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We’ve been told for years just how important link building is for SEO. Many have even built out entire link-building strategies for their SEO plan, hoping it will make a big enough difference. Unfortunately, or fortunately for those of us who hate it, links are not as powerful as we once thought.

Google’s Gary Illyes was asked whether links are still among the three most important Google Search ranking factors. He does not.

“I think they are important, but I think people overestimate the importance of links. I don’t agree it’s in the top three. It hasn’t been for some time.”

Now, before you get too excited thinking that you no longer have to worry about links, that’s not what we are saying. They’re just not AS important as they used to be. But why is that? Is it because links actually don’t matter or is it because the reasoning behind links can be gathered in a different way?

Why We Think Link Building Isn’t As Important

The first thing we need to ask is: why were links such an important ranking factor previously? The answer is simple. A large number of inbound links means that your page is trusted as a source of authoritative and accurate information. If another website links to your page, it means they thought your page was good enough to warrant mentioning in their content.

So it isn’t that we don’t care if a page is authoritative and accurate, but we are just able to find that information easier than through links.

With each Google update, their algorithm is able to tell how accurate, authoritative, and trustworthy content is without needing links.

Illyes also said, “it is possible to rank without links.” Although it very much sounded like an edge case, he mentioned one case in which a website had zero links (internal or external) but had such fantastic content that it was ranking number one consistently. Google was only able to discover it via the website’s sitemap.

As we said earlier, this doesn’t mean that links don’t matter at all. It just means that they are no longer in the top three. This could mean that links continue to drop down on the list of the most important factors, but they could also stay just shy of the top three. Only time will tell.

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