How Google Handles Naked Links

Google's John Mueller answers how Google handles bare URL inbound links that do not have an anchor text.

In a Google Office Hours SEO hangout Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller answered how Google handles links that don’t have anchor text. In a follow up question he answered if text surrounding those kinds of links have an effect.


What are Naked Links?

There are many kinds of links, including branded links, keyword optimized links, nofollow links, etc. This question was about a type of link that is referred to as a naked link.

A naked link is a link that is in the form of the URL.

Here’s an example of how a “naked” link would look on a web page:

Here’s how the HTML would look for the above link:

<a href=""></a>

How Does Google Handle Links Without Anchor Text?

The question asked was within the context of auditing the inbound links of client sites and noticing that certain links are coded as naked links.

The SEO asking the question wanted to know how Google processed those links.


This is the question:

“When auditing links for my clients websites I see some naked URLs that are pointing to valuable resources on the site.

How does Google treat such links when there’s no anchor text?”


John Mueller Answers How Google Handles a Bare URL

John Mueller began his answer by defining what a naked URL is.

“I think by naked URL it’s basically just someone is linking with the URL as the anchor text.”

Next, Mueller states how Google handles a bare link that does not have an anchor text.

“…in that situation we treat that URL as the anchor text.

From what I understand, our systems do try to recognize this and say well, this is just a URL that is linked, it’s not that there’s a valuable anchor here.

So we can take this into account as a link but we can’t really use that anchor text for anything in particular.

So from that point of view it’s a normal link but we don’t have any context there.”


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Keywords in URL for Anchor Text

That’s interesting that Mueller said there is no context in a naked link. What makes it interesting is that there is a school of thought that in the absence of an anchor text that the keywords in the URL might provide Google some information and function like an anchor text.

Mueller’s answer seemed to contradict that idea or at least to not affirm it. Might make a good follow up question.


Can Surrounding Text and Topic Influence Links?

At this point someone else asked a follow up question about the text that surrounds the naked link and if that might play a role.

“Can Google kind of get context for like the text around that link, maybe if it doesn’t have any?”

John Mueller nodded his head in affirmation and said,

“Sure. But that’s more kind of secondary. Like that really strong piece of context from the anchor text that’s missing in that case.

And then like small things around the side, that does help us a little bit… but really the kind of the primary aspect of that link is kind of gone.

And I mean usually that doesn’t matter. It’s not that it counts against your website in any way.

It’s just… well for this particular link we don’t really know what the context is.”


The person asking the follow up question repeated his question, this time asking if the content around the link or topic of the article might play a role.

Mueller answered:

“Yeah, yeah… I mean that’s something we do definitely take into account but it’s very secondary.

…I mean there’s no kind of like value of strength for the context there but I’d say it’s like that anchor text is really obvious and we can collect that and we can look at that overall and… kind of the context of the linking pages is something well… it’s like we also need to think about at some point.

But the anchor text is really kind of the primary thing.”


What We Learned About Google and Naked Links

Mueller affirmed that there is no disadvantage to links coded without anchor text. He affirmed that anchor text is a strong signal.

But he also somewhat downplayed the use of surrounding text or page topic as a way to give more meaning to a naked link, saying that yes Google used it but that it was “very secondary.”


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Googlebot will soon speak HTTP/2

Quick summary: Starting November 2020, Googlebot will start crawling some sites over HTTP/2.

Ever since mainstream browsers started supporting the next major revision of HTTP, HTTP/2 or h2 for short, web professionals asked us whether Googlebot can crawl over the upgraded, more modern version of the protocol.

Starting mid November 2020, Googlebot will support crawling over HTTP/2 for select sites.

What is HTTP/2

It's the next major version of HTTP, the protocol the internet primarily uses for transferring data. HTTP/2 is much more robust, efficient, and faster than its predecessor, due to its architecture and the features it implements for clients (for example, your browser) and servers. If you want to read more about it, here is a long article on the HTTP/2 topic on

Why this change

In general, we expect this change to make crawling more efficient in terms of server resource usage. With h2, Googlebot is able to open a single TCP connection to the server and efficiently transfer multiple files over it in parallel, instead of requiring multiple connections. The fewer connections open, the fewer resources the server and Googlebot have to spend on crawling.

How it works

In the first phase, Google will crawl a small number of sites over h2, and ramp up gradually to more sites that may benefit from the initially supported features, like request multiplexing.

Googlebot decides which site to crawl over h2 based on whether the site supports h2, and whether the site and Googlebot would benefit from crawling over HTTP/2. If your server supports h2 and Googlebot already crawls a lot from your site, you may be already eligible for the connection upgrade, and you don't have to do anything.

If your server still only talks HTTP/1.1, that's also fine. There's no explicit drawback for crawling over this protocol; crawling will remain the same, quality and quantity wise.

How to opt out

Preliminary tests showed no issues or negative impact on indexing, but we understand that, for various reasons, you may want to opt your site out from crawling over HTTP/2. You can do that by instructing the server to respond with a 421 HTTP status code when Googlebot attempts to crawl your site over h2. If that's not feasible at the moment, you can send a message to the Googlebot team (however, this solution is temporary).

