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I heard that Google bot places weight on links, according to their order in the page. So the first link is higher in importance, relevance etc. Is it true?

And if so, I wonder how the "order" is determined by Google. I mean, say my source code is like:

<a id='a1' href='x'>link1</a>
<a id='a2' href='y'>link2</a>

but I styled them (with CSS) so that link2 appears on top of link1. Which link will be of higher importance? My spider-instincts tell me that source code counts, but hearing a lot of things and always trying to "treat Google like a human being", I'm in doubt.

Edit:

the second href is y, not x. So links point to different pages. This could cause ambiguity.

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2 Answers 2

Placement of links on the page is more important than order in source code. Links that are not prominent are often discounted by Google:

  • Left hand column below the fold
  • Right hand column below the fold
  • Footer links

Links that are positioned where there are likely to be used by users carry the most weight:

  • Main navigation
  • Above the fold in the content

This model is the "reasonable surfer" model which is different than the "random surfer" model on which the 1999 Google Pagerank algorithm was based.

It is not clear exactly how much Google relies on the reasonable surfer model. The strongest statements I've seen from Google representatives say only that links in certain places in the page may be discounted.

As W3d says in the comments, it would be unlikely that two links that are right next to each other in the source code would be weighted very differently, even if the order were switched.

I have seen some evidence that Google may ignore links that are further down a large list of links. This would make sense from a usability perspective. For example we know that most users click on the first search result and that fewer and fewer users click on each site with a worse ranking.

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The question is not about placement but order of links. –  Zistoloen Sep 23 '13 at 14:42
    
@Zistoloen: I think placement covers the order of links on the resulting page, as opposed to the order in the source code. –  w3d Sep 23 '13 at 14:46
    
"Placement of links on the page is more important than order in source code" - SEOS have claimed to see evidence of links higher in source code getting more value, ex. moz.com/blog/… Of course, Google can probably analyze page placement exponentially better now than when that was written –  joshuahedlund Sep 23 '13 at 14:56
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Although, in terms of "placement" or source code order, I can't imagine there being much different between A-B and B-A (two links that are already next to each other in both the source and resulting placement - which seems to be what the OP is asking.) –  w3d Sep 23 '13 at 15:02
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If you had asked this questions five years ago, my answer would have been that source code order might be important. Even then, footer links were often discounted. Google didn't appear to have the technology to render pages, so it must be source code order that mattered. Today Google clearly has the tech to know where on the page links are and has stated that it is how users interact with links that is important. –  Stephen Ostermiller Sep 23 '13 at 15:03

Order of links is important if you have twice or more the same link because Google will consider in the most cases the first link but not necessarily the others.

However, your two links are different (point to two different URLs), so that means the order doesn't matter for Google and it will consider and evaluate both (if Googlebot wants to follow these two links). Moreover, think about Googlebot sees your links one by one by analyzing your HTML page (order in the HTML page).

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"will consider and evaluate both" - this may not be true at larger numbers of links, see concept of "crawl budget" ex. searchengineland.com/… –  joshuahedlund Sep 23 '13 at 14:52
    
Of course, I have edited my answer to clarify. –  Zistoloen Sep 23 '13 at 15:07

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