Link juice is slang used to describe and measure how much power a backlink passes onto another site and therefore strengthens it. If a website references another with a link (DoFollow), it transmits its positive properties to an extent (e.g. PageRank, TrustRank) and therefore gives a recommendation from the point of view of the search engine. The more link juice that flows from a linking to a linked site, the more emphatic this recommendation is.
Internal and external link juice
External and internal link juice is differentiated between:
- External link juice is the linking power that is passed on from another domain.
- Internal link juice is the linking power that is passed on by internal linking to other internal subpages.
Here it is important to note the number of internal links on a site. The more links there are, the less link juice is passed on per link. With the targeted distribution of link juice the pages that are most important to the website operator can be reinforced (e.g. category pages).
Link juice as an SEO influence factor
Within search engine optimization (SEO) backlink profile and TrustRank are amongst the most important factors when it comes to link juice, as the amount of link juice is important for the link profile of a site:
The stronger the linking sites are in terms of their TrustRank, the more link juice flows from them to the sites to which they are linking. Generally numerous links (DoFollow, NoFollow) go from a site to various other sites.
The distribution of the link juice occurs according to a simple principle: The link juice is properly and fairly divided up: Each site gets just as much or as little as the others. The share that an individual linked site receives of the link juice of the linking site is inversely proportional to the overall number of linked sites – the more sites are linked in total, the less link juice flows for each individual one.
The link juice principle generally works under the premise of giving and taking – as the amount of link juice a site can pass on itself rises with the amount of link juice that it receives from other sites itself.
This is how you analyze your link profile
The incoming links (backlink profile) and the link juice that your website passes on should always be monitored. A considered and long-term planning of the backlink structure in terms of both the quantity of backlinks and their quality can result in major benefits in positioning in Google search results.
You can analyze the link structure with data-driven software solutions such as the Searchmetrics Suite. On the overview side such a summary of all important features of the structure of the backlink profile can be gained. Here you can not only learn which links are coming onto a site and which go out from it, but also how the relationship between links with “DoFollow” and “NoFollow” attributes plays out. With the graphic illustration of changes in the backlink structure the success and failure of measures that a change to the backlink profile can bring is also made visible.
For the analysis and optimization of the internal link structure, and the associated benefit, there is Searchmetrics Link Optimization. Here broken links, that waste link juice, can be better cleaned up. Optimization potential is recognized and can be better used with a more efficient link distribution.
How do you ensure link juice flow in the right place?
It used to be possible to deliberately use “DoFollow” and “NoFollow” attributes for link sculpting (also known as PageRank sculpting), i.e. the deliberate control of the link juice flow. Whilst the entire link juice was funneled to the important sites, the flow could simply be stopped for the less important sites. In 2009, Google changed the interpretation of the “NoFollow” attribute in such a way that PageRank sculpting was no longer possible. That’s why it is important to ensure a sensible structure of the backlink profile. With the help of internal links link juice can, for example, be distributed amongst sites so that important sites are emphasized.
Penguin update – the link juice killer
As a measure against webspam, in April 2012 Google rolled out the Penguin update, then also known as the “webspam update” or “bad SEO update”. The goal of this series of Google updates was to banish unjustly ranking sites from the search results. Those who engaged in spam by keyword stuffing, link schemes or cloaking, for example, could expect their domain to be punished.
With its webmaster guidelines, Google sets out clear rules that webmasters are to uphold for the avoidance of spam measures and punishments. This includes links appearing unnatural, e.g. which were created by the following factors:
- Keyword stuffing: A keyword density that is too high due to the over-optimization of a keyword
- Link purchase, link exchange: Unnatural as there is no link recommendation by a user
- Link/anchor text: Unnatural accumulation of linked keywords (money keywords)
- Rapidly growing link profile: Unnatural link growth on sites that only received minimal links and suddenly show an increased link growth
- Cloaking: Visitors and the crawlers of search engines are shown different versions of the site
- Topic relevance: Links from topically irrelevant sites (e.g. a link on the topic of “car insurance” is considered unnatural on a website with the topic of “children’s fashion”)
- Negative link environment: e.g. links on the topic of betting, pornography, poker etc.
- Inferior backlinks: Links from punished domains and link farms, footer links, comment spam, blog spam, web directories etc.
With the introduction of the Penguin 1.0 update and the subsequent adjustments up to Penguin 4.0 in the Fall of 2016, link juice has relativized. Links that were considered a real link recommendation before the update and passed on link juice, were devalued and were even given a negative value. In Germany around 3% of all search queries, particularly on Google’s first page, were affected in the visible area of the update. As what had previously still been positive link juice then became a major source of danger for websites, meaning the webmaster had to get rid of these dangerous links by link dismantling. It is therefore all the more important today that a clean and natural link profile be kept.