What is Link Equity?
Link equity – also known as link juice and link authority – refers to the idea of passing authority or the value of one web page to another.
This value is passed on to other pages via links that can be both internal and external.
It is believed that Google and other search engines use a page's link equity as a ranking factor. The value that is passed on to the other pages depends upon several factors, including the relevance and authority of the linking page.
FYI: Link juice is just a slang or colloquial phrase usually used in informal language; however, the term “link equity” is used in the professional world.
How does link equity work?
It is believed that link juice is passed on to other pages with the help of dofollow links.
However, Google has also hinted about the value of nofollow links and says:
“Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe content they point at. Looking at all the links we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn't be given the weight of a first-party endorsement”.
When a page on your website gets a backlink from a high authority website in your niche, you will see a significant impact on your website ranking.
As link equity works both for external and internal links, you can internally link your high authority pages to other pages on your website as well.
When a link points towards a page on your website, whether it is external or internal, it will act as a vote of confidence and shows that this page is significant. As a result, it will improve your website ranking.
Keep in mind it is not that simple to just add several internal links or get backlinks from other sites to increase the authority of your web pages or website.
It is not easy to tweak Google’s algorithm. Google is efficient in detecting the quality of the links and discourages any spammy activities that are usually adopted to get hundreds and thousands of links, i.e. link farms and PBNs.
Google considers the quality of the links, along with several other ranking factors, to give value to a certain page or website.
Why is link equity important?
Google gives value to the pages that are supported with quality backlinks.
More quality links to a website mean more chances of ranking higher in SERPs. This shows the authority and trustworthiness of the pages.
However, there are several factors involved that determine the quality of the links.
When more relevant and authoritative pages link to your website or pages, more link juice will flow towards your pages and have better chances of ranking.
Are link equity and PageRank the same?
Sometimes while discussing link equity, it is confused with PageRank. There is a significant difference between these two terms.
Link equity refers to the value of a page that is transferred to another page, while PageRank is an algorithm that mainly focuses on a site’s backlink profile to determine its ranking in SERPs.
It is basically the estimation of how much important specific web pages are.
PageRank was introduced in Google’s algorithm to determine the ranking of web pages.
It was once a main ranking factor, but due to spammy link-building techniques and other shady practices, Google has now diluted its importance. However, some SEOs believe it is still a main ranking factor.
Simply speaking, you can say that link equity determines how PageRank transfers from one page to another via links.
If a page has high PR links, its importance will be relatively high, whereas if it has low PR links, its importance will be insignificant in SERPs.
You may also have heard about the term “PageRank Sculpting”.
This practice involves limiting the transfer of link equity or authority to specific page/pages by adding a nofollow tag to all others.
For example, if ten pages get an internal link from a high authority page on your website, you will put a nofollow attribute for all 9 pages except one. As a result, instead of dividing the authority among several pages, you will limit it to only one.
Though this method is effective, improper use of nofollow is not recommended. Instead, you must focus on developing a natural linking structure that will strengthen your pages and improve the overall PageRank of a website.
What determines link equity?
A few things must be considered to see whether a link will pass the authority to another page or not.
Relevancy: Relevant links provide more value to a linking page. If your website is about “rent a car” services, and you get a backlink from a cake shop website, it will not show the relevance nor transfer the value.
Authority: High-authority websites are trustworthy and tend to pass more value or link equity to the pages than new websites or with low authority.
Dofollow link: Usually, dofollow links tend to pass more link equity, but that does not mean you should ignore nofollow links.
Nofollow links tell Google not to pass the authority to the linked page. But Google says it will take nofollow as a hint rather than a directive.
Location: The link's location also matters while determining link equity. The links embedded deep inside the pages or lost in the footer menu will have less value than those on the homepage or main content of a website.
Crawlability: If you have blocked certain pages on your website from crawlers in the robots.txt file, it will not pass any link equity as you have restricted them from crawling and indexing.
Outgoing links: The link equity will also depend upon the number of outgoing links on a web page.
If your website gets a backlink from a web page with several outgoing links, link equity or value will be divided among all. Your website will only get a fraction of it or no value at all.
HTTP status code: Earlier, it was believed that a redirection, especially 301 and 302, results in losing PageRank.
Google has resolved the issue - possibly because of the downside of redirects - and has now clearly stated that 30x would not result in losing PageRank.
How do you check link juice?
There is no perfect way to measure or estimate link equity.
You can only examine it by looking at the authority of a page or website or by examining its backlink profile.
You can use several tools to check the DA, PA, and backlinks of a website or its pages by using URL Rating by Ahrefs, Semrush Authority Score, Domain Authority by Moz, etc.
What Google says on “link juice”?
While answering a question on Twitter, Google John Mueller said to forget everything about “link juice” you read on the internet as it can be misleading.
So one should actually ignore the importance of link juice?
The answer is no.
Mueller has said this in a different context. We all know links play a crucial role in a website's ranking, so how can their importance be ignored?
Mueller actually wants the website owners to work on creating content and linking to it by keeping humans in mind, not tweaking or spamming the system.
Google and all SEOs agree upon linking website pages internally and externally.
But remember that these links must be relevant and point towards useful resources that actually benefit the readers.
In short, links are a valuable asset in determining a website's ranking; however, links' quality matters.
Moreover, instead of just doing it for the sake of ranking is something not recommended by Google. You must focus on providing a better user experience where a user actually gets the benefit.
How to leverage link equity for SEO?
You can adopt several best practices to leverage the link juice on your website for an improved SEO strategy.
Obtain quality backlinks
Instead of focusing on quantity, you want to obtain quality backlinks from other websites. Make sure the links are coming from high authority and relevant websites.
Create a strong internal linking structure
Besides backlinks, you can also link your pages internally. Keep in mind that only add the links where they make sense and are relevant.
Links from other websites pass on equity to the main linked page, and then this value is passed to other internally linked pages.
Therefore, a strong internal linking structure not only helps Google find these pages effectively but also passes on the link juice.
Avoid link spamming
Google's algorithm is quite efficient in identifying spammy links. These links may give you benefits on short terms basis but may gradually result in a Google penalty.
So you must avoid all the link spamming techniques, including link purchasing, link exchanges, unnatural link profiles, web directories, spam commenting, and link farms.
The bottom line
Link equity is a search engine ranking factor that passes on the value or the authority of certain pages to the linked pages on your website and others.
Google pays attention to links while determining the ranking of a website however, the quality, relevance, and authority of these links also matter.
When more link juice passes on to the pages, the better chances of their ranking in SERPs.
Make sure to properly link your web pages with internal links and obtain high-quality and relevant backlinks from established high-authority websites.