Links In Old, Crawled Content Don’t Pass Weight

Around last summer it was becoming increasingly obvious to me that buying/placing/creating links in content that had already been crawled & indexed had very little effect at all in terms of increasing rankings.

Many different newspapers and other publishers were offering links in old articles for a ridiculous amount of money and the truth is they had zero impact.

Around the end of last year I did a little research but was so busy at the start of the year I didn’t get time to write about it and then it got forgotten. So I thought I might as well publish what I found as I think it is still applicable to the current climate.

The Test

Very simple really, I took 3 websites in different niches and built varying links into each one. There were 3 types of links built:

1 – In ‘fresh’ content

2 – In ‘old’ content

3 – Text Links (sidebar and footers)

Fresh Content

I basically used a little bit of article marketing together with some fresh blogs posts on my network to build the links back into the sites. All links used the target anchor text.

Old Content

I placed links on blog posts that had already been crawled, indexed and even given a bit of PageRank (around half the links were PR 1 ). The links were placed using the target anchor text.

Text Links

I basically added some blogroll links to 15 of the blogs in my network, all were site wide and all used the target anchor text.


As you can see this test has some serious limitations and therefore the results can’t wholly be relied upon however the ranking changes do seem to point to a lack of weight in building links from old content.

The Results

All links went live half way through week 2:

Fresh Links In Content

It was quite clear to me when running this little test that placing links in old content had little if any value at all, it didn’t budge and even went backwards a little bit.

It’s also worth noting that the site wide text links had a massive impact, yet they settled back down after the initial jump (remember this was the end of last year, site wide links won’t work like this anymore 😉 ).

My Conclusion

Due to the fact all these sites were targeting different keywords and that the article marketing couldn’t be controlled to a certain number of links, it makes this test an unfair one when comparing the link methods side by side.

However, the links from old content didn’t seem to have any impact which was in line with my experience up to this point.

It’s also worth noting that the site with the text links is now nowhere to be seen in the index, not even in the top 200, which shows Google have already devalued all the links.

The test isn’t conclusive but I can guarantee you I won’t be spending time placing links in content that has already been crawled and indexed, if you’re adding fresh content to a page that is fine, if you are publishing a fresh article that is better but I feel once Google has crawled a piece of content & then gone on to associate it with that page, placing a link in it afterwards does nothing for anybody except the user.

As I mentioned this is by no means scientific and I’d love to hear about contrary experiences and/or results.


is the CEO of Branded3 a Search Marketing Agency in the UK. Tim has over a decade of experience in Search and regularly speaks at key events and conferences.

36 thoughts on “Links In Old, Crawled Content Don’t Pass Weight

  1. Good Analysis Tim,

    In the recent “farmer update” article marketing is affected highly and is not longer giving any effects, even I got massive drop in the ranking which came in the top positions by Article Links only.

    Now, Fresh contents will only work if we take a look at the future scenario and planning by Google. Two days back it was announced that now Exact Match Domains are the next target by Google to penalize the ranking which comes only by having Keyword in the domain. So, many things are getting changed compared to what those were a year back 🙂

  2. An interesting theory. If it is correct, it would suggest that Google sees a difference between links that were added originally and links that were added afterward. Possibly that original links are real and part of the original content and worth value. And possibly seeing links added after the fact as worthless add ons. I would be interested to see it more thoroughly tested.

  3. Hi Tim,
    I read your article and I wonder what the definition of ‘old’ is?

    I recall seeing articles around the web a few months ago about how quickly Google was indexing content – sometimes within a few minutes.

    If that is so, then isn’t more or less all content ‘old’ once it has been indexed?

    Plainly, that cannot be so – or your article wouldn’t make sense – so I wonder how ‘old’ content has to be before it stops being valuable?

    Also, when a permalink includes the date of the article, it is obvious enough what is old content. But what about permalinks that don’t have that info? How do you work out how old the content is?

