Google’s John Mueller answered whether Google would use links in structured data for crawling. Getting links discovered, crawled, and then indexed is vital to SEO, so any available advantage for getting more pages crawled would be helpful.
What Does Google Use Links For In Structured Data?
The person asking the question wants to know if Google uses links discovered in structured data for crawling.
They also want to know if Google doesn’t use the links for crawling if they’re just stored.
Here is the question:
“Does Google crawl URLs located in structured data markup or does Google just store the data?”
Google Tries Crawling Many Kinds Of URLs
Mueller’s answer might seem a little surprising because, among other things, he mentions that Google might try to crawl a link that’s in a text file.
Another point of interest is that he says Google will crawl anything that “looks” like a link, followed up with examples of what “looks like a link” means.
“So for the most part, when we look at HTML pages, if we see something that looks like a link, we might go off and kind of like try that URL out as well.
If we find a link in kind of a text file on a site, we can try to crawl that and use it.”
Mueller’s answer is a pretty good overview of what Google might do with alternative links, links that are not traditional HTML hyperlinks with anchor text.
What followed is Mueller’s reminder that all of these alternative forms of links should not be viewed as substitutes for actual HTML hyperlinks, what Mueller calls a “normal link.”
Mueller strongly recommends using a standard HTML hyperlink if you want something that performs like a link.
He continued his answer:
“But it’s not really a normal link.
So it’s something where I would recommend if you want Google to go off and crawl that URL, make sure that there’s a natural HTML link to that URL, with a clear anchor text as well, that you give some information about the destination page.
If you don’t want Google to crawl that specific URL, then maybe block it with robots.txt or on that page use a rel=canonical pointing to your preferred version, anything like that.
So those are kind of the directions I would go there.
I would not blindly assume that just because it’s in structured data it will not be found.
Nor would I blindly assume that just because it’s in structured data it will be found.
It might be found.
It might not be found.
I would instead focus on what you want to have happen there.
If you want to have it seen as a link, then make it a link.
If you don’t want to have it crawled or indexed, then block crawling or indexing.
That’s all totally up to you.”
SEOs have created many alternative forms of links, some of which (like “link mentions”) have no basis in reality and are pure conjecture and opinion.
Many years ago, SEOs began practicing something called Google Stacking, which included adding links to Google Sheets and then pointing links to that Google sheet believing that the practice would help rankings.
The idea was similar to Web 2.0 link building, where some SEOs had the mistaken notion that so-called “authority” from a Google-affiliated site would trickle over through the links on Google Sheets and Google Sites.
Mueller affirms that it’s best to use actual links if you want the power of links.
Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 23:20 minute mark.
Featured Image: YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral, June 2022.