If you have more questions about Googlebot and HTTP/2, check the questions we thought you might ask. If you can't find your question, write on Twitter and in the help forums.


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Questions that you might ask

Why are you upgrading Googlebot now?

The software used to enable Googlebot to crawl over h2 has matured enough that it can be used in production.

Do I need to upgrade my server ASAP?

It's really up to you. However, we will only switch to crawling over h2 sites that support it and will clearly benefit from it. If there's no clear benefit for crawling over h2, Googlebot will still continue to crawl over h1.

How do I upgrade my site to h2?

This really depends on your server. Google recommends talking to your server administrator or hosting provider.

How do I convince Googlebot to talk h2 with my site?

You can't. If the site supports h2, it is eligible for being crawled over h2, but only if that would be beneficial for the site and Googlebot. If crawling over h2 would not result in noticeable resource savings for example, Google would simply continue to crawl the site over HTTP/1.1.

How do I know if my site is crawled over h2?

When a site becomes eligible for crawling over h2, the owners of that site registered in Search Console will get a message saying that some of the crawling traffic may be over h2 going forward. You can also check in your server logs (for example, in the access.log file if your site runs on Apache).

Which h2 features are supported by Googlebot?

Googlebot supports most of the features introduced by h2. Some features like server push, which may be beneficial for rendering, are still being evaluated.

Does Googlebot support plaintext HTTP/2 (h2c)?

No. Your website must use HTTPS and support HTTP/2 in order to be eligible for crawling over HTTP/2. This is equivalent to how modern browsers handle it.

Is Googlebot going to use the ALPN extension to decide which protocol version to use for crawling?

Application-layer protocol negotiation (ALPN) will only be used for sites that are opted in to crawling over h2, and the only accepted protocol for responses will be h2. If the server responds during the TLS handshake with a protocol version other than h2, Googlebot will back off and come back later on HTTP/1.1.

How will different h2 features help with crawling?

Some of the many, but most prominent benefits of h2 include:

  • Multiplexing and concurrency: Fewer TCP connections open means fewer resources spent.
  • Header compression: Drastically reduced HTTP header sizes will save resources.
  • Server push: This feature is not yet enabled; it's still in the evaluation phase. It may be beneficial for rendering, but we don't have anything specific to say about it at this point.

If you want to know more about specific h2 features and their relation to crawling, ask us on Twitter.

Will Googlebot crawl more or faster over h2?

The primary benefit of h2 is resource savings, both on the server side, and on Googlebot side. Whether we crawl using h1 or h2 does not affect how your site is indexed, and hence it does not affect how much we plan to crawl from your site.

Is there any ranking benefit for a site in being crawled over h2?



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SEO and Google News Update - August 2020

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Top Internet and Google News Update - March 2020

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SEO site migration myths debunked

Google's Martin Splitt and his guest Glenn Gabe talked about website move, URL migrations and domain name changes. This article has the most important facts for you.

1. Image redirects

You should redirect image URLs during a website migration. Redirect all image URLs to the new URLs of the images. Then check the server logs of your old domain. If there is no crawler activity, you can discard the old domain.

2. Traffic drops

If you are just moving from one domain to the other and the new domain contains the same content and the same URL structure as the old domain then you will not necessarily see a drop of traffic.

In that case, you will see that traffic drops off over time on one domain and picks up on the other. But overall, you're not losing traffic. It is a fluid transition.

Traffic drops are usually caused by some sort of technical problem. For example, you might have missed half of your re-directions. There can be wrong configuration on the new server, etc.

3. Used domain names

If you move to new domain name that was used by a different company before, there might be some issues. In that case, Google might need a little longer to re-crawl the website. However, getting a domain that you know is not dealing with issues from the past. Even if it's a domain with a bad history, Google is aware that content on domains do change. Google might not consider it a site move but they might re-crawl and reprocess everything.

4. It takes some time to get rid of spam

Whenever your website has spam problems that Google detects and points them out to you, then you have to fix them. Then it takes a while for Google to understand that it has changed and that everything is better now.

If you buy a domain name that was used for spamming in the past, it can be better to remove the content from the website and wait until Google can see that the spam content has gone.

5. Merging two websites

One plus one will not always equal one when you merge two websites. Combining two sites into one is not the same as a site move to a new domain.

Google has to re-crawl all pages when you combine two websites. Depending on how you merge your websites, you might get very different results.

6. Site moves take time

It can take between a day and several weeks until Google has fully recognized the new website. The number of links from other websites also plays a role.

7. There's no special reassessment of site quality

When you move your website to a new domain, there's no special reassessment of your website quality. Google constantly evaluates the quality of your web pages.

If you change the URL structure of your website, Google might take a closer look at the pages. The current state of your web pages is used for the evaluation.

8. Ranking signals

Martin Splitt also listed some ranking signals that Google uses: "How fast is the site? Is this HTTPS or not? Is the content good? What's this page about? [...] There's, like, hundreds of these factors that we look at. And we collect them per page."

You can view the full video here.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

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