  4. Hi David,

    It still needs a lot more testing, however I am increasingly finding once content on a page has been crawled and indexed it becomes ‘old’ for the purposes of this test. So Google crawls knows what content is on that page, it re crawls again a week later and there are 3 links within the content that weren’t there before, does it pass value or not. My opinion is that it doesn’t.

    Definitely more testing needed.

  5. Yes there definitely needs to be more research on it isolating some of the variables.

    It would be good to get 3 sites, and build different types of links to each one over the course of 3 months, then assess when the increases happened and try to attribute it to a link pattern.

  6. What is with all the linkbuyers? I found many of them buying links on old pages and not within new articles. They buy links on pages which are indexed years ago. And it works. Another point is, that there are times you would like to edit some old pages with update or new information you found. Perhaps you add an paragraph. That can be further information, for example links. Why should this links don’t pass value?

  7. Hi Tim,
    Interesting test. Did you try adding some new content to the page i.e. an update section on the page? It’s something I’ve played around and has produced some good results (obviously, you either need to own the domain or have an amenable web master).

  8. Hi Jim,

    I didn’t do that but imagine it work well, as you stated. It’s only old content that has already been crawled and indexed that seems to cause the issue. I think Google analyses page content far more than anyone thinks, we found a trend recently where Google had devalued links based on what we thought was the surrounding text.

    50 links with the exact surrounding could equal issues as it shouts manipulation, however that’s a post for another time.

  9. I actually read your post again and realised you had already made a reference to my question… I will now write 5,000 lines on the classroom board – “I must not skim, I must not skim, I must not skim…” 🙂

  10. Have you tried replacing the link location? By that, I mean stripping the old URL out of the link and replacing it with a new one whilst maintaing the anchor text? Not something I’ve tried but if you haven’t I’ll give it a shot.

  11. I’ve modified one of my old links. I’m going to ping the page and take a look early next week to see what happens.

  12. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the very interesting post, I’ve not come across this before and would love to see some follow-up tests. I have a couple of thoughts –

    Could it be that the links in the old indexed content are having less value simple because the posts are old (i.e. not ‘fresh’) and thus may have less power anyway?

    Also, I have blog posts that are indexed within 30 seconds sometimes, and I wonder if Google would devalue a link added a couple of minutes later whilst I’m still editing the piece (assuming I spot a mistake or something)? I would suspect Google would allow a certain amount of ‘editing time’ before it considered the post completed?


  13. Hi Duncan,

    Thanks for the comment 🙂

    It certainly could be a freshness issue, but even pages with seemingly good PageRank suffer with the same issue of passing no weight, still it could be tested a little further.

    I haven’t done any exact proximity tests yet but would imagine if the link is added within minutes then I can’t see it making any difference and still passing good weight. Certainly needs more testing but one thing for sure is certain types of old archived content pass very little weight.

  14. I guess, Google is getting smarter, but there ought to be another effect, too:
    New links in old content have a major pitfall when it comes to newspapers or most blogs: these articles are usually deep down in the site hierarchy and are barely linked from strong pages like categories or don’t even mention home 🙂 You can notice that with spammers who often sell PR5, PR6 links, which typically turn out to be comment spam on newspaper article pages. However, the pages have this PR value only assigned when they were fresh around a toolbar update and it will typically drop back to 0 with the next update as all internal links have gone (Just to give an example).
    A fresh article will provide all that: strong internal links on major category pages, featured on home etc. A fresh article furthermore has excellent chances to get syndicated/scraped and thus comes with a multiplier effect, well, it might be even result in new editorial links to your site.
    Did you include some in-article links with real PR/MR in that test? I guess it would still look different.

  15. Hi Stef,

    Great comment. We have placed links in the content of old articles before with PR4 – PR5, however they still don’t seem to have the impact of a fresh post that, as you say, features on the home page, category pages, tag pages etc…. I think in terms of anchor text Google assigns value on the first crawl, again nothing to fully back this up as yet but based on experience and the impact of different types of links, I am pretty sure placing an anchor text link that is past the date of inception will carry less weight.

