Link Aging and Link Churning
Whether you’ve built a website from scratch or are working on one that someone else created, it is important to make sure that you not only build new links but also maintain the old ones. When forging a relationship with a potential linker, always try to lay the foundation for a long-term relationship. People and websites change, and if a reason arises for your link to be removed, you’ll want to find a friend in the site’s webmaster rather than an indifferent businessperson.
As mentioned earlier in this chapter, Google trusts links that have been around awhile more than it trusts brand new links. Once a link has been around for some time—say, 6 months—it earns its full linking power, counting maximally toward your site’s overall TrustRank. After that point, it is in your best interest if the page it is hosted on remains exactly the same as it was when it was published. Google does have some tolerance for sites either archiving or removing very old links. In fact, I’ve been surprised to find that once a link has earned its full linking power, removing it sometimes does not affect the overall TrustRank of the site it links to. I believe this rule comes from Google’s understanding that links naturally tend to get pushed back into a website’s archives after a while, especially in the case of blogs. These links may not be easily findable anymore on their hosting site, but they were earned just the same. The main problems concerning link removal come in two forms:
- When links are removed or changed within the initial trust-earning period (that is, the 6 months)—Google’s attitude toward the permanence of links is what I imagine a construction company’s attitude toward drying cement would be. As long as the cement is given time to dry and harden, you can do whatever you want to it for years afterward. But if you tamper with it before it’s dry, they have to break it up and redo it from scratch. (Okay, we know that construction companies are a lot less diligent about this kind of thing than Google, but let’s go with it for the sake of the analogy!) Google’s least favorite action within that initial “drying” period is changing the text in a text link, because this usually indicates paid linking behavior.
- When links are mass removed—Although Google doesn’t diminish your site’s TrustRank if an old link here or there is removed, it does take notice if a boatload of old links are taken down all at once. This is seen as an indication of foul play, likely the expiration of paid links or links that have been otherwise arranged in some unnatural way.
If your site does gain and lose links quickly for whatever reason, that is called link churning, and it’s a bad thing. Because I’ve met so many companies who have had the misfortune of working with an “SEO expert” who engage in shady practices that result in link churning, perhaps this is a good time to address Google’s many levels of distrust.