Everyone knows that Google has been making lots of changes to their search algorithm over the past few years, and one thing most of the changes have in common is that they are devaluing links. Whether it is devaluing specific types of links, or actually ‘punishing’ other types of links, Google is clearly looking at other factors on a larger sale than ever before in determining SERPs.
Google’s Head of Search Engine Spam was recently asked about the possibility of Google at some point entirely eliminating the backlink as a factor in determining ranking. The specific question was, “Hi Matt, does the big G have a version of the search engine that totally excludes any backlink relevance? I’m wondering what search would look like and am curious to try it out.”
In a “GoogleWebmasterHelp” video, Matt answered the question. He said that they don’t have a version of Google like that available to the public. He also confirmed, however, that they have run experiments like that internally.
“The quality looks much much worse. It turns out that backlinks, even though there is some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part are still a really really big win in terms of quality for search results.”
Based on this, it is clear that Google will still be ranking sites based on backlinks, at least to some extent. Matt did say later in the video that “at least for now” backlinks would still be used for determining search results. Obviously he is leaving it open to the possibility of eliminating backlinks from consideration, though it is very unlikely that will be anytime soon.
While nobody is going to be surprised that Google isn’t planning on eliminating backlinks as a criteria at this point, there is something quite interesting from this video. The fact that Google has been at least experimenting with this as an option. This really shows just how much Google is willing to devalue these links going forward. Their goal is, of course, to provide the best search results possible, and my take on this video is that they would like to someday do that without backlinks.
Just one more reason marketers need to be always on the lookout for the best SEO practices that will work LONG TERM and not just go for backlink based quick fixes.