There has been an ongoing debate among the SEO community that suggests that the importance of links in Google’s algorithm is decreasing, instead being slowly replaced by other factors such as social signals.
Well, it seems enough people have thought exactly that, and it has sparked a response from Google’s head of web spam; Matt Cutts had this to say in a recent video.
“We don’t have a version like that that is exposed to the public, but we have run experiments like that internally, and the quality looks much, much worse,” Cutts said. “It turns out backlinks, even though there’s 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.”
He then went on to say that backlink relevance “still really helps in terms of making sure that we return the best, most relevant, most topical set of search results.”
So, whilst many people have suggested that soon Google’s algorithm will be based entirely around social signals as opposed to links, it seems that they are a long way off yet.
For now, we are going to have to continue relying upon links to determine Google’s final decision to rank a site.
To summarise: I actually agree with the debate and have no doubt in my mind that the importance of links is decreasing. But, Google are a very long way off removing them entirely, as Matt has recently confirmed.
See the full video from Matt Cutts below.