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News July 28, 2005


Does Google place varying levels of value on the types of links pointing to a site when it comes to ranking considerations? This is one of the most oft discussed topics on the subject of Google linking strategies. Will Google punish what it may perceive as too many links too quickly? Are relevant links the only ones given weight?

Editor's Note: How does Google give credit for the large amounts of backlinks it has to sift through when factoring a result ranking for a specific keyword? Relevancy is king, but will Google actually sandbox a site for getting too many non-relevant links too fast? A lot of it depends on the situation, but you probably won't get as much or any credit for links Google considers to be without editorial discretion. Join the continuing discussion at WebProWorld.

This particular discussion was brought up and hashed out quite thoroughly at WebProWorld (among other places), in a thread featuring some really good information. The main point of contention seemed to be whether or not sites can get sandboxed for acquiring a large number of links in a short period of time. Will Google discount these links if they are from sites that aren't relevant to the subject of your site? The answer, as with all things related to Google's approach to search rankings, is fluid; meaning there is nothing definitive.

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When you compile the various levels of information related to this subject, it gives you the indication that Google operates on situational level with most of the IBLs that pass through the ranking algorithm.

It's quite obvious that Google values relevant in-bound links. In relation to Google, link relevancy has to do with the subject matter of the sites sending and receiving the links. If the site linking to yours shares similar "interests," then Google will place more value on the link when it comes to ranking. This concept was further supported by Matt Cutts of Google who said the same thing at last year's San Jose SES conference. Essentially, good content relevant to your subject/target will more than likely bring what the WPW topic starter calls "Relevant "Generic" (one-way) links," which Google values a great deal.

Conversely, the other point discussed in the thread was the propensity for people to blame the mythical Google sandbox when their ranking algorithm discounts these links. As many in the thread indicate, this seems to be a mistake made by those who are new to the SEO game and don't grasp the concept of relevancy versus quantity, or people who merely want to place blame because something they attempted did not have the desired affect.

Would Google discount a site's ranking if an article or point of interest within the site received a large amount of IBLs from many different sources? That seems quite unlikely, especially if the majority of site providing the IBL are relevant to the subject being linked. Google's ranking system seems quite capable of noticing the differences between link farms and topically relevant sites when it comes to applying weight for backlinks. Although, Google does seem to take the speed with which these links were acquired into consideration. To further this point, poster DMC_34 pointed out this portion of Google's algorithm patent:
A large spike in the quantity of back links may signal a topical phenomenon (e.g., the CDC web site may develop many links quickly after an outbreak, such as SARS), or signal attempts to spam a search engine (to obtain a higher ranking and, thus, better placement in search results) by exchanging links, purchasing links, or gaining links from documents without editorial discretion on making links. Examples of documents that give links without editorial discretion include guest books, referrer logs, and "free for all" pages that let anyone add a link to a document.
This would suggest sites receiving large amounts of backlinks at an accelerated rate will in fact be scrutinized a little more closely, and rightfully so. However, if Google finds these IBLs are relevant to the site, they will give the appropriate "weight" to that link. To think that your site is being sandboxed because a number of links didn't get acknowledged may be the wrong approach. It is more likely that Google just didn't give the link any weight because it came from a site that it would consider to be without editorial discretion.

While it's true you can't control who links to your site, you can control the amount of reward expectation you place on receiving different types backlinks. Some links weigh better than others.

About the Author:
Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.

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