The stability of a site's links, or the length of time a link remains on a page without editing, is believed by some to generate signals used by Google's algorithms.
Let’s take a look at the claims surrounding link stability as a ranking factor, where they come from, and whether there is any evidence to support them.
Disclaimer: Link Stability is a Ranking Factor
Links are described as stable when they remain on a web page for an extended period of time without any changes - changes that can break Link Stability include swapping URLs and making adjustments to anchor text.
When a website frequently changes outbound links on its pages, it is said to have a high "link churn rate."
Google filed a patent in 2005 describing a possible update to its search algorithm in which link churn would be used as a ranking factor.
Here's an excerpt from the patent when it was discovered in 2006:
- "The method of claim 54, further comprising: determining an indication of link movement for providing a link file for the link data; determining an indication of link rotation; determining link jitterAnd adjust the ranking of linked documents based on link churn.
- 61. The method of claim 61, wherein the indication of link variation is calculated as a function of the degree to which one or more links provided by the linked document have changed over time.
- 62. The method of claim 62, wherein adjusting ranking includes penalizing ranking if link churn is above a threshold."
The above three points are simplified:
- The algorithm update will evaluate the link churn of the website.This evaluation will be used to adjust the weight given to outbound links.
- Link churn is calculated based on how often links and/or anchor text change on a particular website.
- If a site's link churn rate is above a certain threshold, Google may penalize it.
Since the patent surfaced, it has been claimed that maintaining link stability is a factor in search rankings.
Based on these claims, should you be hesitant to adjust your outbound link out of concern about this hypothetical negative signal?
Is there any reason to worry about link churn and link stability?
The evidence is this.
Evidence of link stability as a ranking factor
Google's patent on citation link loss was filed in 2005.The archive is still viewable on the web, but has since been revised several times.
The version of the patent that exists today makes no mention of link churn or anything like that.It's a strong metric, and if link stability was ever a ranking factor, it hasn't been relevant for years.
Also, a patent is just a patent.Companies keep filing patents and their ideas never make it to the market.
Google occasionally reminds us that not everything it patents will be used in search results.
Link Stability as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict
There's no solid evidence that Google measures how quickly sites modify their outbound links.
Additionally, there is no evidence that editing outbound links produces a negative signal called link churn.
Based on the available evidence, we are confident that link stability is an unlikely ranking factor.
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