Poll: Which Factor Did Google Turn Off For Link Evaluation?

Feb 28, 2012 • 8:21 am | comments (31) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Link Report BugAs part of some of the 40 Google changes announced last night, Google said they made a change to how they evaluate links.

Google wrote:

Link evaluation. We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.

As you can read, Google decided to turn off one of the many analysis methods they use for their link evaluation. It was a method or factor they used for "several years" and decided to turn it off in the past 30 days.

A WebmasterWorld thread is asking, which method do you think they turned off? I posted a poll asking you to decide. Check all that apply or add your own two cents. I'll share the results in a new post in the near future.

WebmasterWorld link building moderator gave his ideas:

Title Tag
The title tag is a signal of what a web page is generally about. The title tag has been used to help identify the meaning of a linked page from the general theme of the page linking to it. The title tag is a signal of the general theme of a web page. The topic of a link can vary from a side topic to a more granular or a completely off topic meaning.

Surrounding Text
This establishes the context of a link, thus helping to define what the linked web page is about. This also helps identify if a link is paid for or is associated with a donation.

Position of a link
Where a link is located is an important signal. A link in the footer is presumed to be less important than a link within the body of a web page. Navigational links are presumed to be depreciated according to a set amount, perhaps more than outbound links but just a fraction of a normal non-depreciated link.

HTML signals
These include Heading Tags [w3.org], bold, italics, capitalization and font size [webmasterworld.com]. Font size is an interesting candidate for deprecation.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Dali Burgado

02/28/2012 02:04 pm

I'm very curious to know what in the world they deprecated when it comes to link analysis.

Scott Boyd

02/28/2012 02:08 pm

Hmm 20% of us think that PageRank has been switch off?  Did it ever act as a factor to "determine the topic of a page"?  Isn't it just a quantitative value?

Paul Delaney

02/28/2012 02:47 pm

As ever Google are quite vague on the update as to not unlock Pandora’s box with secrets of the algorithm, but interesting none the less as to what has been ‘switched off’ in link signals


02/28/2012 03:05 pm

Why wasn't Anchor Text included in the poll?

Barry Schwartz

02/28/2012 03:07 pm

for real? they would remove anchor text? add it to other.


02/28/2012 04:47 pm

The more I think about it the more I think it will be title tags. Title tags "should" naturally have relevant keywords in them. If this is the case, it wont cause to much disruption in the SERPs. I remember once upon a time having target keywords at the beginning of the TT carried much more weight than if used in other areas of the TT however, I have seen the importance of this diminish over the last 6 -12 months or so... time will tell.


02/28/2012 04:55 pm

they would only remove it if it was causing a semantic problem or was no longer necessary  - and it is link analysis, so it has to be position, surrounding, or title - pagerank is not link on page analysis but aggregate link analysis

Joe Youngblood

02/28/2012 05:05 pm

I had thought removing exact match anchor text (to match the query precisely) would be deprecated, but anchor text and surrounding text still able to do the heavy lifting.  after reading the G+ convo and rereading the blog post I wonder if bolding a link is a likely candidate.  Bill Slawski has some interesting insights into other techniques that have been patented but might no longer be useful to evaluate links.

Joe Youngblood

02/28/2012 05:07 pm

I am also a fan of the 'sitewide links' theory. it makes since to kill things that they have been lowering for a few years now in terms of impact.


02/28/2012 05:50 pm

Anyone who voted for PageRank is an idiot. 


02/28/2012 05:54 pm

The most likely thing to be turned off would be HTML factors because they're largely deprecated with xhtml, css, and will be even more so in HTML 5. Topically weighting text near keywords in a tag, for instance, is a poor signal vs text that is in a tag or something and manipulated with CSS. 


02/28/2012 05:55 pm

Nevermind, misread the question, PageRank shouldn't really even be on there since it has never been used as a topical indicator, but rather to weight each topical vote otherwise cast by linking pages. 


02/29/2012 06:23 am

HI everybody "we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years" Now what i can sense is that 1) This clearly means that google is going to get rid of spam links or links created for rankings 2)  Its about links which means links from various sources :  Google might turn off links from Directory or sources that link from External sources.


02/29/2012 02:35 pm

 Yes for real. If they based it more off of what the page is about it would cut down on the spam and paid links.


