How do links work?

The Real Role Links Have In Ranking

We are deeply involved in links from every possible angle and involved in the wider topic of which off page signals matter for improving visibility, as our opinions update or the situation changes we update this page.
Last updated 4th March 2021

How we think about

the ranking process

Once upon a time, when someone embarked on an online search, Google went off and looked for the site that contained the most links for that phrase. That would be the one it delivered… but that was then, and this is now.

Links still play a hugely important role in how Google sees the world, but they are rarely the reason that a site is returned in a set position for a query. I like to think of it this way: links act as a qualifier for consideration by the machines, and you need enough links to become worthy of consideration. However, Google very often uses an array of other signals when deciding the actual order in which it returns results.

Some pertinent questions might be: How relevant is the page to the query? How does it meet the true intention of what the searcher was looking for? How much can I trust this result? How likely is it that the result will satisfy users? These are just a few questions of many.

I’m not saying that links aren’t important. In some queries they merely propel you into the consideration stage, while in other less competitive queries these links might be the loudest of the other signals. Therefore having more of them is actually what puts you on an upward trajectory.

For the majority of queries, however, links are competing with plenty of other loud signals while Google is deciding what to return. Link building alone will not guarantee the desired results; you have to ensure that you’re delivering relevancy and value in your content - and in a way that gives Google confidence that it is ranking you for the appropriate terms.
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