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What Factors Might Inhibit the Flow of Link Equity?
Ok so now let’s discuss some practical considerations you need to keep in mind with respect to link equity. More specifically, which factors might stifle the flow of link equity to your pages.
The first one I touched on in lesson 3: the nofollow tag. Also referred to as a “nofollow attribute”. In your code, it looks like this:
<a href=”http://yoursite.com/” rel=”nofollow”>This is Anchor Text</a>
As I said, a common example of this is a link coming from a social media comment. The nofollow tag originally came in reaction to that scourge to the search marketing world: comment spam, which I covered in lesson 3. When blogging became mainstream in the ‘04-‘05 timeframe, blackhatters locked on the commenting function as an easy way to get backlinks. The nofollow tag has, of course, not stopped the affliction of comment spam—bots and low-cost human labor, it seems, can’t be deterred. But nevertheless, we have been left with its legacy: the nofollow tag. And if a backlink to your webpage employs one, you won’t receive link equity from it. What a nofollow tag does is tell a search engines to ignore the link. To not follow it. Which means, even if it’s a link from a high-value source, you will get zero direct SEO value from it. Of course, in a lot of cases, it’s out of your hands. Many sites automatically place them on certain types of links, things like Facebook posts and Pinterest pins, and many blogs use them for their comments. But make sure, whenever possible, the links to your pages don’t use them so search crawlers will follow them and you’ll get the link equity.
A 302 redirect is another factor that will stifle the flow of link equity. That is to say, when a backlink points to a 302 redirect—versus a 200 status code or 301 redirect—no link equity will be passed. Here’s how it might happen…imagine you have a valuable backlink that gives you a ton of link equity. But, over the course of time, the page it links to becomes obsolete. Say it’s a product page and you’re temporarily out of the product. So to keep the user experience seamless, you decide to implement a 302 redirect, which steers users to, instead of that old page, a new, related one. What the result? Well, the user experience works flawlessly. Visitors get to that related page just fine. And because it’s a related product it makes sense on a user level. But for search engines it’s a different story. A 302 redirect tells the search engine to stop the flow of link equity. So that link equity, all that SEO value, you used to get from that great backlink, comes to a grinding halt when it hits your 302 redirect. The better way is to use a 301 redirect not a 302 redirect, even though, the move may be temporary, and technically 302 redirects are for temporary redirects, in this case a 301 is more appropriate. The two are similar in result but critically different when it comes to SEO.
What are key differences between 301 and 302 redirects?
So that begs the question: what ARE the key differences between 301 and 302 redirects?
- 301 Redirects: A 301 redirect was originally designed for permanent moves. But, as I just noted, there are times when it makes sense for temporary ones too. You’d want to use a 301 redirect for permanent move situations, for example: you’re redirecting links going to an outdated URL. And that commonly occurs when you’re merging two sites. When launching, for instance, a new, updated version of your business site. In this situation, you select a single URL as the so-called “canonical” for each page of the old site. That is, one new URL for each old URL. This new URL is the canonical. The preferred destination you want users, who click on an old URL, to be taken to. And then, after choosing which URL is your canonical for each old URL, you implement a 301 redirect that serves to steer users to those preferred URLs, when they click on old links sitting out there online. That is, ones that reference old URLs. Another common, and similar, scenario is when moving a site from HTTP to HTTPS. You’d implement a 301 redirect to redirect any URLs referencing the outdated HTTP to their respective HTTPS versions.
- 302 Redirects: Now a 302 redirect is a temporary move, meant to be used in a similar capacity to a 301, but for a limited time. I see site owners make the mistake all the time of using a 302 when a 301 is better. Like in the scenario I described earlier. This can cause all sorts of search engine ranking issues. But a 302 redirect does exist for a reason. So when should they be used? Temporary situations like: A/B testing a page or showing a page to a client for review. In short, when site owners need to do something that is VERY temporary and they do not want to affect their SEO profile. For a longer term or permanent change, a 301 redirect is the right call. For a deeper dive on HTTP status codes and HTTPS, check out my other course: “Making Your Website SEO-Friendly”.
Other Factors That Can Impede Your Link Building
Now I want to cover some other factors that might hamper your link building efforts. The first is how well your site is designed, structured and maintained. You might have the best backlinks in the world but they won’t improve your SEO profile if your site is mess. A lot goes into success or failure when it comes to SEO because, in truth, organic search is an ecosystem that needs to be finely tuned. But make no mistake, if, from a Tech SEO perspective, you’re not set up properly, no matter what you do, your upside will be limited. Some of the common problem areas I see, along these lines, are:
- Sites That Aren’t Mobile Optimized
- Page Speed Issues
- Duplicate Content
- Page Errors
- Broken Links or Broken Images.
- Bad URL Structures
- And Bad Internal Link Structures
These factors will adversely affect crawling and indexing. Again, if you’re interested in a deeper dive on these, check out my other course “Making Your Website SEO-Friendly”. In the next lesson, I’ll discuss how your internal link structure affects you overall backlink profile and link equity.