Why is Google so coy about links?

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  • October 10, 2008
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Ask any decent SEO consultant what the secret to ranking highly on Google is and they will say “Get lots and lots of quality, relevant links to your site. Ideally with keywords in the anchor text”. Sure you need to have your site optimised as well but even the most optimised site won’t rank in a moderately competitive niche without links.

The really tough bit is getting the links – so why is Google so coy about it?

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines make very little mention of links, their latest blog post Good times with inbound links is also pretty vague and certainly doesn’t give webmasters the information they need.

What Google Says:

Inbound links can bring new users to your site, and when the links are merit-based and freely-volunteered as an editorial choice, they’re also one of the positive signals to Google about your site’s importance. Other signals include things like our analysis of your site’s content, its relevance to a geographic location, etc. As many of you know, relevant, quality inbound links can affect your PageRank (one of many factors in our ranking algorithm).

Let’s say I have a site, example.com, that offers users a variety of unique website templates and design tips. One of the strongest ranking factors is my site’s content. Additionally, perhaps my site is also linked from three sources — however, one inbound link is from a spammy site. As far as Google is concerned, we want only the two quality inbound links to contribute to the PageRank signal in our ranking.


Why is Google so worried about telling webmasters the truth about how to rank? It almost seems like they are embarrassed about their algorithm and want to phase out the link based part in favour of on-site signals.

The end result of this is lots of sites who have no idea why their website with perfect on-site SEO is stuck on page 6.

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