If you want your site to perform well in searches, you probably keep up to date with what Google reports is good or bad for SEO. On a recent livestream, Google’s John Mueller revealed that one metric is not as important as you may have previously believed: the number of backlinks.
Mueller, who you may recognize as the Trends Analyst for Google Search Central, discussed the relevance of backlinks in searches on a Google hangout on Feb. 19. The livestream was part of the long-running Google Search Central SEO hangout series, on which Mueller and other Google team members chat about SEO secrets and trends.
According to Mueller, backlinks are important – but it is their quality, not quantity, that will affect search performance.
When asked whether the number of unique backlinks mattered more or less than the total number of backlinks, Mueller said, “I don’t think we differentiate like that in our systems. From my point of view, I would tend not to focus on the total number of links to your site, or the total number of domain links to your website, because we look at links in a very different way.”
He added that the relevancy of the links is what Google actually keeps an eye out for:
“We try to understand what is relevant for a website, how much should we weigh these individual links, and the total number of links doesn’t matter at all. Because you could go off and create millions of links across millions of websites if you wanted to, and we could just ignore them all.”
He then provided an example:
“There could be one really good link from one website out there that is, for us, a really important sign that we should treat this website as something that is relevant because it has that one link (…) maybe from a big news site’s home page, for example.”
Site owners who have stressed over the quantity of backlinks can rest easy now. It turns out, as Mueller explained, relevance is what Google really cares about.