02/29/2012 05:17 pm

Definitely agree with that - it's a sure-fire way of devaluing low-quality, bought links. And it's something that link builders have too much control over - we know Google doesn't like that!


02/29/2012 06:27 pm

19.7% of people are clinically retarded, 19.33% are retarded

Tom Conte

02/29/2012 11:30 pm

My thoughts are they are no longer including the keywords in a domain nor the keywords in a URL to help figure out the topic of the URL.


03/01/2012 02:07 pm

Because they keep going on about freshness, they possibly turned off a aged factor. The sites I've seen potentially suffering from this have been older sites that I work with.

Tyson Stevens

03/02/2012 12:07 am

Anchor Text: I agree. Algos can detect the theme of a site. Semantics surrounding the anchor text can tell Google the theme of the page on which the link is placed. If the page doesn't match the theme of the silo in which it is located--->de-valued.  My guess and reasoning.


03/02/2012 06:11 pm

I hope that google Inc. Stopped send checks to the tricker seos KEYWORDS  google adsense million Bank accounts and invest money   to get rid of spam links created for rankings ! 


03/05/2012 06:08 pm

Lots of other speculation out there - This one is a great read...  http://www.seobythesea.com/2012/03/12-google-link-analysis-methods/ 

Katie Ashley

03/06/2012 12:44 pm

Affiliated Site links I'd guess at


03/06/2012 06:05 pm

I would guess affiliate site links as well. Thats what Google is trying to take on anyway for a long time. 


03/07/2012 02:33 am

MikeK - great pick up. Anchor text would be my guess because: 1. 'Optimised' anchor text is not that natural - sites link to each other using URLs, 'click here' etc..... 2. 'Optimised'/keyword rich anchor text is likley to be a result of paid link, un-natural link 3. Anchor text can be 'manipulated';  content/theme of a page link appears on cannot So all in all lowering anchor text importance  is overdue. Hope Google can be more specific on this change and if it really is anchor text, making this info public would send a strong signal to everyone and hopefully would help clean up the Internet from all the spam that resulted from thousands of  'SEO experts' doing 'link building'.


03/07/2012 11:46 am

What do you mean 'misread'? I think your first comment was spot-on and it's the 20+ percent voters that can't read: "a factor they used for 'SEVERAL' years". Come on, pagerank was the first Google factor ever and is why they became as big as they are today. It is not a factor they have been using only for 'several' years, it is a factor they have been using since day 1 and thus for over 10 years. 10+ years does not qualify as 'several' so anyone who voted pagerank is retarded.


03/08/2012 05:40 am

Though it may be that your older sites, rather than suffering *because* of their age, simply had more examples of whatever G has devalued (given that you were more of a beginner at the time, and not quite as street smart).


03/15/2012 04:31 am

Definitely Karen.  Anchor text used by linkbuilders are easy to game.  On a related note, I don't think it's not just 1 signal (the report said it's A METHOD, not A SIGNAL. Amit kept saying signal throughout the post but said method in this one) but a combination of signals.  So I think it's a combination of anchor text, title, and pagerank from the linking page - all gameable through the High PR Aged Domain backlink method popular today. If they really turned this of, Thank God!!!


03/16/2012 11:43 pm

nope, none of these. They turned off "using the SAME ANCHOR for a link as a signal that the page should rank highly" the anchor text is still important. Just using THE SAME anchor text will not rank as highly now...it may in fact decrease rankings if you have too much of the same anchor. Before, using the same anchor over and over would raise rankings but now it wont.

Elixir Interactive

04/16/2012 06:50 pm

None of the above.  PR definitely not.  It is anchor text. Take a keyword that dropped because it had a lot of anchor text. Now as an experiment add more links with the exact anchor text and watch it tumble even further.  Or if you have a keyword you can test it on  just build some links with exact anchor text and watch what happens.  SEO's and link builders do  not want to face the truth the cash cow is over it was too easy to manipulate.  Link building has just become fun again!!!!

Elixir Interactive

04/16/2012 06:51 pm

We have tested this and your theory has proved to be correct.


05/07/2012 05:09 pm

I think Google is identifying the link and the anchor text along with the age of link and if the link is place on a page with PR that is not nofollow, which if Google identifies a new link on a page with PR, they may not count the link, and also the anchor text of the link.  I think nofollow links are more important and way underestimated, check some of your competitors that are ranking well.  Some have a good link profile, and a lot of nofollow links.

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