not true as Google's crawler can still choose to go through and pass link juice either way.
The exact specifications of this are unknown but, given how websites like Forbes or other media giants have automatically placed no-follow links on all their OBLs, it doesn't make sense for Google to discount all no-followed links. If Forbes is linking to something, it MUST be of value, and it will get link juice regardless of the no-follow tag.
However, the best kind of link you want is one without any of these tags, known as the do-follow link, as it tells Google to send juice to your website.
The location of the link
The location of the link, where it sits on the page, and how many links are near it, is important as well. Links in places where there are a bunch of links but no content such as in the footer of the navigation bar are much weaker than links in the content.
These links naturally baked into the content are known as “contextuals” and Google places a higher value on these than non-contextual links. Additionally, Google can read the text surrounding a link as well, which allows you to build relevance with your link(more on that later)
The anchor text
Anchor text is the text that the link is highlighting. For example, in the sentence:
“LevelU is the best SEO agency in the world”
LevelU is the best SEO agency is known as the anchor text.
Now, anchor text is extremely important when it comes to your rankings.
From a user perspective, anchor text is the “promise” telling you what you will find on the other side of the link. Therefore, Google expects these links to be relevant and will add relevance to the keywords in the anchor text.
Actually, Google demands that they are, because if they are not, and if for example, my link above was to a penguin website, Google would refuse to pass link juice as the anchor text is irrelevant.
Another thing to keep in mind is that because of how important anchor text is for increasing the relevance of a page and ranking, many SEOs have made the mistake of abusing them.
The problem here is that Google can tell when your anchor text ratios are unbalanced, and if they catch you manipulating anchor text to contain just your keywords, you will be penalized.
The best way to circumvent these penalties is to diversify your anchor text.
The relevance of the link
Link relevance is basically asking if a link makes sense.
Does it make sense to link from a page on penguins to a page on penguin evolutionary history? Yes.
But does it make sense to link from a page on penguins to bicycles? That depends. It would be easy to say no in this situation, but think about what that would signify.
If relevance was strictly based on staying within one topic, then websites would never link out to a different topic. That’s obviously not how the web works, so Google isn’t looking for strict adherence to one topic, but instead, a relationship that makes sense between them.
So if you can somehow make the topical connection between penguins and bikes, then the link makes sense and the link juice will flow.
One example I can think of is making an article on a handmade penguin-on-a-bike mini-sculpture that would be perfect for any penguin and bike enthusiast(which you can actually find on Etsy!).
This way, any internal links coming from the penguin site make sense for your penguin page, and any outbound links from that page make sense for your bicycle page, creating link harmony. I just made that term up, but that’s what is happening behind the scenes.
How many outbound links are on the page
Outbound links, especially if they aren’t no-followed, reduce the link juice found on the page. The more outbound links the page has, the less link juice each outbound link will be able to share.
Think of it this way:
You have a well of water(link juice) and every link you build is like adding an additional pipe from the well to a home for instance.
If all the pipes are fully open(ie they are not no-followed), then water/link juice will flow at the same rate to each household. The problem here though is that the well isn’t infinite, which means more pipes/links reduce the amount of water/link juice that each house/page receives.
The number of relevant links going into the page
Just like link relevance matters for the power of the outbound link, so too does relevance matter when it comes to the links giving power to the page you're linking out from.
Tools like Ahrefs, Moz, and Semrush use different signals like these to come up with their estimations of link equity or juice. These are your DA, DR, Trust Flow, PA, and all the other metrics they keep coming up with. Keep in mind, none of these are 100% accurate as they are only making educated guesses of how Google values each link. Only Google knows the true value through their PageRank system which they stopped letting the public see in 2016.
Authority can be faked
Since these SEO tools are only giving you a guess of a link's value and not its actual PageRank, they can be manipulated by unscrupulous SEOs.
You can find a lot of operations like this on Fiverr where some SEOs are promising a DA 50 website in a week, but the links from these operations are designed to game the metrics. They carry very little if any PageRank that will move the needle, which is why you will see websites with high authority stuck on page 4.
Given how easily third-party metrics can be abused, always do your due diligence when scouting for link opportunities.
Here’s my quick checklist:
- The website has relevant traffic (ie, not for junk keywords that inflate traffic)
- The backlink profile to the site consists of links that have link juice. The way I see this is if the links have authority and minimal outbound links.
- It doesn’t have thousands of guest posts linking to other sites. This is a sign of a site designed to sell guest posts, which serve no other purpose than to trick SEOs into thinking they are getting a good backlink. But in reality, the site is just inflating metrics.
How Do I Get Link Juice?
Unless your website is massive and is already ranking on page 1 for multiple keywords, odds are you’re not going to build links naturally.
Sorry, but “Content is king” is not the case when it comes to ranking on page one. Even if you made the highest “quality” content, if it’s stuck on page 2, nobody is going to link to it.
So, what’s the little guy supposed to do?
You’re going to build high-quality links. As many backlinks as you can consistently handle.
This could be through guest posts, press releases, and a bunch of other link-building tactics, The point is to get links from pages that already have high link juice or are relevant to your website.
How to Spread Link Juice Around Your Website
Spreading link juice internally is key to maximizing the number of ranking benefits you get from any external links.
The concept is simple, if you link out to another relevant page, some of the link equity from the linking page will be distributed to the receiving page, giving it power.
There are 2 solid ways to do this, one much simpler than the other.
The first, you look for your pages that already have a lot of inbound links on them and then find ways to relevantly link to the pages you want links to flow through. Simple right?
The other strategy involves a bit more planning, but it is many times stronger. To pull this off, you need to map out all of your content and create a silo structure.
Silo structures allow you to build up a topical authority which makes it easier to rank keywords within that topic. Additionally, it multiplies the effect of your link juice as your internal.
What about 301 Redirects?
301 redirects are useful when you want to redirect the link juice from one page to another similar one. Google has stated that link juice transfers at 100% efficiency when you 301 from a page that's similar.
This also opens up an easy technique to bring in some link juice from your discontinued pages.
Redirect 404 Pages for Easy Link Juice
404 pages are pages that are no longer accessible on your website. Normally this happens intentionally, however, these could be pages that had some links pointed to them.
By 301 redirecting these links to a relevant page, you can preserve almost all of the link juice. However, even if you don’t get a perfect relevance match and redirect back to your home page, for example, you still get a significant amount of the juice back.
Which is why he had to create LevelU.