My answer was that the second link would pass anchor text relevance as well as PageRank/other markers of ranking value. I was speaking instinctively rather than scientifically from an a-b test experience, and today I want to share 2 theories why that should be so.
But first, for those not up with the blogosphere’s every rumination, let me provide some context. My friend Branko Rihtman has a good history of the whole second link debate and contributes some original research himself. Other relevant posts come from Rand, Mike van de Mar, Dave Eaves, and Michael Martinez. Some partial information was also provided by Matt Cutts to Debra Mastaler.
But rather than pay attention to the tests that are/are not valid (depending on who you believe) I thought I would ignorantly pontificate in the total absence of any study to back me up. All I’ve got is a pair of logical theories on this, so take this for what it’s worth.
by adria.richards Theory 1 – Prominence / Likelihood to Drive Traffic.
Google was founded on a “random walk” algorithm – a person continuing to click links ad infinitum, randomly, would get to sites with more links and more prominent links, more often. So any additional link should pass both anchor text value and ranking factor value.
That said, Matt Cutts specified in the post linked to above, that typically the second link wouldn’t pass anchor text weight – if the anchor was identical to the first one. That makes sense, since all else being equal, two identical links should get the same click-through rate, and not be materially valuable to the random walk theory.
However, the random walk is mostly dead, at least to Google. After all, AdSense ads don’t pass ranking value, and they’re prominently visible throughout the web, sending millions of visitors all over the place!
Theory 2 – Content Consolidation Via 301s.
In my latest guest post at Graywolf’s, on SEO for WordPress blog categories and e-commerce site categories, I referred to consolidating content and 301ing it, as well as using a table of content a la Wikipedia to help people navigate the new, longer page.
Well, suppose that each post you consolidated into the main one got an external link from another site’s page. E.g. Some blogger is thinking “I found this great series of posts on social media at SEO ROI Services. I should share each of those with my readers!”
Is each of those links no longer going to count, once all the links’ destinations are now consolidated on a single URL? Just because every page got rolled into one, doesn’t mean each link should stop passing value. Besides, if it did, then SEOs would just get craftier and break content out across multiple URLs.