General

What Is Link Juice in SEO?

Google is the world’s biggest, most widely used search engine.

And for good reason.

Back in the early 2000’s, the budding company took the world by storm—with zero advertising.

People told their friends about Google because of the amazing accuracy of its search results.

Marketers quickly caught on and wanted to learn how to get their websites to rank highly in Google.

This thriving field of online advertising came to known as search engine optimization (SEO).

What made Google’s results so incredibly accurate was that it “crowd-sourced” its results.

In other words, it ranked websites based on the rating that OTHER websites gave them.

The way websites could “rate” other websites was by linking to them.

A link to a webpage was considered a vote, a way to say that the page that was being linked to was reputable, trustworthy, and informative.

So the more external links a site received, the higher rankings it could expect in Google.

As the saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all ships.

Each link from one site to another would siphon a small amount of authority to the recipient site.

Soon, links became with the currency of the web with SEO’s working furiously to build links back to their websites from other websites.

But not all links are created equal.

Imagine you want to try out a new restaurant in town. Would you trust a recommendation from a stranger, or would you give more weight if the recommendation came from a trusted friend that has the same taste and culinary interests as you?

So Google figured out how to rank the value of links from different sources.

In their search algorithm, links from larger, more authoritative sites carried much more weight than links from smaller, younger sites.

So webmasters would seek links from large websites and media publications, hoping to create more authority for their site and higher rankings in the search engine results pages (SERP’s).

Because links were being used to pass authority from one site to another, the links were said to be passing “juice” or authority to another site.

The flow of authority from one page to another became known as “link juice” because it represented the power or equity flowing from one webpage to another.

No one really knows how much link juice their website has. Google used to use something called “Page Rank” to indicate how much link juice a site had.

Established sites like major media outlets, government agencies, and educational institutions had 9/10 page rank and brand new sites had 0/10.

The Page Rank calculations that Google released were more of a vanity measure than an actual hard metric, because Google purposely released old, outdated, and large inaccurate Page Rank data.

Still, it was helpful to know how much link juice you had compared to your competitors – even if it wasn’t completely accurate.

Long story short, understanding Google’s linking algorithm is very technical and highly complex.

On top of that, they closely guard the specific algorithm, ranking factors, and quality measures they take to rank websites.

But SEO’s have figured it out primarily through experimentation and observation and have come to refer to Google’s “Page Rank” as link juice.

How Two Online Pet Stores Can Get Link Juice and Outrank Each Other in Google

Now that we understand what link juice is, let’s discuss a simple story of two websites that want to increase their link juice so they can rank higher in Google.

Suppose we’re comparing two websites in the same niche, let’s say they’re both online pet stores. We’ll call them site A and site B.

Getting Link Juice from External Sites

Let’s assume that both sites are the same age and have the same number of pages, but site A was in the news because of their doggy rescue program after a local flood. Because of their work helping stranded animals, they get featured in the New York Times with a link to their website.

Since site A received a link from the New York Times, they will obviously rank higher in Google than site B because it has been given more link juice – from a very reputable and authoritative website.

Now assume that site B does something similar and receives 5 links, but they are from smaller websites (nowhere near the size or authority of the New York Times). Despite having more links to it, site B will still not rank as highly in Google as site A because the links don’t pass as much authority or “link juice”.

Creating Your Own Link Juice

But all hope is not lost for site B because they have a trick up their sleeve – because rather than getting link juice from external sources, they’re going to create their own!

They know that links from external sites pass link juice, and despite how hard they try, they just can’t get the same quality of links to their website. So what they do is create a company blog on their website.

Link juice doesn’t just come from external sites, it is literally created every time you add a new page to your website. That’s why large websites have so much link juice… they have hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of pages. And each page gives the overall site more cumulative link juice.

Up to this point, we’ve only discussed getting link juice by garnering external links from other sites. But if you have enough pages, you can then distribute your own link juice to your own web pages by internal linking.

So that’s what site B does. It creates a blog and posts articles every day for 6 months.

All the while, it accumulates more and more link juice. It then uses intelligent internal linking to different categories on its site.

For example, they can create footer links that link to categories like “Dog Food”, “Dog Collars”, “Dog Toys”, etc.

So despite having less external links than site A, site B is now ranking higher in Google when people search for those terms because they worked hard and created their own link juice, and passed it to the category pages for their products.

