Links Are Not a Top 3 Google Search Ranking Factor

Links Are Not a Top 3 Google Search Ranking Factor

Atlanta, GA | October 2, 2023 – Gary Illyes, a well-known figure at Google, recently made a noteworthy statement indicating a significant shift in Google’s approach to evaluating and ranking web pages in its search results. According to Illyes, links are no longer among the top three factors influencing Google search rankings.

Back in 2016, Andrey Lipattsev, a distinguished strategist in Google’s search quality department, emphasized that inbound links to a website were a primary factor in determining its ranking in Google Search. This ranking was influenced by three main factors: inbound links, content quality, and the mysterious RankBrain algorithm.

However, Google’s search algorithm is constantly evolving, and it seems that other factors have now taken precedence in website ranking. During a recent Pubcon Pro event in Austin, Gary Illyes, an analyst on Google’s Search team, expressed his views on the matter.

“I think they are important, but I think people overestimate the importance of links. I don’t agree it’s in the top three. It hasn’t been for some time.”

Illyes also mentioned a rare case where a website had no links, either internal or external, yet consistently ranked number one. Google discovered this exceptional site solely through its sitemap.

While the specific factors that have surpassed links in importance were not detailed, Google has increasingly prioritized factors such as content quality, user experience, mobile-friendliness, page speed, and even artificial intelligence and machine learning in recent years. This reflects Google’s ongoing commitment to delivering the most relevant and high-quality search results to users.

John Mueller from Google also commented on the diminishing significance of links as a ranking factor on the Search Off the Record podcast:

“Well, it’s something where I imagine, over time, the weight on the links. At some point, will drop off a little bit as we can’t figure out a little bit better how the content fits in within the context of the whole web. And to some extent, links will always be something that we care about because we have to find pages somehow. It’s like how do you find a page on the web without some reference to it?

“But my guess is over time, it won’t be such a big factor as sometimes it is today. I think already, that’s something that’s been changing quite a bit.”

For webmasters and SEO professionals, it’s crucial to stay informed about these shifts in Google’s ranking algorithm. Adapting strategies to focus on content quality, user experience, and other emerging factors is essential for improving website visibility in search results.


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Janice Ramos

Janice is an SEO specialist with several years of experience optimizing websites and building high-quality natural backlinks from websites with high domain authority. She also has experience with WordPress.

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