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Link Juice: What It Is & Why You Should Care

Learn how to capture and funnel high-quality juice, then watch your rankings, traffic and leads roll in.

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Last updated on March 5, 2024

In SEO, link juice is a metaphor. It’s how we talk about the power of backlinks.

The idea is simple: Backlinks pass “link juice” from the originating site to your site. That juice powers up your authority and, as a result, rankings for relevant keywords in Google.

Some people call it “link equity,” but I like the old-school way of saying it.

Why “juice,” though?

Many people have asked that question, and my theory is that they don’t understand because they’re picturing it wrong.

They’re thinking of fresh-squeezed, cold-pressed, pulp-or-no-pulp juice. That’s not what we’re talking about.

We’re talking about juice like electricity. Like power. Like when you plug something in and it hums to life.

With that out of the way, let’s take a deep dive. Here’s what you need to know about link juice and how to use it in your SEO strategy.

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Link Juice: What It Is & Why You Should Care for SEO

Why Does Link Juice Matter?

We’ve kind of covered the basics of why link juice matters:

It’s power — the sum of the power generated by the backlinks pointing to your website.

Think of it like airplane engines.

Airplanes are just a fuselage, wings and a tail. What makes them different from one another is their engines.

Is your website a propeller plane piddling along slowly at 140 miles per hour? If you don’t have much link juice coming your way, that’s you.

You WANT to be a jet: Souped up, sleek, roaring through the sky at 600 miles per hour.

You’re going to need a lot of link juice to make that happen. But when you get there, your rankings will soar.

But it’s more than that just raw power:

It’s also a HUGE part of how search engines understand how to rank not just your website, but the individual pages of your website.

All the link juice in the world could be coming in hot, pointed right at a page on your website. And you’d be happy.

But if that page didn’t have links to other important pages on your site, you’d be unhappy with the results.

Because that one page would rank REALLY well for some keywords. But the impact would likely be limited to just that page — not the dozens of other important pages on your site.

That’s why link juice matters. You have to think about it. You have to properly guide it.

(We’ll get deeper into that shortly.)

How Link Juice Works

Link juice in SEO works in a pretty straightforward way. Search engines interpret links as signals that link juice should pass from one site to another and one webpage to another.

But like most things in SEO, there’s a simple way of thinking about it and then there’s the much more complex (and realistic) way.

Here’s what you need to know:

Link Juice Potency

Just like some fruit juice is tastier than other juice, some link juice is better than other link juice.

So, what determines the potency of link juice in SEO?

The first and most important factor is whether the link generating the juice is dofollow or nofollow.

Dofollow links have no additional attributes limiting how much authority a search engine should confer from one site to another.

Nofollow links tell search engines not to pass any link juice. (That doesn’t mean the search engines always listen, but still, that’s the signal they send.)

So, for purposes of understanding this subject, let’s talk about dofollow links exclusively. Here are some factors that influence the power of link juice:

  • The authority of the linking site. If Google views the site linking to you as authoritative, it’s going to pass more link juice (or more powerful link juice) to your site. This used to be easy to understand via the PageRank metric, but because that’s no longer publicly visible, we have to rely on third-party metrics like Domain Authority (DA) and Authority Score (AS).
  • The relevance of the linking site. Is the site linking to your site relevant? If it’s a food blog linking to your law firm website, that’s not relevant. And that link will be less potent as a result.
  • The relevance of the anchor text. The same goes for the anchor text. Is the anchor text used within the link relevant to the content of the page at the other end of that link? If not, it’s not going to be a very powerful link.
  • Where the link appears on the page. Google has long believed that web users are more likely to click links that appear in certain prominent parts of the page, such as high up in the content. Links that are more likely to be clicked are going to provide more powerful link juice.
  • The number of links on the linking page. If the link to your website on a particular webpage is the only link on that page, it will be more powerful than if it were just one of 1,000 links on that same page. That’s because the link juice coming from the page is diluted by every other link it has to follow.
  • Whether the linking page is crawlable. If Googlebot can’t crawl the page — due to a robots.txt or noindex issue, for example — it’s not even going to be able to pass link authority to your page from a link that appears on that page. The same idea applies if the page is returning a server error in the 400s or 500s.
  • Whether the linking page gets real organic traffic. How useful is a backlink that comes from a page with no search engine traffic? Not that useful, and Google understands that. That’s why link juice coming from high-traffic pages is more powerful.

External Link Juice

There’s more than one type of link juice in SEO. In fact, you could break link juice as a concept down into dozens of categories.

But for beginner purposes, you just need to know about external link juice and internal link juice.

Let’s start with external link juice:

This is the link juice coming directly from other sites to yours, via backlinks.

It’s “external” because it originates from outside of your website. (Don’t confuse it with “external” links that appear in your own content and point to other websites.)

Internal Link Juice

External link juice turns into internal link juice once it reaches your website. From the destination page, it follows links you’ve placed on that page to other pages of your site.

It’s all link juice, but now it’s internal because it’s flowing through your own website.

How to Optimize for Ideal Link Juice Flow

You know what link juice is now. But how do you harness its power?

Simple (kind of). Just follow the steps below.

1. Build (the Right Kinds of) Backlinks

It all starts with backlinks. If you want any link juice at all coming to your site, you’ve got to have backlinks.

And they need to be good ones. Remember — low-quality backlinks are going to pass less link juice than high-quality ones.