Cancelled and Diluted Link Juice

Let’s say it’s been a year and both site A and site B are really competing aggressively with each other in the search engines and looking to beat each other in the SERP’s.

Linking Out Too Much: Let’s say site A notices that site B is ranking higher and higher in Google and decides to create a blog on their own website as well.

So they furiously work to create articles every day where they write great articles, review products, and link out to other websites.

No matter how hard they try, they aren’t seeing an increase in their search engine rankings and they can’t figure out why.

The reason is that despite creating new pages on their website via blog articles, they keep linking out to other sites- which essentially passes link juice from their site to other sites.

So even though they’re working really hard, they aren’t translating that link juice into ranking power because they keep giving it away.

Reciprocal Links: Now let’s say that site B is feeling good that their blogging has increased their overall link juice, and starts to get really aggressive in gaining more links.

So they reach out to other websites in their city asking for reciprocal links. Basically, they’ll link to another website if they link back to them.

So they hire a marketing intern to contact 200 other local businesses, hoping that they can place reciprocal links to each others websites.

After 2 months of manually contacting hundreds of sites, and placing tons of links, they don’t see a noticeable increase in Google.

This is because Google caught on to this practice and nullified the link juice that was passed via reciprocal links between two websites.

Link Juice From Naughty Links

Getting more and more desperate for ways to gain more link juice, sites A and B decide to take their link building activity to the next level.

Automated Spam Links: Site A starts using software to automatically leave a comments on blogs—placing a link to their website in the comment.

Initially it works, but eventually, they realize that no matter how many blog comments they leave on other blogs, their website doesn’t increase in Google anymore.

That’s because Google places less and less value on links that are not in the body of the content of a webpage. In other words, Google gives less value to footer links, sidebar links, and links found in blog comments than in links that were found in the body of an article.

Buying Links: Meanwhile, site B decides to start buying links to their website.

At first, the practice works like gangbusters and they’re getting ranked higher and higher in Google – so they keep buying more and more.

But eventually, Google cracks down on the websites that sold links. Keep in mind, buying links is like buying votes. So Google obliterates the Page Rank of all sites that were selling links – meaning that they no longer are passing any link juice.

So site B suddenly loses its search engine rankings in Google because although links are pointing back to their site, they aren’t passing link juice anymore.

Fixing Link Juice Leaks

Dejecting and having learned their lesson, site A and B each decide to focus on how they can preserve their own internal link juice and not waste it or “leak” it out.

They realize that they’re each sitting on a goldmine of opportunity because by now, their sites are each 5 years old, have earned thousands of links from reputable external sources, and have thousands of pages of content each. So they’re brimming with link juice and are eager to look for link juice leaks that they can plug.

It’s time-consuming and a bit technical, but by now they have mature and well-trained SEO staff that is up to the challenge.

Internal Links: Firstly, site A makes sure that internal links to pages that they want to rank are descriptive. Sure, the occasional “click here” is important because it makes the text look more natural, it is important for your link text to be descriptive, and ideally to be related to the page that you’re linking to.

A quick side note; Google used to rank sites highly based on the link text being used. For example, if you were trying to rank your “Dog collar” page you would link back to that page using the link text “dog collar.”

SEO’s abused this practice, so Google changed their algorithm. Now you want about 20% of the links back to a page to have the exact words that you’re trying to rank for. The other 80% should be generic words and statements like “click here.”

Despite that, it’s still important to at least make sure that the link text you use internally contains the keywords you want to rank for. Just make sure that if you’re guest blogging on other sites you only have 20% of the links back to your site using the exact keywords you want to rank for.

So site A makes sure that their internal links are pointing to pages that they want to rank for using the keywords that they want to rank for as link text.

Broken Links: Meanwhile, site B decides to fix any broken links on their site and from other sites.

So they use a variety of tools like Raven SEO, AHREFS, SEOMoz OpenSiteExplorer, SEMRush to find sites that are linking to them.

They first identify any internal links that are pointing to sites that no longer exist.

They use 301 redirects to redirect website visitors and search engines to the correct page. This is a massively underlooked way to preserve internal link juice. Simply fix broken links and redirect them to new pages.

They remove any links on their website that are pointing to other websites that no longer exist. Imagine you talking up a restaurant and recommending it to your friends – only for them to realize that the restaurant shut down years ago. It’s the same thing when you have broken links on your website to other websites.

