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Don’t give up on links – completely

Last month, Google updated some of its documentation and it did not go unnoticed by some SEO professionals that the seemingly innocuous phrase “Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages” lost the word “important”.

This change won’t have been made lightly, but the downplaying of the significance of links shouldn’t surprise us. As the amount of data Google has accrued over the years has increased, the more it will have become possible to identify patterns and use smaller samples to reach the required accuracy in its assessments. In the most simplistic terms possible, whereas once it might have needed to see a certain number of links to a site to rank it at a certain level, now it knows that sites at that level only need a smaller number, but perhaps in a certain configuration.

That doesn’t mean that we should give up on getting external links: far from it. But they need to be meaningful, relevant ones. And it’s quite likely that ‘mentions’, without direct links, are playing a role too.