Why Do My Google Rankings Stick After Losing Inbound Links?

Question: About a year ago I bought a bunch of links to help build my link popularity and get my site more exposure. Many of these links expired a few months back and yet my Google rankings did not drop. Why?

Answer: I accidentally blocked a search engine from indexing some of my pages with many in-links and the entire site quickly suffered, so odds are the links that you lost were not your most authoritative inbound links, or your site has built other signs of trust and quality.

Search engines look for many signals of quality. As your site ages, it is trusted more. Just aging another year means that helps your site out in terms of trust related to site age. I have some old PageRank 2 sites that outrank far more authoritative sites (like About.com).

They can also look at other things like searcher feedback, domain name, traffic trends, inbound and outbound links, etc. but as your site aged and got more exposure some of these other signals of quality might help make your rankings more stable, even if you lose some of the links that helped get your site noticed. I ranked in the top 10 for search engine history with a site that had no inbound links.

If the links you bought were obvious bought links they may not have counted toward building your link reputation when you bought them. Another option is that they once counted but were slowly phased out in their ability to boost your search engine rankings.

Published: July 21, 2007 by Aaron Wall in Q & A


July 21, 2007 - 2:27pm

"They can also look at other things like searcher feedback, domain name, traffic trends, inbound and outbound links, etc."

Traffic plays a role in SERPs? How does Google know what traffic every page on the Internet is getting?

July 21, 2007 - 3:28pm

Since Google is pretty tightlipped on the weight it places on links, the ability of a site to continue buttoning down its own internal linking structure seems like it might be able to compensate for some lost backlinks.

July 22, 2007 - 3:24am

Hi Geoff
I totally agree there. Almost every site has major internal linking issues, not for the least of reasons because many do not track traffic right on through to conversion.

Hi Mark
It is not that they have to know everything (though they might know most stuff if they create a free ad supported internet service provider), it is more that they can learn trends and other proxies for value outside of raw HTML links. For example, they can see what sites have many ads on them, what related sites people visit, how many blogs with high authority recommend your site or recommend other sites that recommend your site, etc.

July 22, 2007 - 6:04am

Aaron, I would like to learn more about ILQ (internal link quality). I don't really understand what makes and breaks it.

I have bought a few links that expired and took months to drop out of google. On the other hand I have had some that dropped out nearly immediately. Great Post, for sure digged.

July 22, 2007 - 3:14pm

There are a lot of factors here that are unknown such as the length of time a link existed, the length of time since it has expired, and the value of those links in the first place.

July 23, 2007 - 5:12am

Mark, that's what google's evil redirect is for.

July 23, 2007 - 10:07pm

Google records the time that you gained the links, and the length of time you had the links (or what they were able to measure). This counts towards the long term popularity of your domain name. You don't lose also popularity even when you a lose links. The fact that you "had" links still counts towards your popularity - not as much mind you, but it does count.

July 25, 2007 - 11:14pm

Of all hypothesis and theories, Joe Griffin's theory sounds the closest to reality to me. I've observed the same thing with Google.

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