You’ll want to fix them so the search engines view you as up to date and not linking to bad resources…

While site B is busy fixing broken internal and external links, site A is busy creating a sitemap.

Sitemaps: A sitemap helps Google crawl and index your website by clearly and logically laying out the site architecture. This is an easy win and helps the search engines crawl your site and discover more of your pages – which obviously helps them get ranked.

If you run a WordPress site or other content management system, there are plenty of sitemap plugins available on the market that will automatically create a sitemap for you. If you have a large, custom-built website, consider having your developers create a sitemap.

Harnessing Homepage Link Juice: Now that site B is done fixing broken links, they focus on placing links on their homepage to other pages that they want to rank for.

The homepage usually has the most inbound links from other sites, and thus, has the most link juice to share out to other internal pages.

For example, let’s say site B wants to increase their “bird food” page in Google for similar keyword searches.

They can simply place a link on their home page saying something like “Click Here for Great Bird Food Deals” and instantly increase the ranking of the “bird food” page in Google – simply by intelligently passing link juice from their home page to a struggling internal page.

Creative Ways to Get More Links (and link juice)

Now that site A and site B are mature businesses and have learned about SEO through trial and error, they want to build more link juice.

But they’re smart marketers now and realize that they don’t want to build links just to accumulate more link juice for SEO.

They want to market their website so that humans come to their site and buy—not robots.

While they’re writing and creating engaging content for humans, they’re sure to build links back to their site, but link building isn’t the end goal.

Here are some good ways to gain links (and link juice) back to their sites.

Guest Blogging: Writing for other websites in your industry is the easiest, most-effective way to build links to your website.

Most websites will allow you to link back to your own site in the by-line of your article – that’s how you gain more link juice back to your site AND clicks from real humans that are interested in what you have to offer (imagine that!)

Writing for larger websites shows search engines and other humans that you’re trustworthy, credible, and authoritative.

It’s best to write for sites in your niche because those readers will be most interested in your products – but writing “opinion” pieces for more broad sites will build awareness, and send that all-important link juice back to your site.

Your writing has to be REALLY good… you should share stories, use lists, and include a strong call to action at the end.

Infographics: Infographics became extremely popular 8 years ago because they beautifully display tons of data via colorful images and graphs.

SEO’s started creating infographics to inform, educate, and entertain.

Because the infographics were so popular, they would make them embeddable so that other websites would post them on their site.

The SEO’s ensured that the embed code contained a keyword link back to their website.

While this practice has been abused over the years, it’s still a solid way to get links.

Like with guest blogging, your infographic has to truly be informative, look beautiful, and make complex concepts easy to understand.

Social Media Profiles: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube all allow you to create a profile for yourself that links back to your website.

If you’re a serious user of any of these social media sites, your profile itself will have built quite a bit of link juice.

That’s because these sites have TONS of link juice.

Every post you create contains a tiny bit of link juice that flows back to your profile page.

That’s why your profile page should have a link back to your website – because the link juice your profile has built by posting on social media will flow back to your website.

This trick was abused years ago, with SEO’s creating spammy profiles on tons of social media sites (using bots). The problem is that they never interacted on these sites, they just created profiles with links to their sites and left.

Don’t do that.

You’re already using social media so be sure to direct that link juice back to your website.

Media Mentions: Media mentions are great for business because they give you free exposure.

It also earns you high-quality links… just remember our example of site A that got mentioned by the New York Times above.

The key to getting mentioned in the media is to be media-worthy. That means doing something that truly deserves media attention.

That usually means something about OTHERS as opposed to yourself. For example:

  • A charity event
  • A giveaway
  • A letter to the editor that goes viral

There are tons of ways to get media exposure, just pay attention to what’s already getting media exposure in your industry and replicate it.

Talking About Other Websites: One of the best ways to build relationships and get lots of links and social media shares back to your website is to talk about OTHERS in your niche.

Write about your greatest customers—they WILL link back to you.

Write about great companies that you do business with—they WILL link back to you.

Write about great products that you use—they WILL link back to you.

Write about thought leaders in your industry—they WILL link back to you.

Focus on complimenting others and they will pay you back with links to your website and on social media.

I’ve done this personally and it works every time.

Conclusion

There you have it… a thorough explanation of link juice, how to stop leaks, and how to get more.

Raza Imam is a mindset coach and helps B2B entrepreneurs execute marketing strategies that generate QUALIFIED leads – in 30 days or less. Visit his website to discover how…

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