First Link Counts Rule and Alt Text

by Gareth on February 4, 2011

This is a guest post by Giuseppe Pastore, an SEO in an italian agency. In his personal blog, Posizionamento Zen, he eventually writes about Search Engine Optimization and Web Marketing in general. You can find him on Twitter too (@Zen2Seo). This post is a follow up on a post he did on SEOMoz.


First link counts rule

Just 2 weeks ago, I run a test on the “First Link Counts” rule trying to understand if there are some effective ways to avoid that bad anchor texts can devalue our SEO efforts in internal link building. As I reported on my YouMoz post, I found there are at least 3 different ways to make Google associate different anchor texts when linking to the same url from the same page. This post generated an interesting discussion and some user asked about how Google handles images. This was an interesting question: we often see ecommerce sites with an image of a product and then a text link after it, or we can think to logos pointing to the site homepage… are ALT attributes counted as the first link anchor text (and so the following anchor text is ignored) or not?

I supposed images are treated in a different way, but I was not sure, so I run a new test that specifically was aiming at answering that question.   Again, I used my SEO site Posizionamento Zen as a testing theatre and this is how I proceeded.

Setup

I created a page named paginaA3.html, about the fantastic topic “Grisotelaio”. In the HTML code we have 2 links to paginaG.html and 2 links to paginaH.html.

PaginaG.html is about the term “bidognano” and the 2 links pointing to it are (in the order they appear in the code):

#1 – image link with ALT attribute: “bolufaretto”

#2 – text link with anchor text:”usportignazione”

None of these 2 words appear in paginaG.html text, so this page can be indexed for these two terms only if Google uses both the anchor text.

PaginaH.html is about the term “bidopolpetto” and receives the following 2 links:

#1 – text link with anchor text “mornuborato”

#2 – image link with ALT attribute: “gollomallo”

Again, none of these terms appears in paginaH.html text, so this page can appear in the relative SERPs only if Google counts the links.

Expected results

If the “First Link Counts” rule applies to images, paginaG.html has not to rank for “usportignazione”, as it is a second link text and paginaH.html has not to rank for “gollomallo”. If images are handled in a different way, maybe things can change if the image link appears before or after the textual one in the HTML code.

If the rule doesn’t apply to images, all the anchor text have to be counted.

Testing

I linked paginaA3.html in the footer of my site to make Google index it. paginaG.html and paginaH.html weren’t linked from any other page besides it.

After 2 weeks, paginaG.html and paginaH.html were indexed, and this is the situation:

paginaG.html ranking for “bolufaretto”

paginaG.html ranking for “usportignazione”

1st link counts rule

paginaH.html ranking for “mornuborato”

anchor text link equity

paginaH.html ranking for “gollomallo”

anchor text links

Conclusions

As the pictures above show, the first link rule doesn’t apply to image links, whatever the order they appear in the HTML code. Probably it can be interesting to see what happens if we have 2 or more images pointing to the same url (do all Alt attributes count?).

I think I’m going to test this too…

If you are interested in my tests, you can found them at my SEO test archive. Posts are in Italian, but images and code are an universally spoken language! ;)

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