Google no longer considers links to be one of the top three ranking signals

Google: Links No Longer A Top Three Ranking Signal

A Revolution in SEO: The Reevaluation of Links

In an unforeseen shift, Google has recently reported that links are no longer among the top three ranking signals in its search algorithm. In previous years, high-quality incoming links were among the most critical factors for a site’s ranking on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Given Google’s continual adjustments to its algorithm, it is not surprising that the value of different ranking signals can change over time. However, this particular change marks a significant sea-change.

This new development does not mean that links have become irrelevant in SEO strategy. Instead, they have been shuffled down the priority list. It’s essential to reevaluate the significance of this new reality and adjust our practices accordingly. For digital marketers, SEO experts, or website owners, understanding these changes could be the difference in enhancing online visibility or getting lost in the countless webpages of the internet.

By recognizing and reacting to such crucial shifts promptly, you can ensure that your strategies are effective and relevant. The key now lies in figuring out what other aspects carry more weight than hyperlinks in Google’s current algorithm. But first, let’s take a brief look at why this change came about.

To illustrate this, consider when Google was founded in 1998, one of its groundbreaking innovations was the use of links as a way to measure a website’s quality. With the “PageRank” algorithm, the more backlinks a page had, particularly from high-authority websites, the higher it ranked. This methodology aimed to echo academic citation, where research papers with the most citations typically signify influential research. But as marketers began exploiting this system, developing link-building schemes that artificially inflated a page’s perceived quality, Google had to rethink its algorithm.

  • The PageRank algorithm valued pages with more backlinks highly
  • Marketers started exploiting this system with artificial link-building schemes
  • High authority websites linking to a page significantly improved its ranking
  • An inflated number of backlinks created an illusion of high-quality content or importance
  • The new update is intended to ensure that the value of links as a ranking signal correlates with their true beneficiality for users
  • This change favors genuine, valuable content over link manipulation strategies.

The New Age: More Significant Ranking Factors Than Links

Now that we know why Google is rethinking the role of links in its ranking strategy, it’s essential to identify what has become more significant. While these adjustments are kept reasonably private to prevent gaming the system, industry experts and trends can give us valuable insights into the possible highest-ranking signals currently considered by Google.

From various studies and SEO professional experiences, three top factors seem to have emerged at the forefront of Google’s algorithm – quality content, RankBrain (Google’s machine-learning artificial intelligence system), and user experience signals. Given the numerous changes Google has implemented over the years, it is apparent that the company aims to prioritize authentic, high-quality information relevant to a searcher’s query above all else.

Together, the combination of these elements can either elevate your search engine rankings or leave you trailing behind. Let’s explore each factor in detail and how they dynamically affect the SERPs rankings.

In this context, for instance, a website focused on providing thoughtful, polished content that addresses specific questions or needs from its audience will likely receive a favorable nod from Google’s ranking protocol, more than one that merely floods the internet with backlinks solicited or purchased through less-than-above-board means. Moreover, if the website keeps its visitors engaged with accessible design and effortless navigation — hallmarks of good User Experience (UX), and is optimized in line with RankBrain’s preference for valuable, relevant content, its ranking will undoubtedly soar.

  • Quality content reigns supreme — it should be original, comprehensive, and answer the user’s queries effectively
  • RankBrain favors websites that demonstrate relevance to the search query and offers value to the end-user
  • User experience signals, like bounce rates and dwell time, play a key role since they indicate how audiences interact with your website
  • Site architecture and navigability significantly contribute to improving these user experience signals
  • Sleazy techniques like keyword stuffing and unnatural inbound link schemes are frowned upon, if not penalized
  • An all-around healthy and organic optimization effort will always fare better in Google’s eyes.


Ranking Factor Before Important Ranking Factors Now
Backlinks Quality Content
Backlinks RankBrain AI (Relevance)
Backlinks User Experience Signals

Going Ahead: Navigating SEO in this Changed Landscape

The evolution of Google’s ranking algorithm is constant. While links may not hold as much weight as before, they’re far from irrelevant. Instead of focusing solely on backlink generation, it’s crucial to align your SEO strategy with the current leading factors — quality content, RankBrain, and User Experience signals. Understanding each of these elements and their impact on SERPs can help you craft a more persuasive and effective SEO plan.

Shifting away from link-centric strategies does require some adjustments. However, it opens up opportunities for meaningful and sustainable SEO built on creating genuine value for website visitors. By delivering engaging, quality content, providing a first-rate user experience, and aligning with RankBrain’s criteria, you can maximize your website’s visibility and performance in Google search results.

As this new landscape takes shape, staying informed about these changes and the resulting adaptations required will be essential to keep up with competitors, meet potential customers’ needs, and ultimately succeed online.

To illustrate, imagine you operate an e-commerce platform. Previously, you may have invested significantly in link-building techniques. But with these recent shifts, your focus should turn towards creating detailed product descriptions, buyer guides, and blog posts that answer commonly asked customer questions, improving website navigation and speed to enhance user experience, and ensuring your product pages are optimized in line with RankBrain’s criteria. This approach becomes a holistic way of accommodating the leading ranking factors, likely bringing forth success in your e-commerce venture.

  • Create compelling, helpful content – not just for SEO but to provide real value to readers
  • Optimize for Rankbrain by focusing on relevance — understand what the user wants and deliver it
  • Incorporate good UX into your site design to encourage longer dwell times and lower bounce rates
  • Keep tabs on SEO updates and adjust strategy accordingly for optimal gains
  • Think beyond links; looking at other factors like social signals and mobile optimization is important too
  • A multi-faceted approach is always more effective than one-dimensional strategies.