  16. Makes sense to me, I experienced quite a bit with fresh articles on reputably sites such as, say, newspapers and even one year after the impact of the first crawl remained the same, even though the PR of those pages is long gone. I have less experience with valid PR articles, though – as opposed to static pages, which have the very nature to change every now and then a little bit.

  17. Well It does make sense but if this is the scenario then High PR blog commenting would be dead.(as there is no fresh content on those pages and the pages are like one or 2 PR update old)
    Currently I rank my sites to the top of Google by using 80% High PR blog comments and 20% Good Article marketing.
    So I am Quite Dubious about it.

  18. Its not that other types of links don’t work, it’s more that fresh links are better. Go easy with the blog commenting, seen a number of sites penalised for over doing it with these tactics.

  19. Though it’s not a perfectly controlled test it is still a great insight on how Google views old content vs new content. Cyrus just did a great whiteboard friday about this on seomoz.

  20. Hi Ryan,

    Yes it’s far from scientific, however I see over and over again that links in fresh posts on news sites and blogs hold significantly more value than other types of links, well in terms of influencing rankings anyway. I saw the WBF, always great to get a mention over there 🙂 There is certainly a lot more attention that needs giving to this area, which is for me, the most important aspect of link building.

  21. Hi Oli,

    I didn’t monitor these sites after that period, however we are finding that links in fresh posts are holding rankings for the long term. We have build link profiles from scratch based on fresh link building techniques on blog posts and news sites, this has led to top 5 rankings on reasonably competitive keywords within 3 months.

    I have some specific examples, if you fire me an email I can go through them. Nothing scientific but some great insight into how Google maybe treating particular types of links.

  22. Tim, I’m very interested in the examples you’ve mentioned. I’m in the middle of planning campaigns for 2012 and would like to see your techniques.

    Also, will you be conducting this experiment again in 2012? I’m really interested in seeing fresh results.

    Feel free to send me an email reply.

    Thanks! 🙂

  23. Hi Rick,

    This test was carried out on a blog network I owned, the sites aren’t in use any more, I only ever used them for testing purposes.

    We did quite a bit of testing last year, e.g. targeting anchor text 1 with links in fresh content and anchor text 2 in old content, the results were always the same, the fresh content out performed.

    All out link building now is geared up to providing freshness signals from Google, using multiple forms of content production and viral creations to get as many fresh links as possible.

  24. Awesome post! This makes so much sense. I had a case where i had a testimonial for an old site. And instead of just changing the link, I changed the testimonial, the links and finally builded some links.

  25. Perhaps coincidence but I do recall Jim Boykin speaking about building links from old content at Pubcon in 2007. I remember it well because I was sat at the back of the session about 10 feet from Matt Cutts. Jim was saying to look at the sites ranking for your term on page 3 and beyond, and then contact those sites ranking which are blog posts or content pieces and ask them to add a link to the content. The reason I remember is because it was the only time Matt Cutts made a note during the session. The rest of the time he was flicking through a magazine. And I thought to myself back then, “Hmmmm. I guess pages which suddenly have new external links on them won’t work much longer.”

    Interesting test. Would be useful to try it again now, with one of the main things being a check as to whether the old linking pages had been re-crawled following the link being included. What I wonder about is how Google could differentiate between a “content page” which had a link added and then another page type. Because obviously plenty of people are buying links from sites which are passing value and obviously those links have been added to the page, therefore are new links added to an old page. I guess Google could be de-valuing if the link is added to content for a page that also ranks for the anchor text. Possible I suppose, but as you say more testing required.

  26. Thanks for the insight.

    Definitely needs more testing, from what we did it was strictly links in old content, e.g. an article that had been written and a link added into the text.

    If a new link was placed at the end of the article, in a new piece of content, then I would guess that this would be given full value.

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