Google thinks of links as ‘editorial votes’

Published on
by Brafton Editorial
The information the content a link points toward provides, the more authority Google will give it.

Links used to be one of the best ways to get a higher search rank and better traffic for websites, but now they’re sort of a mixed bag. On one hand, they’re great for demonstrating to Google that pages are high-quality and worthy of appearing on SERPs. Conversely, one bad link can harm an entire SEO strategy, as Brafton has covered.

The fine line between good and bad links can be difficult to walk, to the point where some webmasters are actively wondering whether links between multiple websites that companies own will harm their search efforts. This week, Matt Cutts answered a question from a user concerned that localized versions of sites would be seen as unnatural if there are links going back and forth between them.

Links are votes of confidence

While the information in Cutts’ video response was mostly about ccTLDs (country code top-level domains), he did use the example of multiple sites owned by a single company, stating: “If you’ve got stuff all in one [top-level domain], like .com, and you’ve got 50 or 100 different websites, that is something where I’d be a lot more careful about linking them together.” He added, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t want to treat those links exactly the same as editorial votes.”

The meat of his argument is interesting, and so is his choice of words. First, any businesses thinking it can skirt Google’s prohibition against unnatural links by simply creating multiple websites should understand the search engine will probably see through this ruse. Pages with different TLDs that are localized for different countries are fine, but a network of link-building entities doesn’t fit in the framework of “editorial votes.”

Demonstrating plausible value

The concept of editorial votes is simple: When a writer, editor or aggregator thinks that something contains enough valid information that it offers context, additional data or a worthwhile citation, she will link it in her own content. This is how businesses should ultimately look at links. When they’re accumulated properly and used the way Google intends, they’re markers of great content. The fewer tricks companies try to play with their content marketing link strategies, the more authority Google will give to their blogs, news posts and promotional pages.

Want to learn more? Check out some related Brafton content:

Matt Cutts: Links are not dead (yet?)
Simple breadcrumb navigation helps Google crawl sites
Matt Cutts: Tidy websites hold onto their rank 

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