Don’t just take the word of your favorite SEO blogger, learn to test ranking factors yourself.
When discussion took place about first link priority last year, there was certainly some disagreement, and also mention of a few “exceptions” to the rules.
My brain is wired to think of exceptions as things which can occur less frequently, or work-arounds that can be used to negate an otherwise common effect.
Prior Knowledge & Non-disclosure
Over the last few years a significant part of what I have written about on this blog has been about SEO – I try to be original, cutting-edge, providing a different perspective.
I don’t attend conferences, so what I write about isn’t something I have overheard at the bar, told in confidence, heard from a speaker on stage or anything else.
Recommending SEO products or courses is a little like tightrope walking – I don’t join any program that suggests either in the sales materials or legalese that it might be proprietary – I know tons of people treat proprietary knowledge casually – rip off other marketers etc.
If information comes out in public that is from a notable source, and it has significant ramifications – thats worth blogging about, especially if I can offer perspective.
There are people I trust as sources, or whose opinion I value, even when they challenge my own view of the SEO world, and one of those is Halfdeck who occasionally blogs at SEO 4 Fun – last blog post a year ago. Better to catch Halfdeck on Twitter.
So I take stuff like this seriously…
What Halfdeck is saying, is that if I use some crazy anchor text such as “Thisiscrazy Anchortextthat doesn’texistanywhere” to do some testing, and that anchor text doesn’t exist anywhere else on the web, Google have stated (somewhere?) that they will count the anchor text even if it is nofollowed.
Sounds great for creating random long-tail phrases and comment spamming, but I digress.
As the tests I have seen used unique to the web anchor text, based upon what Halfdeck is saying, that is why the anchor text for the nofollowed links were used, and the second followed links were ignored for the anchor text.
Thus in theory, as a “Home” link is common as anchor text, if you nofollow it, Google will ignore it… totally.
Fortunately as part of their 7 Deadly SEO Mistakes Series, Stompernet have conveniently included a 23 minute 10 second video by Dan Thies designed to give you actionable training on creating your own SEO experiments.
Testing First Link Priority
Based on what Halfdeck has stated, we need to use anchor text that already exists elsewhere on the web, not necessarily on the same domain, though a test purely on the same domain could potentially be just as valid.
First priority is to get what ever keyword we plan to test with “out there” on the web, being used as anchor text pointing to various pages that whilst they don’t contain the whole phrase, contain at least one of the words to retain some continuity.
So rather than use “WordPress SEO Themes” we might borrow a word from Dan and use “Groovy WordPress SEO Themes” and a number of other phrases, and ensure enough juice flows to get everything indexed.
Whilst the purest of the pure SEOs will disavow anyone who suggests it is good to have lots of sites out in the ether, plus convenient social media and forum profiles, one of the benefits is they are useful for running obscure SEO tests.
We now just need to test various link configurations using the same primed keywords, but to totally different pages.
Just Nofollowed Links
What Halfdeck pointed out only potentially invalidates the nofollowed link, but not how home pages and archives on WordPress blogs use the entry title for the first link, which often tends to be sub-optimal.
Invalidating Other Tests
Google using nofollowed anchor text if the anchor text is unique could potentially also invalidate other tests.
As an example, in the 3rd video in the current Stompernet series Dan Thies demonstrates a simple test for whether alt tags in image links pass keyword reputation, but in that simple test he used a totally unique phrase.
What if Google only use alt text if the alt text is totally unique?
What if an image link is nofollowed? Is it treated different to a text link?
I only wish if Google have made a statement regarding treatment of nofollow anchor text that is unique, that is was a little more conspicuous.
Time to do more testing
Last year there was also an interesting conversation when Debra Mastaler called Matt Cutts to the “batphone” over multiple links on the same page.
Matt replied twice, the second time to clarify what was being misinterpreted
Dudibob, no, I confirmed the converse: if the anchortext is the same, we’ll typically drop the second link.
This is the sort of thing where people can run experiments to see whether different anchortexts flow in various ways.
This doesn’t tell us a whole lot… other than place an emphasis to do some testing.
Ultimately Stompernet have the resources and a team of wizards who thrive on creating statistical seo tests, so you don’t necessarily have to.