Google Answers: Do Links Lose Value Over Time?

In a recent Q&A stream from his home in Switzerland, Senior Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller offered some interesting insights regarding the shelf-life for inbound links.

For small business SEO, just a few quality inbound links can make a huge difference, so these insights can prove particularly helpful. Learn more about inbound links and whether they lose value over time below.

What are inbound links?

Sometimes referred to as backlinks, inbound links are links from other websites that link to your website. Inbound links refer to both the link and the anchor text it’s fixed to. Additionally, it must be clickable for Google to consider it an inbound link.

Inbound links are one of the most significant pillars of good SEO. When another site links to yours, they pass what’s known as link equity on to your site. Link equity is one of the most important factors that Google considers when determining the authoritativeness of your site.

How does Google do this? When Google’s bots index a site, they follow every link on the page (and every link on those pages, and every link on those pages…), in part to ensure that each page links to further relevant pages. Most of the links these Google bots follow are internal links—links to other pages on the same site—but if they find an external link to your site, they interpret this to mean the page owner considers the content on your site helpful to their readers.

Do inbound links lose value over time?

Many SEO specialists have observed that backlinks become less valuable over time, but Mueller, in his Google Webmaster Central Hangout on 1 May, explained that age itself is not responsible for the lost value.

According to Mueller, it’s the changes to the site where the link appears, not the age of the link itself, that results in declining value.

“It’s not so much that we keep track of the age of the links, but rather that sites evolve over time.”

John Mueller

How would an inbound link evolve?

The link equity passed to your site by an inbound link is in part determined by the relevance of the page where the link is found. If that page becomes less relevant, the value of the link will naturally decline.

Mueller mentioned news articles as common examples.

“So, for example, if you get a link from a newspaper website, and that’s in an article that’s currently linked on the front page because it’s a really important article, then obviously that’s going to be a really important link for us.

“Because we notice that link is there, it’s linked fairly closely to the home page, it’s something that’s really relevant at the moment. However, that news website is going to evolve, and overtime that article that might have been on the front page is suddenly on page two.

“Or it’s in an archive somewhere, or it’s in a section for articles from the year 2020 which might be 50 years ago at some point. So it’s not as relevant anymore.”

So, can you adapt your backlink strategies?

With these insights from John Mueller, we suggest paying closer attention to the sustainability of a backlink’s relevance. Obviously, trusted news sites secure more inbound links than any other sites. The news never stops, however, and pages vanish quickly from the front page to languish in archives. So, while news sites can often offer uniquely valuable inbound links, that value is also more likely to depreciate.

Should that change much of your strategy? Possibly not. You should always pursue more quality backlinks for your site. However, you may want to give a second look to inbound links that won’t decline in relevance, such as a high ranking landing page.

Watch the full interview with John Mueller.

Inbound links are just one part of a great SEO strategy

To reach your SEO potential, you need experienced professionals in your corner. One of Auckland’s top SEO agencies, Pure SEO delivers effective link building strategies as part of our comprehensive approach. Get in touch with our digital marketing experts today!

Rollan Schott

Rollan Schott is a copywriter with Pure SEO. Rollan was born and raised in the United States, having moved to New Zealand after 4 years teaching and writing in Asia. When he's not churning out quality content at breakneck speed, Rollan is probably busy writing the next great American novel. He may also be idly watching true crime documentaries in his Auckland Central apartment with his wife, Lauren. The latter is more likely than the former.

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