For many years the prevailing view of anyone building links for ranking improvement was that to acquire links from sites with good ‘link metrics’ was key to success. Since the original Penguin, possibly before that, this has changed.

Links are still very much the signal used by Google to order their search results but which sites actually pass their full value and under what conditions is something every SEO has to contend with. Previous to Penguin I used to think about links as either passing their value or passing no value, now I think of links as passing value, passing risk or passing nothing. The game has changed and its now a process of balancing the risk with the reward.

Before we explore that as a concept lets have a look into what the factors defining the impact of a link might be.

Every site has a cohort of links that act as votes for that site or page.
These votes have differing weights in terms of relevancy and trust.
The actual spectrum of sites visible and counting towards your rankings changes on a daily basis in line with conditions and factors related to the crawl of the web done by Google.

So what factors influence the trust or link value?

As Googlebot trawls the web it includes and drops sites from the index all the time and with that flux the signal changes. This is seen more with smaller link profiles as the flux percentage can have more of an impact than in larger profiles.
Google has a number of hidden external signals that can dictate the ability of a linking site to pass its value. They have external quality raters who are constantly providing opinions on sites and they have the data gathered from disavow files and penalty reviews that can also lead to a site being unable to pass its value.

Given that we understand that sites can pass no value now or even pass actual risk down through their links how do we adjust to that in our link building?

We can’t rely on metrics for a start, a site with a Majestic Trust Flow of 50 might look great but if Google have denied its ability to pass value because they believe it acts outside of their guidelines the actual value passing through that TF 50 link is ZERO or even worse possible -50!

So we just go out and earn links right?

Earning links is not a solution to this problem, earning does not mean that the site you gained the editorial link from is immune to the action of Google. Earning a link often also means that an entire sub culture of scrapers and duplicates will be gained shortly after the link is earned, arguably diluting the power of the earned link in the process.

So what metric do we use?

  • We use trust… Not Majestic Trust… real world trust.
  • We look at the site and we understand its reason to exist.
  • We interface with and partner with real people talking about relevant subjects on sites that provide real value to their readership.
  • We monitor the links we have and we clean up those that don’t meet that criteria.
  • We remain vigilant and focussed on gathering links from sources that are likely to pass these tests and continue to pass value and on occasion real and relevant traffic.


2015 is the year of the person as the signal, let us help manage your risk and improve all aspects of your organic performance.