First Link Priority

Is First Link Priority a Ranking Factor

Alright, let’s say you have two internal links on the same page. Does Google value one link more than the other? In other words, is first link priority a ranking factor? Furthermore, can you use the anchor text in your internal links to signal to Google which keywords you like to rank for? What about an external page that links to your page twice? Does the second link pass along as much PageRank juice as the first?

These are all questions that surface in conversations surrounding first-link priority and whether it is a ranking factor.

There’s a lot to discuss here, so let’s get to it!

First Link Priority as a Ranking Factor

There are two key issues that have been associated with the term “first link priority” over the years.

Internal Links

If page one on your site links to page two on our site twice, Google only takes into account the anchor text of the first link in the ranking of page two. Thus, if you want a specific page on your site to rank for “lacrosse sticks,” then you’ll make sure that you use “lacrosse sticks” as the anchor text in the first link from page one to page two.

External Links

When links to multiple times, Google acknowledges the first link and then ignores every link after that.

The Evidence for First Link Priority as a Ranking Factor

First Link Priority Evidence

A handful of the articles and blogs that support first-link priority as a ranking factor credit a post by Rand Fishkin, who said he tested this theory out. While the argument is well thought-out and logical, Fishkin wrote it in 2008.

From an external backlink point of view, SEO professionals debated whether there was any value in earning more than one link from a single domain.

The general belief around 2010-2012 was that getting multiple links from a single domain still had value, just so long as they came from different pages. A handful did say the value decreased with each additional link.

There is evidence that both of the above strategies worked back in the day and I don’t doubt the SEO professionals who claim that it worked for them.

However, what about today?

The Evidence Against First Link Priority as a Ranking Factor

IN 2018 John Mueller touched on this topic during a Google Webmaster Central office hours. He stated:

“This isn’t something we have defined, where we say ‘It’s always like this — it’s always the first link, always the last link, always an average of the links, or something like that.

Rather, that’s something that our algorithms might choose to do one way or the other.

So my recommendation there would be not to worry too much about this. If you have different links going to the same page, that’s completely normal. That’s something that we have to deal with; we have to understand the anchor text to better understand the context of that link and that’s completely normal.”

In the past, SEO professionals have gone to great lengths to try to reverse how Google perceives and engages with multiple internal links to the same resource on a single page. Here’s an interesting experiment from 2011 on this topic.

Seo Experiments

First Link Priority Experiment

Mueller stated the following about these types of attempts to figure out if first link priority is a ranking factor:

“I know people do SEO experiments and try to figure this out, to try and work out, ‘Oh, Google currently does it like this.’

But from our point of view, that can change and it’s not something we have defined. So even if you manage to figure out how we currently do it today, then that’s not necessarily how we’ll do it tomorrow, or how it always is across all websites.”

Some SEO professionals elect to not believe Google when they speak out about these things.

However, here’s the thing. What Mueller stated about context makes a lot more sense than having a rule set in stone about it, based on what we know about how Google functions today.

Over the years, Google has developed RankBrain, the Knowledge Graph, and other tools and technologies to help us better understand what content it evaluates.

Furthermore, having a hard and fast rule that limits PageRank passed on from one domain to another makes zero sense. It was likely an anti-spam tactic at one point.

However, Google can now discern so much more about the relationship between entities and pages today. There are numerous other ways to tell whether a link makes sense as a genuine endorsement of another piece of content.

The Verdict: Is First Link Priority a Ranking Factor

First Link Priority Verdict

You can’t tell which search terms you’d like to rank for according to the anchor text you use first in your internal links.

Google doesn’t have a governor of sorts that limits how much trust can pass between entities. This could potentially keep useful resources from being discovered, which goes against everything Google hopes to accomplish.

Your priority in internal linking needs to be to facilitate a seamless user experience first. Internal links are for helping users navigate your website.

Any utility they may have had as secret keyword signals to Google fell off the map a long time ago.

The right backlink strategy is not about who links to you but rather what type of content they want others to link to. This approach will work more consistently over time and it’s better for your site in general when people are interested enough in the information on offer that they’re willing to put some effort into sharing their thoughts or opinions via social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, etc.

At the end of the day, Google doesn’t use first-link priority as a search ranking signal.

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