Is Link Velocity a Ranking Factor?
Link velocity as a ranking factor has been discussed for years among SEOs. It refers to gaining a large number of SEO links from different websites. Some SEOs often regard it as a good thing for a website, but others believe that it does their rankings more harm than good.
The idea behind link velocity is that the speed at which a site accumulates links might impact its rankings, be it negatively or positively.
The Claim: Link Velocity Is Good
In years past, getting high link velocity within a small period was regarded as a positive by many in the community, and it was thought to improve one’s search engine rankings. Link velocity has been discussed in various publications and conferences since, back then, link building prioritised quantity rather than quality.
So, for instance, if a site owner wants their web page to get gook rankings fast, they would need to build a large number of links very quickly. However, ever since Google launched the Penguin algorithm, everything changed, and people started to frown upon link velocity.
The Claim: Link Velocity Is Bad
Some SEOs believe that Google may penalise or demote a website if it receives many inbound links too quickly. This concept is founded on the notion that a rapid increase in inbound links tells Google that a site is attempting to game its system.
Understandably, many have grown wary of link velocity as they are afraid of receiving a penalty for building links. However, the growth of a site’s link profile can be largely beyond the site owner’s control.
If a website publishes a fantastic article, for instance, many other sites may link to it in a small amount of time, resulting in a huge number of links gained at the same time. If a high link velocity is bad for rankings, the website mentioned in this example will get penalised, even though it organically received many inbound links.
The Proof That Link Velocity Is a Ranking Factor
The discovery of a 2003 Google patent contributed to establishing the concept of link velocity in the SEO community. The patent, called “Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data”, discusses how a search engine should evaluate a website depending on its link profile growth.
The concept of link velocity originated from a particular passage in the patent. It said that search engine 125 uses a spiky growth in the number of backlinks as a factor to score documents. This factor can also indicate an attempt to spam search engine 125. In this scenario, search engine 125 may reduce the document’s score to reduce the spamming effect.
However, there are those who believe that some SEOs ignored portions of the patent that disprove the idea that link velocity is a bad factor.
The patent, for example, discusses what a “spiky rate of growth” is and how it can be used to identify unnatural link-building. The patent is not designed to penalise sites that get an influx of inbound links; it’s about penalising websites with a history of unnatural spikes in inbound links over an extended period.
It means that the patent tries to distinguish a smooth, natural rate of growth in inbound links in contrast to a spiky, unnatural growth rate. A spiky rate of growth can show itself over several months, and that is very different from the link velocity idea, which proposes that a website acquiring a huge number of links in a short period will receive a penalty.
The proof is inconsistent with what the experts say about the topic.
Link Velocity Is Not a Ranking Factor
There’s no indication that Google employs a signal known as link velocity, which has the potential to harm rankings. Moreover, Google does not officially recognise link velocity. Therefore, link velocity is not a ranking factor.
When asked about it, Google search representatives stated that a website’s SEO links are evaluated on their own merits rather than how many are gained in a specific period.
Google’s John Mueller has also discussed link velocity in the past. In 2019, a person asked Mueller about link velocity causing Google penalties. The person wondered if Google would penalise their website if they built 200 backlinks in just two days but did not perform link building for several years. They were concerned that the search engine would see this method as a black hat SEO tactic, so they wondered if link velocity has a role in this case.
Mueller answered that from Google’s point of view, getting 200 backlinks in just two days doesn’t seem natural. It gives the impression that the website is just buying these backlinks, and Google would not be happy about the practice.
He said that the number of links that a website receives in a period does not matter. From Google’s point of view, if those links are unnatural, the search engine company may see them as problematic. But it does not matter when a website receives the links or how many it gets.
Google’s Gary Illyes also discussed the topic more in a Reddit AMA, saying that link velocity is a made-up term.
The quantity of links and the rate at which they are acquired does not matter that much. What matters most is the quality of each link and the way it was obtained.
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