Google Says Links No Longer A Top Three Ranking Factor

Google has been downplaying the importance of links in its ranking algorithm for the past couple of years now. But last Thursday, at PubCon, Gary Illyes from the Google Search team said he wouldn’t even put links into the top three ranking signals Google Search uses.

Gary was quoted saying this in several posts on X during his Q&A session at PubCon.

Here are those tweets:

One big takeaway from my AMA with @methode is that links are no longer in the top 3 for ranking factors. #pubcon

— Jennifer Slegg (@jenstar) September 21, 2023

Are links still one of the most important ranking factors?

I think they are important but I think people overestimate their importance.

I don’t agree that it’s the top 3 and it hasn’t been for some time.

The top ranking factor is content. @methode #pubcon

— Patrick Stox (@patrickstox) September 21, 2023

Without content you wil not rank, top 1 ranking signal. #pubcon

Links not even in top 3 as a ranking factor

You can rank within links.

— Ben Fisher (@TheSocialDude) September 21, 2023

Danny Goodwin also covered him saying this at Search Engine Land, “Links are not a “top 3” ranking signal and hasn’t been “for some time,” Illyes said, adding that there really isn’t a universal top 3. It’s absolutely possible to rank without links, Illyes said, citing an example of a page with zero internal or external links that he knew of that was ranking Position 1 on Porsche cars – and Google had only found the page via a sitemap.”

Some history for you, a year or so ago, Duy Nguyen from Google’s search quality team said, “backlinks as a signal has a lot less significant impact compared to when Google Search first started out many years ago.” We also covered that Google said links would likely become even less important in the future. And even Matt Cutts, the former Googler, said something similar about eight years ago and the truth is, links are weighted a lot less than it was eight years ago and that trend continues. A couple of years ago, Google said links are not the most important Google search ranking factor.

Note: I am posting stories today, Sunday, because tomorrow is Yom Kippur and I am not posting anything on Yom Kippur.

Forum discussion at X.

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