Link Algorithm Changes

Long ago and far away, I wrote a post about the Problems with Anchor Text as a Ranking Signal (well OK, it was about a year ago). In that post I wrote:

The weighting of anchor text is one of the biggest factors that drives the paid links business. When you pay somebody for a link, you naturally expect that you will be able to control the anchor text. So here the search engines truly hurt their own cause. Want to put a dent in the paid links industry? Reduce the importance of anchor text.

In recent weeks it seems that Google has done just that. Emphasis has appeard to shift towards the content of the page providing the link. If so, this is a major improvement in the algorithm. Links on irrelvant pages just should not count for as much, regardless of the anchor text. And, since link buying is largely about manipulating anchor text, this should reduce the impact of such link buying.

It’s also interested to see that there appear to have been multiple PageRank updates. I have seen sites dropped one level, and then a few weeks later get dropped yet another level in toolbar PageRank score. This may be the result of changes in link filtering of some sort. For example, perhaps reciprocal links have been subject to further discounting, particularly if they appear to be barter.

One thing that is clear, is that there is some serious work being done on the link algorithms by Google. This is likely to continue.

That noted, don’t expect the overall importance of links to decline anytime soon. They still are a huge factor, both in terms of calculating a link score (PageRank) and for their anchor text benefits (less than before, but still a factor).

Bottom line here is that the need to focus on natural link building is greater than ever. This depends on building a superior resource that people want to link to, and letting them know about it. It’s a function not dissimilar to PR, except it has the twist of being focused on getting a link.

The link builder of the future will be a master of masterminding content plans and link campaigns in an integrated fashion. If you have already been doing that, you are just beginning to reap some of the rewards of your efforts.


  1. says

    If a company has a web site and wishes to display thier content on another site say a local search site like yellowpages or google local and they post their web site address should they not get the link from that posting and why at that point should the local publisher be penalized. thats what they do the publish content and even though this seems a bit off topic it’s not the recent changes from google seem to be penalizing local search sites, or at least mine i have been in Zero page rank hell for nearly 7 weeks and it’s killing me.

  2. says

    Eric, what are you basing this on? Got some examples of SERPs that have changed as a result? My radar hasn’t been showing any big movement in SERPs that would correspond with a changed algorithm.

  3. says

    Your article on the change in Google’s Link Algorithm is interesting to me because it appears that the changes reveal almost exactly what I recommended to Matt Cutts on his blog in several comments that I made about what Google needs to do about the buying link problem. Although, I cannot claim credit I do find it an interesting and timely coincidence.

  4. says

    Dan – fair question. I have seen some SERP changes that make us think that these types of things are beginning to happen. Unfortunately, since this relates to our clients of ours, I can’t share specifics.

    Another symptom we have seen of things going on is some wierd things going on with Toolbar PageRank. We have seen sites that dropped from a PR7 to a PR6, and then one week later drop to a PR5.

    This is a site that has never purchased links, and never sold them. Usually, I explain drops in PageRank by explaining that it has to do with the “expanding universe” of the web (i.e. PR drops can happen simple because the3 way the PR buckets are sliced are changed).

    I’d be interested to know if you have seen some of that on your end.

  5. says

    I just tried commenting but I don’t think it went through for some reason so sorry if this a double post.

    Go here:


    Not sure if the spam filter flagged my previous comment for including a url …so just replace the {DOT} with a “.” no quotes.

    That website should clear up some questions and is not in spam in anyway shape or form!

  6. says

    We have seen a shift in the SERPs for a number of our clients over the last few weeks. Generally speaking they have been in line with those whose brand/business has increased well, bringing their PR up to a level you would expect to see it at, and a fall for those who do not spend as much time on link building / social media etc.

    A shift away from anchor text is excellent news and a good update to the algorithm. We have always worked on relevancy of the page and site as a whole due to this idea.

  7. says

    Hey Eric,

    just came across this today and want to fully agree to your observations!

    BTW – it’s been great meeting you again and chat over our tools etc…


  8. says

    I agree, and have always held the position that relevancy of the page the link resides on plays a part in passing maximum ranking potential to the page its linking to. Now I will also so that I still think the anchor text plays a part as well, although if the search engines (Google) sees alot of anchor text that is identical it might filter it out ( footer links, sidebar links, etc…). So the lesson being vary your anchor text and get on relevant pages to the page your linking to on your site.

  9. says

    I’m thrilled Google is finally coming around to realize content matters. I’ve been a huge advocate of putting content ahead of link popularity for a long time. Chris Andreson’s “Long Tail” finally sealed the theory as solid. The web is too big to cater only to popular content. This relevance thing is absolutely going to be the next wave.

    Stone Temple, get a hold of me I have a few opportunities I’d like to discuss.

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