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Inbound Links as a Ranking Factor: What You Need to Know

Let's consider claims around inbound links as ranking factors, followed by evidence to support or debunk those claims.

Inbound links, or backlinks as commonly referred to, are important to SEO for as long as Google has been using algorithms to rank search results.

Historically, having more inbound links increases a site's chances of ranking high in search results.

Links are still important to Google, but with more nuance than in the days of PageRank..

Let's consider claims around inbound links as ranking factors, followed by evidence to support or debunk those claims.

Disclaimer: Inbound Links Are Ranking Factors

Inbound links are links from other domains to your website.

There are many claims of inbound links as a ranking factor.

First, inbound links are a ranking signal for Google’s search algorithm.

In other words, Google evaluates links to a page when determining how to rank the page in search results.

Other claims about inbound links relate to the strength of the ranking signals generated by the links.

Quantity is considered one of these factors, with more links producing a stronger signal.

Referring domains were considered another factor, with high authority and relevant sources creating stronger ranking signals.

The next section will dissect these claims and cover what matters to Google when it comes to inbound links.

Evidence of inbound links as a ranking factor

Google's algorithm is built on links.

PageRank is an algorithm built by the Google search engine to rank content based solely on links when it first launched.

Describe to the public how its algorithms work, Google once said:

"PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of a website's importance.The underlying assumption is that more important sites may get more links from other sites.

Google's algorithm has been updated to take other factors into account, but inbound links are still an important signal.

The company makes the same point on its "How Search Works" microsite, which describes how Google's algorithms evaluate web page quality:

"We looked for sites where many users seemed to value similar queries.For example, if other well-known sites are linking to the page (called PageRank), this has proven to be a good sign that the information is well trusted.

Aggregated feedback from the search quality assessment process is used to further refine how our systems identify information quality.

There is no doubt that inbound links are a Google ranking factor.Now, let's look at the next statement.

Does the number of inbound links matter to Google?

The claim that the number of inbound links is a ranking factor has been refuted by Google.

Google's John Mueller said the total number of inbound links to a site had "completely nothing" to do with search rankings.

Mueller explained why the number of links wasn't a factor, saying it was an easily manipulated signal.

He advises website owners not to pay attention to how many backlinks they have.Google may even choose to ignore most of a site's inbound links and only look at relevant links.Mueller said:

"We're trying to understand what's relevant to the site, how much we should weigh these individual links, and the total number of links doesn't matter at all.Because if you want, you can create millions of links on millions of websites and we can ignore them.

Or maybe there's a really good link coming from a website, and to us that's a very important sign that we should see the website as something relevant because it has a link.I don't know, maybe from the home page of a big news site, eg.So the total is basically completely irrelevant.

In that statement, Mueller confirmed that the authority and relevance of the referring domain was also taken into account.

Inbound Links as Ranking Factors: Our Verdict

To recap, here are the Verdicts of all claims based on the evidence we presented:

  • Be – Inbound links are a ranking factor.
  • no – The number of inbound links is not a ranking factor.To be clear, this means that simply increasing the raw number of backlinks won’t help you, especially if the link quality is low.However, there is a way that quantity matters: having a lot of great links is always better than having a few great links.
  • 是 的 – The relevance and quality of the referring domain is a ranking factor.

Extended reading:

Keyword Stuffing as a Google Ranking Factor: What You Need to Know

Keyword Prominence as a Google Ranking Factor: What You Need to Know

HTTPS as a Google Ranking Factor: What You Need to Know

Fresh Content as a Google Ranking Factor: What You Need to Know

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