Google Uses a Link Labelling System

Following a recent Marketing Land interview with Gary Illyes, it transpired that Google’s manual actions team has access to a system of link labels which are used to identify different attributes held by specific links.

The labels themselves provide a means of classifying various features of a link as used by the search engine to help determine how high a page will rank. In the interview, Gary mentioned three such classifications which included:

  • Whether a link appears in the footer of a page or in the main content.
  • Whether a link has been disavowed or not.
  • Whether or not a link has been affected by the recent Penguin 4.0 update.

Apparently, there are several other categorizations which the manual actions team can look at – which helps them decide whether or not a particular link should be investigated further in cases where a manual action penalty may be given to a page.

Of course we say “page” because we have been led to believe that Google now treats links in a granular fashion – meaning a bad link should only affect a single page without incurring a sitewide penalty.

Do “Bad Links” Automatically Flag up an Alarm?

Apparently it is not the case that pages with spammy links are flagged up in real-time in order to alert the manual actions team. In fact, it seems that link labels are used only as reference points to help the team determine whether a webmaster’s actions should be looked into more deeply.

When specifically asked if it was possible that the link labelling system automatically flags up a page which has been devalued by Penguin, Gary had the following to say:

“I don’t work much with the manual actions team, but to the best of my knowledge, there is no flag that said that they have; they can look at the labels on the links a site gets. Basically, we have tons of link labels; for example, it’s a footer link, basically, that has a lot lower value than an in-content link. Then another label would be a Penguin real-time label. If they see that most of the links are Penguin real-time labelled, then they might actually take a deeper look and see what the content owner is trying to do.”