Referral traffic does not contribute to link equity, confirms Google
There are multiple factors that come into play when Google determines how much weight a backlink is to be assigned. However, referral traffic is not one of those factors.
This was confirmed by Google’s John Mueller when he was asked if the equity of a backlink increases based on how much traffic it sends to the other domain during a recent Google Search Central SEO hangout.
John didn’t take long to confirm that it’s not a factor.
“We don’t use things like traffic through a link when trying to evaluate how a link should be valued. As far as I know, we don’t look at things like the probability that someone will click on a link with regards to how we should value it.”
After the straightforward response, John Mueller elaborated on why referral traffic does not affect the equity of a backlink.
Spoiler: it’s because backlinks are mainly just references.
“Because sometimes links are essentially just references and it’s not so much that we expect people to click on every link on a page. But if someone is referring to your site and saying like – I’m doing this because this expert here said to do that – then people are not going to click on that link and always look at your site and confirm whatever is written there.
But they’ll see it as almost like a reference. It’s like if they needed to find out more information they could go there, but they don’t need to. And from that point of view, I don’t think we would be taking that into consideration when it comes to evaluating the value of a link.”
In the end, John shared more information regarding how Google passes link equity from one domain to another, especially in the context of PageRank.
“If you look into how PageRank works, it’s a bit different nowadays how we handle that. But essentially, the idea behind that is that in general, with PageRank you set up some value for the individual pages, and then you pass a fraction of that value on through the links there.
If the page is seen as being very high value, then the links from there will be treated with a little bit more weight compared to some random page on the internet.
As as I know, we don’t do it exactly the same way as things were in the beginning with regards to PageRank, but it’s a good way of thinking about that.”
Here is a timestamped video if you want to check out the full conversation.