Matt Cutts recently answered a question that many webmasters and online marketers have been asking since Google revised their definitions and guidelines. In the latest Google Webmaster Help video, he discussed how many links each website can have that is considered healthy. Google has described this as “a reasonable number,” and so did Matt Cutts, but he further discussed what this means.
Background: The 100 Links per Page Rule
Before, online marketers limited the number of backlinks per page to just 100 links. This is because back then, Googlebot could only interact with a maximum of 101 links for each page.
“Anything beyond that wouldn’t even get indexed,” explained Cutts. “And what we did is we said, ‘Okay, if the page is 101k or 100k, it’s reasonable to expect roughly one link per kilobyte and therefore something like 100 links per page.” He clarified, however, that although the assumption was part of their guideline, it did not mean that once a page reaches 102 links or more, Google will automatically view it as spam. “That was just kind of rough guideline.”
What “Reasonable” Means
Much has changed in web design and development since then, and search has evolved with it. Websites have more rich media today, which means they are likely to reach over 100 links without much effort. Google has also since evolved, and their crawlers are now able to process a much larger number of links on each page.
“There may be a limit on the file size that we have now, but it’s much larger – at the same time the number of links we can process on the page is much higher,” he explained.
Having a large amount of links will still raise red flags for Google. While they may not have given a specific number, Google looks at these links from a regular user’s perspective. “It can start to annoy users, or start to look spammy, if you have tons and tons and tons of links. So we are willing to take action on the web spam side if we see so many links that look really, really spammy.
He does give a hint to the number that is considered reasonable, and it has to do with quality. “If you compare our old guideline with 100 links and you look at what the web looks like now, it is quite common to have two or three or 400 links on the page, as long as the page is long, it has value add, there are substantial amounts of substance and real stuff on that page.”
Warning against Diluting PageRank
Cutts also warned about the effect that having too many links would have on your PageRank. Since PageRank gets divided among the links you have on each page, if you have less links on that page, the PageRank that passes onto each link will be higher.
“When you have PageRank, the amount of PageRank that flows through the outlinks is divided by the total number of outlinks. So if you have 100 links, you will divide your PageRank by 100; if you have 1000 links you will divide that PageRank by 1000,” Cutts explained. “So if you have a huge amount of links, the amount of PageRank flowing out on each individual link can be very, very small.” Therefore, if you care about your PageRank, it would be in your best interests to keep your links per page within what Cutts calls reasonable limits.
It’s All About User Experience
What Cutts and Google calls “reasonable” is really a matter of quality, relevance, and user experience. Presenting your pages and your links in a user-friendly way is a great start. Ensuring that the links you do share and present on your pages are relevant, high quality, and unique is another way to ensure you do not get flagged by Google as spam.
You can view Cutts’ entire explanation below.
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