(SEO This Week - January 28, 2022) - It's not often that John Mueller gets caught using a little double talk. Who am I kidding, John's caught all the time making contradictory statements? It's part of the joy of being, essentially, the sole Public Relations representative who has to talk to SEOs and webmasters.
During a recent English SEO office hours John was asked:
Today I'm going to ask if the value of internal links are similar.
For example, is tehre a difference....of value in internal links in header, footer, or in content?
This is actually a pretty good question that SEOs have been asking for quite some time and one would think that it's pretty straightforward, however, the answers coming out of Google tend to be a bit contradictory.
It’s pretty similar.
I don’t think there is anything quantifiably different about internal links in different parts of the page.
I think it’s different when it comes to the content in different parts of the page, where we try to figure out what is unique to a page.
But with regards to links, I don’t think that’s anything.John Mueller
Other SEO writers are jumping on John's use of the term "quantifiably" as an indicator that the difference is so minute that it can't be measured.
However, Martin Splitt, also from Google, has made statements saying that Google can indeed determine sitewide internal links in the menu areas and does measure those differences.
“And then there’s this other thing here, which seems to be like links to related products but it’s not really part of the centerpiece. It’s not really main content here. This seems to be additional stuff.
And then there’s like a bunch of boilerplate or, “Hey, we figured out that the menu looks pretty much the same on all these pages and lists. This looks pretty much like that menu that we have on all the other pages of this domain,” for instance, or we’ve seen this before. We don’t even actually go by domain or like, “Oh, this looks like a menu.”
We figure out what looks like boilerplate and then, that gets weighted differently as well.”Martin Splitt
Clearly two differing views on how links are rated on a website, internal or external, based on the location of that link.
Backing up to John Mueller's answer, he stated that there was no quantifiable difference between the links regardless of where they were placed. However, SEO testing by SEOIntel.com has shown that there is indeed a difference.
This isn't the only test on link placement that they conducted, but they all have shown that link placement does indeed change the value that Google is giving the links.
As an aside, placement also is taken into account by Majestic and Moz backlink tools at the time of the test.
The best way to retest this concept is to build a web page with pure HTML making sure you site navigation, body, and footer in your code. Then use that to make ten pages, three of which will have one link out each to a test page from each of the sections, and see which one wins.
Outside of that, there is no way to measure link juice Google is passing through a link, but you can see the value the algorithm saw in the link with the simple single-variable test and use that knowledge when building your workflow for your own projects.