Google: Links Have To Be On Indexed Pages To Be Counted

by Clint ButlerDigitaleer

(SEO This Week) - Frustrations mount with Google indexing as the company's systems have been slow to add new pages to the search results. With some users claiming their pages haven't been indexed in weeks, sometimes months, people are beginning to ask questions about pages they are putting (or someone else put) on web pages to their websites.

Specifically, do links count if they are not on pages that are not indexed?

First, we have to define indexed, and even there is some confusion in the SEO circles.

There is one argument that for a page to be considered indexed, it has to be ranking for a keyword. i.e. if a page is ranking for "apple pies on the beach", it's indexed for that term. However, if it's not ranking for "apple pies on the boardwalk" then it's not indexed for that term.

Ted Kubaitis on indexing

There is another argument that a page is considered indexed if you can search for the page URL or even exact match of the title and it shows up in the results, that page is considered indexed. This is the most widely held understanding of "indexed".

This is where the question of "do links have to be indexed to count?" comes in.

Practitioners typically work hard, and spend significant money, on links and getting those links indexed so that Google will see the links and give credit to the target site.

But is it really necessary?

Google's John Mueller replied:

Something in his reply stood out, his use of the word "assume". So either he doesn't know the definitive answer or just can't reply, something the OP didn't pick up on.

John went on to follow up with some conditions to his response including the statement that "links that are indexed could be ignored" and that tools that scrape Google to identify indexed URLs are a violation of the Google Terms of Service agreement.

Also, note that the OP is using Google's "assume" statement to devalue backlink monitoring tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush, Link Research Tools, CognitiveSEO, Moz, and Majestic to name a few. Something that happens quite a lot in the search engine optimization community.

But that is not the end of the story.

It seems that John opened a can of worms with his answer as other posters questioned other conditions where noindexed pages are indeed passing some type of signal. Conditions that John himself detailed in Webmaster Central hangouts and on Twitter in the past.

SEO Intelligence Agency did conduct a series of tests on the topic a couple of years back. All of their test results were conducted with deindex PBN's pointing to target pages. The links were created after the PBN's were deindexed and then submitted to indexers to get the pages recrawled.

While the pages were never reindexed, the target pages did get an increase in rankings after the links were crawled, a behavior that happened for all of the tests.

deindexed links tests

Because of the age of these tests, they certainly have to be retested again, however, I've been using deindexed PBN's for adult markets ever since these tests were published with great results. So it's something to consider when you are getting links from legitimate sources that are indexing slowly because Google has dropped the ball on servicing publishers and users with new content.

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