Google expects the strength of the backlink ranking factor will decrease

During a live session at Brighton SEO, Google search attorney John Mueller makes a prediction for the future of backlinks.

Mueller, joined by fellow Googler Lizzi Sassman and guest Miriam Jesse, answer several questions during the live recording of the Search Off The Record podcast.

Since it’s a podcast, the questions are treated as a group discussion, with the hosts answering pre-set questions rather than interacting with the live audience.

The hosts together answer the question of how Google punishes backlinks, which asks:

“As an SEO, we are concerned with backlinks. However, active work on backlinks often becomes a gray area in terms of link schemes. What are Google’s main criteria for penalizing backlinks?”

After some foreplay between the hosts, Mueller takes direction with his answer which is a slight departure from the original question.

Google representatives are often cautious when answering questions about rating and punishment criteria.

Generally, Google does not encourage any form of unnatural link generation. Leaving too much detail about penalties can encourage “grey hat” behavior or walk a fine line between what is acceptable and what is not.

Rather than talking about penalties, Muller discusses the backlink ranking signal in general and why it may become less important to SEO professionals in the future.

Google’s John Mueller on the backlink ranking signal

As Google becomes more adept at understanding how content fits in with the rest of the web, Mueller suggests that Google’s algorithm won’t have to rely so much on incoming links.

Muller says:

“Well, it’s something I imagine that, over time, the weight on the links will at some point drop a little bit as we can figure out a little better how the content fits into the context of the entire web.”

Perhaps this is Mueller’s way of saying that penalties are not worth worrying about because backlinks will be of no value to getting them in the future.

However, suggesting backlinks is only useful for understanding the content ignoring all the other information they convey.

A backlink cookie can tell you a lot about a website, such as how much others trust it, who trusts it, and how reliable the site is in its own niche.

Is Google able to determine all of that from just the content of the page?

Mueller isn’t talking about the power side of internal links, though he says it will continue to help Google discover content.

Mueller continues:

“And to some extent, links are always going to be something we care about because we have to find pages somehow. It’s like how do you find a page on the web without going back to it?”

But my guess as time goes by, it won’t be as big of a factor as it sometimes is today. I really think, that’s something that’s changing a little bit.”

Hear the full discussion at 13:17 in Google’s latest Search Off The Record podcast:

Featured Image: AlenD / Shutterstock

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