Google Changes Ranking Advice, Says Build Quality Sites Not Links

google-penguin-featuredGoogle has quietly updated the rankings article within the Google Webmaster Help documentation. The change is to keep Google consistent with their general change in messaging that content is what webmasters should focus on, not links.

Previously, the article had a line that read:

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.

We’ve bolded the key part, which was changed on May 27th to say:

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.

You can see the old version on The Wayback Machine; the change was spotted yesterday by Erik Baeumlisberger.

The change is consistent with a message that Google’s been pushing recently, to focus people less on link building and more on building quality content. The head of Google’s web spam fighting team, Matt Cutts, spoke about this in a video to publishers on April 29:

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He again repeated his belief earlier this month that focusing on link building too much is a mistake by some SEOs:

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Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: Webmaster Central | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • hostile_17

    What’s a “build quality” site?

    I think “build high quality sites”, is what they mean.

  • Paul Bain

    An excellent comment, and excellent advice, too. Good job!

    – Paul D. Bain

  • Nick Ker

    Unfortunately, it seems as if a lot of people don’t remember the old days when links were really the only reliable way to connect everything. Now people don’t see links as an endorsement or source of referral traffic as much as they see them as “points” to score with Google.

    Your attitude toward links as a traffic source is a good one. Providing what your audience wants and networking with like-minded sites independently from any one entity like Google or even Facebook does ensure that you have a real infrastructure for traffic, even if Google suddenly switched to all paid inclusion. The problem is that there is a whole generation or two who seem to have no idea that links are really one website endorsing another and lending some credibility. So they chase the “links are votes” concept and try to stuff the ballot box with bulk directories, and all the other spam link building nonsense.
    I don’t think Google cares very much about referral traffic, as links that do send traffic are generally not going to be the type of thing that the various spam filters are after – unless they are actually paid advertisements or are otherwise there only to manipulate rankings.

    Google is in a tight spot – they want to use the traditional intent of linking as a way to measure popularity and relevancy, but want to ignore or penalize links that are placed just for ranking. Being able to make that judgement call on an algorithmic level for millions of pages is no easy task. This shift away from mentioning links is probably supposed to reduce the number of people who buy thousands of links and then claim Google told them to do it.
    Or maybe I am just giving G too much credit. If I am right, they should probably add some verbiage about links as “credible endorsements” or something like that, in addition to all the talk of sharing (which I take to include links).

  • Nick Ker

    Yep. And let’s not forget how much of the print media world dismissed the internet as a fad. And how people still dismiss social media, facebookers dismissed twitter, Tweeters and FBers dismissed G+…

  • Tommy Clark

    i remember back in the day when you had a website you just had to make it and you’d practically be on page 1 now all seo stuff and backlinks are in play. but i agree its hard to get noticed if your a amazing site you have to get a couple backlinks going ! but i totally agree once you have a couple of those people and then they shareit etc.. word starts spreading like wild fire as long as its a great site with great content ! like i mean check out they’re the only freelance networking site thats commission free and there exploding by word of mouth!

  • Michael Hence

    I believe that the word “share” is key in this change as social signals are now a factor in the relevance of content. If social networks were not important to Google or believed by Google to be irrelevant then they would not have created a social network themselves.

  • Andrew

    I wonder if they recalculate PR in their crawler’s itenrations and what the PR means today in terms of SEO? I remember using the Link-Assistant tool to build links and spending hundreds of dollars to get paid links.
    Isn’t it vivid that if someone doesn’t promote his product building links, he won’t get as many traffic if he actually did? I mean even if his content is great… :

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