While link popularity is still a significant factor in the ranking position of a website for a given term or keyword phrase, link VELOCITY seems to be developing into a stronger indicator of ranking relevance for the search engines, and more specifically – Google.
This theory isn’t new, and while there has been some correlating evidence that points to link velocity as a ranking factor (or a spam factor, depending on who you talk to) , it’s often mixed in with social link popularity and as such, has been difficult to pin down the exact methods used by Google to monitor these links.
There is no doubt in my mind that links and comments from social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter play some part in the Google algorithm and when Twitter’s real-time stream was flowing through Google’s search, it was pretty easy for Google to know, within seconds, if a link had been tweeted or re-tweeted. But with the Twitter firehose turned off, how would Google determine link velocity as quickly as it had previously?
Scrolling through the stream on Google+, I happened upon a link to a post from Christopher Penn, where he uncovered something very interesting in the way Google+ is handling tracking for external URLs.
Google+ is assigning a UNIX timestamp with an extra three digits – I’m guessing a sort of microtime – to every outbound click from G+ at the time of the click. Let me state that again: they’re uniquely timestamping every CLICK from G+ in the URL in realtime. Not just when a post was shared, not just when a post was reshared, but Every. Single. Click.
Well, now – that would be ONE way to do it, and it makes perfect sense. One of the great things about Twitter posts and re-tweets is that you can tell who’s sharing the info, who they’re connected to, when they shared it, and how often it’s shared.
It seems that Google kept that in mind while developing Google+.
Besides now having the ability to track every time a link is clicked, they can also categorize those clicks by who is clicking, what circles they’re linked to, who they chat with, their search activity, geesh…the mind boggles at the amount of information they’re gathering on us. As a bonus, it also prevents Google from having to continually crawl their own site for information, which would probably be a complete nightmare as comments are loaded in realtime, without need to refresh the page.
Will this mean the end of link manipulation for ranking purposes? Probably not, but if you’re building up great content and providing quality information to your users, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about anyway….right?
I’d love to know what you guys think about this, please share your thoughts!