A long-running debate among SEO experts was resolved (somewhat) by a statements made by Google’s Matt Cutts in a recent video posting. When there are multiple links to the same target on one web page, there was disagreement on how PageRank would flow in these cases and would Google track the anchor texts. In the grand SEO scheme of things, these are relatively minor issues, but getting the answer does help marketers better understand SEO. This post will explain what Matt Cutts said about multiple links and anchor text on the same page and what it means for marketers.
The first issue Cutts addressed was on how PageRank flows when there multiple links to the same target. Cutts explained that in this scenario, each link is treated individually like every other link on the page. This means that the target would gain the PageRank from both. This intuitive system is good for web designers and marketers because it means there are no canonical issues created by using multiple links to the same target on one page.
The second issue, involving anchor text, is more nuanced. In many cases, the anchor text will be different on multiple links to the same target page. Cutts said that the last time he looked, back in 2009, the Google algorithm only counted the anchor text from the first link. This means that if the first link to a target had the word “Link” for anchor text (which is never a good idea) and a second link further down that had “Prices for Company X Business Consulting”, the poorly named anchor text would be used for SEO purposes because it was seen first by the robot. If this is truly still the case (more on that below), then website owners need to make sure they put their best anchor text first.
This issue should remind business owners and marketers that there are no tricks in SEO that work forever, and that nothing can replace quality content and usable web design when trying to increase a site’s ranking in search engine results. Websites aren’t penalized for having multiple links to the same page on one page. So if the additional links truly help the user navigate the site or find relevant information, then that’s reason enough to keep the link structure the way it is.
Matt Cutts also noted that this information isn’t particularly useful when compared to more important factors that affect SEO.
“This is the sort of thing that if you’re really worried about this as a factor of SEO, I think it’s probably worthwhile to take a step back and look at high-order bits, more important priorities like, ‘How many users are making it through my funnel?’, ‘Are they finding stuff they really enjoy?’, ‘What is the design of my home page?’,” Cutts stated in the video. “All that stuff that’s generally good for users, that’s probably worth a lot more time and attention than thinking about the amount of PageRank or the anchor text that will flow from multiple links on a page.”
It’s important to note that Cutt’s knowledge of the issue is nearly five years old. As the current head of search spam, he may not be as attuned the minor details of how things link anchor text are handled by the general algorithm. He even suggested that these things may have changed over time. It’s probable that some of these things have changed. For example, rather than using the anchor text from the first link on a page to a particular target, it would probably make more sense to use the anchor text from the most clicked linked on a page to a target. It would be surprising if Google hadn’t already made such a common sense change or that they wouldn’t in the future once the idea came to them. This is the one time that marketers should take Matt Cutt’s words with a grain of salt.
One of the reasons that SEO can be so challenging to marketers is that search algorithms are a black box. Marketers can see what search terms are used and where their pages in rank in results, but everything that happens in the middle is unknown. While the information may be a little data, Matt Cutt’s comments help marketers better understand the factors that contribute to SERP and helps separate myth from fact in an industry rife with speculation on what the best practices are.