Did Google Say Links Don't Matter That Much Any More?

What Google Search Team has recently said about Google Links
Chris Lonergan
Chris Lonergan April 24, 2024

Gary Illyes - an analyst and front-facing Google Search Team member - was recently a featured speaker at an SEO and digital marketing conference. There, he talked a bit about the value of links and some changes in recent times at Google. What he said caused a bit of excitement amongst SEOs on social media.

What The Google Search Team Says About Links And Ranking

Gary, who you might recognize from Google's recently published "How Search Works" video series, was recently asked about the value of links and search engine optimization.

Gary's response was quoted as "We need very few links to rank pages... Over the years we've made links less important."

In fact, when another speaker at the conference - Patrick Stox of Ahrefs - quoted Gary's response on social media, Gary more or less confirmed via reply, saying "I shouldn't have said that... I definitely shouldn't have said that"

How Does This Impact My Organic SEO Plans?

If you're using Footbridge Media for your contractor marketing plans, it doesn't impact your plans at all. Our organic optimization plan is always updated and adjusted to match the times and algorithm changes.

We have a specific plan of attack regarding the right industry links that make sense for our home service companies and what drives contractor search engine optimization and organic visibility improvements.

"But I Thought Links Were A Big Deal"

Links used to be a much bigger determining factor of rank. Links were so popular that SEOs spent a lot of time prioritizing the number of links over the quality of links.

  • 2012 — Google's Penguin update was specifically designed to fight link-building spam.
  • 2016 — Another Google Search team member, Andrey Lipattsev, was quoted as saying that links were among the top three search ranking factors.
  • 2023 — In contrast - at 2023's PubCon, Gary Illyes suggested that links were no longer a "top 3" ranking signal— saying that they haven't been in the top 3 for some time. Even then, Gary suggested, "It's absolutely possible to rank without links."

We still believe that links should be part of a comprehensive marketing plan, but they are not the only ranking factor.

The Importance Of Links And Your Local Optimization

We're not saying you should delete all of your links and discontinue any marketing service you use.

There is still value in outside links for your online marketing. Specifically, having web citations as part of your online linking structure is still important in helping Google understand the local part of your business. Your NAP—name, address, and phone number—is still important. Your NAP consistency also includes your website URL.

Having the right placement in the directories and resources online where it makes sense for reputable contractors to exist is still an important part of connecting the dots with Google - so that they understand your business operates in a specific area.

It's partially how Google can tell your website should appear for organic and local search - because your Google Business Profile and website have on-site and off-site indicators.

So at the end of the day, this isn't so much a shocking revelation as much as it is something that has been slowing shifting over time.

Instead of focusing on just building links overall, the better bet is to create quality content that people would want to link to anyway. For customers and for the sake of linking in Google, it's still a solid tactic.

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