Seattle, October 2, 2023 – Gary Illyes, a well-known figure within Google, recently made a statement indicating a significant shift in how Google assesses and ranks web pages in its search results. According to him, links are no longer among the top three factors influencing Google search rankings.
In 2016, Google’s search quality strategist, @andreylipattsev/, emphasized that inbound links pointing to a website were one of the primary determinants affecting its rankings in Google Search. This ranking was also influenced by content quality and the mysterious RankBrain algorithm.
However, Google’s search algorithm is constantly evolving, and other factors now take precedence in ranking websites. Gary Illyes, an analyst at Google’s Search team, made these points during a recent Pubcon Pro event in Austin:
“I believe that links are still important, but people tend to overestimate their significance. I don’t agree that they are in the top three factors anymore. It hasn’t been the case for a while.”
Illyes also mentioned, “It is possible to achieve a high rank without relying on links.” Although it seemed like an exceptional case, he cited an example where a website had no links (internal or external) but had outstanding content, consistently ranking number one. Google only discovered this site through its sitemap.
While the specific factors surpassing links in importance weren’t disclosed, Google has been increasingly prioritizing factors such as content quality, user experience, mobile-friendliness, page loading speed, and even artificial intelligence and machine learning in recent years. This reflects Google’s ongoing commitment to delivering relevant and high-quality search results.
John Mueller from Google mentioned on the Search Off the Record podcast that links would become less significant as a ranking factor over time:
“I imagine that over time, the weight given to links will decrease as we improve our understanding of how content fits into the broader context of the web. However, links will always matter to some extent because they are essential for discovering web pages. How can you find a page on the web without some reference to it? But I believe that their importance will diminish compared to what it is today. This is already something that has been changing significantly.”
For webmasters and SEO professionals, it’s crucial to stay informed about these shifts in Google’s ranking algorithm so they can adapt their strategies and continue enhancing their websites’ visibility in search results.
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