Google: Links Have Less Effect Today Than In The Previous

Posted by

In a Google SEO office hours video, a Googler addressed a question about backlinks and rankings and used the intriguing reality that backlinks have less impact as a ranking signal than it utilized to in the past.

Backlinks Ranking Signal

Hyperlinks and anchor text signals made Google a much better online search engine than the competition when it was first introduced.

SEO used to mainly have to do with optimizing titles, headings, and content with keywords.

After Google became essential it was realized that links were the key to better rankings.

Entire markets rose to service the need for links, such as web directories and link selling brokers.

Various link structure strategies likewise came to be such as mutual connecting, comment spam, online forum spam and so on.

Google largely lost the war against link spam. The turning point was 2012 with the intro of the Penguin algorithm, in addition to other updates to Google’s infrastructure (Hummingbird) which permitted Google to do progressively enormous amounts of link related ranking functions.

Today we are at a point where Google has the ability to rank links in such a method that poor quality links are disposed of.

Links continue to be an essential ranking element however it has been a secret as to just how much effect links have today.

John Mueller hypothesized just recently that links might begin playing a decreasing role in ranking, saying:

“… it’s something where I imagine, with time, the weight on the links eventually will drop off a little bit as we can find out a little bit better how the content suits within the context of the whole web.”

Backlinks Have Less Impact Today

It is interesting to hear a Googler state that links have less effect today due to the fact that it was understood that the decrease in significance was something in the future.

But maybe the key point to bear in mind is that the strength of the link signal is being compared to when Google first began.

The remark about links came about from a question about why Google still uses backlinks and if link building projects are not allowed.

This is the concern:

“Why does Google keep using backlinks as a ranking factor if link building projects are not permitted?

Why can’t Google find other ranking factors that can’t be quickly controlled like backlinks?”

Google’s response:

“There are a number of things to unload here.

First, backlinks as a signal has a lot less substantial effect compared to when Google Browse first started out several years back.

We have robust ranking signals, numerous them, to make sure that we are able to rank the most appropriate and helpful results for all inquiries.”

That is absolutely real, links have a lot less effect today than when Google initially started, generally because less type of links (like directory links, paid links) have the ability to impact search rankings.

It’s unclear if the Googler was making a recommendation to more than just the kinds of links that still have an impact.

The Googler continued:

“Second, full link structure campaigns, which are essentially link spam according to our spam policy.

We have numerous algorithms capable of identifying unnatural links at scale and nullify them.

This implies that spammers or SEOs spending cash on links truly have no way of knowing if the money they invested in link building is in fact worth it or not, given that it’s really most likely that they’re just squandering cash constructing all these spammy links and they were currently nullified by our systems as quickly as we see them.”

Links and Site Promotion Are Still Important

Hyperlinks have a function that surpasses just ranking. Google finds web pages through links.

Google’s own documentation not only cites links as how Google discovers websites, it motivates publishers to promote their sites.

The documents says:

“Google also discovers pages through links from other pages. Find out how to encourage people to discover your website by Promoting your website.

… Opportunities are, there are a variety of sites that cover subject areas similar to yours. Opening up communication with these websites is typically advantageous. Hot subjects in your niche or community might spark extra ideas for material or building a good community resource.”

The quantity of links indicating a site still shows how essential a site is.

The connecting patterns that are developed from natural links helps Google to understand what a website is about also through the resulting link chart.

Follow Up Concerns

The Googlers statements appear to require follow up questions.

  • Did the Googler suggest that links that Google uses for ranking have less impact than in the past?
  • What about link structure campaigns that are fixated telling others about a site and requesting a link, are those considered spam?
  • When the Googler referenced “link structure projects” were they discussing campaigns to spend for guest posts or link insertions into existing posts?

The answers provided are good beginning points however this new format for the Google office hours is not conducted live.

That means there is no other way to ask follow up concerns, which makes a few of the answers less useful.


Included image by Best SMM Panel/Asier Romero

Listen to the Google Workplace Hours at the 6:08 minute mark