Everything Google’s John Mueller said about links in 2020
Carrie Rose Founder & CEO
5 min read
Monday, 28th December 2020
This year, Google’s John Mueller, didn’t actually say much about links. In fact, he talks very little about links overall in recent months. He’s highlighted actually that links may be an important ranking factor, high up on the list but isn’t THE most important.
It seems he felt the industry may have gone ALL in on links in 2019 and now he’s communicating the wider importance of other ranking factors too. However, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t added value or shared some golden nuggets about backlinks. In fact, hes clarified some of the biggest debates about links, laughed at the DA argument and quietened anyone that talks about paid links and the no follow quality argument.
So for everyone’s benefit, I've rounded up everything John Mu has said about links in 2020 that you NEED to know...
1. Starting off positive...
- “I've seen some really cool things this year in the name of link building. The lazy short-cuts are all the same & boring, but there are also smart folks doing great work that falls into the broader category of building awareness & links for sites.”
Thanks John. See our best performing digital PR and link building strategies of 2020 here https://riseatseven.com/blog/rise-at-sevens-best-digital-pr-campaigns-of-2020/
2. Here is John’s answer to how long it takes for a link to take effect in Google:
“The way that we process links is something that is continuous. So it’s not that we have to wait for a specific time frame to see the new effect of the links.
But rather when we see links on the web we can take them into account essentially immediately.”
His confirmation that links can take effect “essentially immediately” might seem startling to some. That may be that it takes weeks or months to see an effect on rankings because it may take more than just one or five or ten links to see an effect in rankings.
3. “There Is No Optimal Number Of Links On A Page”
4. “links from Wikipedia have no SEO value and do nothing to help your site”
5. “Guest blog post links have zero value”
6. “links are NOT the most important SEO factor”
7. “You Don't Need A Good Distribution Between Followed & Unfollowed Links”
8. “There are still algorithms that look at link quality”
9. “International links pass the same weight as local links.” - A U.K. brand getting international links holds the same value! This was probably the biggest one for me that I’ve been arguing for TIME!
10. “the quality of links doesn't depend on their nationality or the languages they speak”
11. “Random Or Unrelated Links Aren't Necessarily Bad” - he said this as part of a discussion regarding finding “random” links , that hadn’t been purposefully built and how you shouldn’t automatically assume they are bad.
12. “links from Wikipedia have no SEO value and do nothing to help your site” - we recently got a link on Wikipedia, no value, but client loved it. Our data was sourced as a credible resource, a signal of trust for users.
13. “We Don't Use Links On YouTube For Search”
14. “it would be "really rare" that disavowing links would help you purely algorithmically to rank better in search”
15. “buying links is like buying cheap stuff off AliExpress”
16. “most sites do not have toxic links when asked to add a filter in Search Console’s link report for bad links”
17. “links in PDFs are treated as nofollow links, but as @glenngabe points out, @methode said links in PDFs do pass PageRank and signals.”
18. “It’s Not Worth Signing Up For Dofollow Profile Links” - this was said in response to someone signing up to hundreds of tools and applications to get profile links basically saying they’re not worth anything.
19. “Reciprocal links aren't necessarily bad." But he did warn that Google is good at finding "link schemes & similar games that are sometimes played in that space."
20. “Social media links (Pinterest) arent problematic
21. “In general, if you're buying a link, it should be with rel=nofollow or rel=sponsored, and that generally wouldn't pass any SEO signals. However, it can still be good for your site because it brings good visitors, who might convert on your site, or who might recommend it later.” - I love how John himself is pushing the industry to think less about SEO signals and more about engagement, and how links can drive other valuable results. Something we’ve been championing and exact reason we launched Rise at Seven
22. “Google does use the content around the link for a secondary signal but the real "strong piece" of context comes from the anchor text of a link” - we’ve also been testing this. Keyword proximity to a link and impact on rankings! But interesting how anchor text is still important here
23. “high domain authority with backlinks does not guarantee high rankings in Google” - something we’ve been testing and arguing too. We have our own proof of what makes a good link.
24. “Making sure the links use rel=nofollow / rel=sponsored would still allow sites to get visibility without having to worry about manual actions.”
25. “definitely use rel=sponsored for affiliate links, if you can. And to be more complete: affiliate links are not bad. It's fine to monetize your site. Google's OK with that. There's no need to hide them”
26. “Paid links (aka ads) are fine as long as they're disclosed with rel=nofollow or rel=sponsored. Affiliate links may also be there because of a monetary relationship, so that would apply there too (most of the time the bigger problem on affiliate sites is the content).”
Some of our own thoughts about links:
A. Link engagement should be considered (whether a link even gets clicked)
B. No follow links do pass value
C. You can get links directly to category pages - the golden result. (Get in touch for us to show you our tactics - in short we just have awesome ideas to turn category pages into creative, engaging, useful , data filled assets)
D. Links in the US are more likely to be canonicaled. That’s not a bad thing, just not as good. Read about canonical links value here https://riseatseven.com/blog/linking-sites-with-canonical-tags-pass-link-value/
E. You can rank #1 with just a handful of links - we proved this. Read here https://twitter.com/carrierosepr/status/1266299641827483649?s=21
F. Build links on publications your audience read
This list was compiled with the help of Barry Schwartz https://twitter.com/rustybrick?s=21 and thanks to John for being the most helpful and kind person in SEO!