What do I mean by quality in this context? Build backlinks that come from sites with the following attributes:

  • They’re relevant to your niche or industry
  • They’re legitimate (i.e., not spammy-looking)
  • They have real organic traffic (at least 1,000 visits per month from Google)
  • They use descriptive, keyword-rich anchor text (most of the time; you don’t always have to use the keyword)
  • They have a high Domain Rating, Domain Authority, Authority Score or whatever metric your SEO tool of choice uses

How do you build those kinds of backlinks?

There are dozens of link building methods to try (if you’re not willing to pay a reputable link builder to do it all for you).

Here are some of the most common techniques:

  • Guest blogging. You submit a guest post to an established site, complete with a link to your own website.
  • Niche edits. You convince a site to insert a link to yours in an article they’ve already published.
  • Digital PR. You build and write about a proprietary data set or something similarly attractive to journalists and bloggers and then pitch the angle you’ve uncovered to them. They link to you when they write their own articles about what you’ve found.
  • Directory build-outs. You make sure you’ve fully leveraged directories relevant to your industry (as well as the niche-relevant profile backlinks they provide).
  • Responding to media requests. You become a source for journalists and bloggers by signing up for a service like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) or Qwoted. You respond to pitch requests and get quoted (and linked to).
  • Broken link building. You use an SEO tool to find broken links on websites that are relevant to content you have on your own site. You notify the website owners of the broken links and suggest replacing them with a link to your content.
  • Unlinked brand mentions. You search the internet for mentions of your company or brand that do not include a link to your website. You reach out to those who have mentioned you in that way and ask them nicely to include a link to your website.

2. Point Backlinks to Key Pages

Once you’ve decided on your backlink building techniques, you have to pick which pages you’ll build the links to.

You might think this is super simple: You point all the links to your money pages.

You’re half right.

You do want to point many backlinks to your most valuable product or service pages. That’s true.

But you can’t point all backlinks to those pages. That looks unnatural to Google.

Plus, these pages are inherently more difficult to build backlinks to than more informational pages.

So, what are your other options?

First, your homepage is a great option for any backlink with anchor text that is your brand name.

Then, if you have any particularly valuable blog posts — such as posts that cover a topic that hasn’t been covered much or offer a unique perspective or other added value not easily found elsewhere — those are a great option. People WANT to link to stuff like that.

And if you don’t have any content like that, this is the time to consider building or buying some. It’s called a linkable asset, and it can make your link building efforts much easier.

Think data, statistics, expert perspectives, hot takes and similar content. When you have the right linkable asset, the links are MUCH easier to obtain.

3. Build Topic Clusters

Now you’ve got some links coming in — or at least a system to get the link building wheels turning.

That means you’ve got some link juice coming to your site. Great, but you’re only halfway there, if that.

Now, you’ve got to direct the flow of link juice through your site so it touches the most important pages, increases your authority and boosts your rankings for the keywords you want to rank for.

That starts with topic clusters.

Topic clusters are groups of topically related content. There are many ways to build them, but the easiest way is usually some version of this process:

  1. Identify the broad topics you want to rank well for. For example, a personal injury attorney might want to rank for the broad topics of “personal injury lawyer” and “car accident lawyer.” These will be your central pages for each cluster you build (also called pillar pages).
  2. List subtopics under each main topic. For example, subtopics under the “car accident lawyer” pillar page might include suing for a car accident, who’s at fault for an accident, damages in car accidents and so on. Each of these will be a supporting page in your topic cluster.
  3. Write the content for each page. Write thorough, engaging, helpful content to address each main topic and subtopic you’ve identified.

4. Direct Link Juice to (and Through) Your Topic Clusters

Then what?

You now have to open the channels that will let the link juice flow through your website. You do that with internal links.

That means you have to link together all of the pages for those topics and subtopics you wrote about in the previous step.

A few things to consider here:

Simply adding the links from one page to another is a good start. But you need to think about the anchor text you’re using for each internal link.

Why?

Because the link juice is changing in meaning, power and value as it flows from page to page of your site.

Google is reading the anchor text applied to each internal link and letting that influence what it thinks about the link juice.

Your anchors on internal links are a chance to have a say in that.

What should you choose? That depends on a lot of factors, but in general, you’re in good shape if you use keywords and partial keywords in your internal anchors.

Keep it relevant. Keep it descriptive. And keep it varied enough to not raise any red flags for Google. And you’re golden.

Here’s part two:

You have to link in two more pages to complete this equation:

  1. The relevant page that’s getting all the backlinks you’re building. That’s how the link juice is going to enter this cluster.
  2. A relevant service or product page. You want the link juice to eventually reach that page and boost its rankings.

Add those links to complete the circuit, and you’re all set.

5. Watch for Changes and Update Accordingly

This is the fun part.

You’ve done the hard work of link building and setting up internal systems to direct the flow of link juice.

Now, you get to reap the rewards.

Watch your rankings over the weeks and months that follow this work. They should go up.

Meanwhile, you may notice that certain other pages are getting backlinks, either naturally or as a result of some link building initiative.

If they’re relevant, consider updating your internal link structure to direct the flow of the link juice they’re getting to your money pages.

Keep going and watch the rankings, traffic and leads roll in.

Learn more: Is It a Good Idea to Buy Backlinks?
Also: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting a Robust Link-Building Plan

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