Quickly gaining lots of links from other sites seems like a positive thing for any website.
But could it actually hurt, rather than help, your rankings?
Or is link speed irrelevant to Google? Is it, in fact, just a coined SEO term?
Read on as we investigate the origins of link speed and whether it’s something you really need to worry about in SEO.
The Claim: Link Speed as a Ranking Factor
Link speed refers to a theory that the speed at which a website gains links has the potential to impact rankings, either positively or negatively.
Link Speed = Good
Years ago, having a high link speed over a short period of time was considered by some to be a good thing in the SEO industry, which could positively influence your Google rankings.
Link velocity was mentioned in articles and in conference sessions – because in those days, link building was more about quantity than quality.
Want a web page to rank fast? Quickly create a whole bunch of links.
But the idea of quantity over quality changed after Google launched the Penguin algorithm.
Link Speed = Bad
The belief here is that earning links too quickly can result in a website being penalized or demoted in search results.
It’s based on the idea that Google will interpret a rapid increase in inbound links as a sign that the website is trying to manipulate its search rankings.
Naturally, the idea of link speed can be a concern for anyone who doesn’t want to be inadvertently penalized for acquiring links.
The growth of a website’s link profile is largely beyond its control.
If a site publishes great content, for example, many other sites can link it in a short period of time, resulting in a number of links earned at the same time.
If link speed worked as SEO experts claim, the website in the example above could receive a penalty for getting an influx of inbound links through no fault of its own.
The proof: link speed as a ranking factor
The origins of link speed in the SEO community can be traced back to the discovery of a Google patent filed in 2003.
The patent, Information retrieval based on historical data, includes ideas for how a search engine should treat a website based on its link profile growth.
In particular, the idea of link speed goes back to this passage:
“While a meteoric growth rate in the number of backlinks can be a factor used by the 125 search engine to score documents, it can also report a spam attempt search engine 125. Therefore, in this situation, search engine 125 may actually lower the score of one or more documents to reduce the effect of spam.
Roger Montti of Search Engine Journal set aside the interpretation of this patent by SEO experts, noting that they ignore parts of the patent that disprove their own theory.
For example, the patent goes on to define what a “skyrocketing rate of growth” is and how it can be the defining characteristic of unnatural link building.
The patent is not intended to penalize websites that see a rapid increase in inbound links.
This is to demote websites that show a pattern of unusual spikes in inbound links over long periods of time.
According to Montti:
“What this patent is really about is the smooth natural growth rate versus an irregular, unnatural growth rate.
A dazzling rate of growth can manifest over months. This is a big difference from the idea of link speed which proposes that a large amount of links acquired over a short period of time will incur a penalty.
The evidence does not match what experts claim about link speed.
Link Speed as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict
There is no evidence to suggest that Google uses a signal known as link speed that can negatively impact rankings.
Link velocity is not a term officially recognized by Google.
When asked about this, Google Search representatives say that a website’s links are evaluated on their own merits, not on the number of links obtained and the duration.
here is a example of such a response from Google’s John Mueller:
“It’s not so much a question of how many links you get in what time period. It’s really just…if those links are unnatural or problematic from our perspective, then they would be problematic. It’s as if the number or the time doesn’t really matter.
Google’s Gary Illyes put it more bluntly in a Reddit AMA, calling link speed a coined term.
Whether the links are acquired quickly or slowly, what really matters is the quality of the individual links and how they were acquired (naturally or not).
Featured Image: Paolo Bobita/Search Engine Journal