New York, October 2, 2023 – Gary Illyes, a prominent figure within Google, recently made a noteworthy statement indicating a significant shift in the way Google assesses and ranks web pages in its search results. He asserted that links are no longer among the top three factors influencing Google search rankings.
In 2016, Andrey Lipattsev, a respected strategist specializing in search quality at Google, highlighted the paramount role of inbound links as one of the primary determinants affecting Google Search rankings. This ranking was also influenced by content quality and the enigmatic RankBrain algorithm.
However, Google’s search algorithm is in a constant state of evolution, with other factors now taking precedence in the ranking process. Gary Illyes, an analyst on Google’s Search team, made these observations at a recent Pubcon Pro event in Austin.
“I believe links are still important, but people tend to overestimate their significance. I don’t believe they occupy a position in the top three ranking factors, and they haven’t for some time.”
Illyes also mentioned, “It’s conceivable to achieve a high ranking without relying on links.” He cited a rare case where a website lacked any links, both internal and external, but still consistently ranked as number one. Google was only able to discover this site through its sitemap.
While the specific factors that have surpassed links in importance were not disclosed, Google has increasingly emphasized elements such as content quality, user experience, mobile-friendliness, page speed, and even the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning in recent years. These changes reflect Google’s ongoing commitment to delivering the most relevant and high-quality search results to users.
Google’s John Mueller also discussed the evolving role of links in the Search Off the Record podcast episode:
“Well, I imagine that over time, the importance of links will decrease somewhat as we refine our ability to understand how content fits within the broader context of the web. However, links will always remain relevant to some extent because they serve as a means to discover web pages. But my speculation is that, over time, their influence will diminish compared to what it is today. We’ve already seen this trend evolving.”
It is crucial for webmasters and SEO professionals to stay abreast of these shifts in Google’s ranking algorithm, enabling them to adapt their strategies accordingly and enhance the visibility of their websites in search results.
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