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Google: Referral Traffic Doesn’t Increase Link Equity

Google doesn’t weight the value of backlinks based on how much referral traffic is passed through them.

When Google evaluates how much weight to assign to backlinks it doesn’t consider factors such as referral traffic or whether the link gets clicked on.

This topic is discussed during the Google Search Central SEO hangout recorded on September 17, 2021.

Google’s John Mueller is asked a question about link equity and whether it increases based on how much traffic the link sends from one domain to another.

Mueller also addresses whether Google assigns more value to a link if it’s placed where users are likely to click on it.

Google’s John Mueller on Link Equity

When asked if Google considers referral traffic when determining the weight to assign to backlinks, Mueller says:

“We don’t use things like traffic through a link when trying to evaluate how a link should be valued. As far as I know we don’t look at things like the probability that someone will click on a link with regards to how we should value it.”

That’s pretty cut and dry, but Mueller goes on to explain why referral traffic and click-through rate do not increase link equity.

In short — a backlink is just a reference.

Google understands backlinks are often added to content as citations, and users aren’t expected to click on every link they come across.

“Because sometimes links are essentially just references and it’s not so much that we expect people to click on every link on a page. But if someone is referring to your site and saying like – I’m doing this because this expert here said to do that – then people are not going to click on that link and always look at your site and confirm whatever is written there.

But they’ll see it as almost like a reference. It’s like if they needed to find out more information they could go there, but they don’t need to. And from that point of view I don’t think we would be taking that into consideration when it comes to evaluating the value of a link.”

Mueller continues the discussion by referring to PageRank as an example of how Google passes link equity.

Google’s algorithm has evolved since the days of PageRank, but the weight of a link is still determined by the equity passed from one URL to another.

It’s not determined by clicks, bounce rate, or any other type of user interaction metric.

“… If you look into how PageRank works, it’s a bit different nowadays how we handle that. But essentially the idea behind that is that in general with PageRank you set up some value for the individual pages, and then you pass a fraction of that value on through the links there.

If the page is seen as being very high value, then the links from there will be treated with a little bit more weight compared to some random page on the internet.

As as I know, we don’t do it exactly the same was as things were in the beginning with regards to PageRank, but it’s a good way of thinking about that.”

Hear Mueller’s full response in the video below:

Featured Image: Screenshot from, September 2021.

Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Matt G. Southern Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt G. Southern, Senior News Writer, has been with Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a bachelor’s degree in communications, ...

Google: Referral Traffic Doesn’t Increase Link Equity

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