Most SEOs know that SERP rankings are determined by multiple factors; it has been knowledge for years that Google takes into account more than 200 ranking factors when assigning positions.
When John Mueller was asked whether backlinks single-handedly determine a site’s trust in the eyes of Google, his answer was fairly predictable.
Entirely as expected, he said “when it comes to trust it is definitely not a matter of just links that are pointing at a website.”
His comments came during a recent video hang out, when he was asked whether there is more to gaining Google’s trust than quality backlinks:
“Does a website which includes great content improve in trust with Google or is that only determined through links?” – The question asked by the curious website owner.
In response, Mr Mueller made it clear that assigning trust is far from such a simple ‘binary’ issue:
“I don’t think we have a trust factor that we can kind of look at and say oh trust is at, I don’t know, 9 out of 12 or whatever numbers you would have there. So that’s kind of, I don’t know,” he said.
“It is almost like a philosophical question at that point. It’s like does improving the quality of your content overall make a website more trustworthy with regards to Google?”
“I don’t know there are no metrics specifically for that. I think improving the quality of your content is always a good idea but uh it’s, yeah, I don’t know, lots of things are involved there.”
Summing up the whole thing neatly and concisely, he went on to state outright that “when it comes to trust it’s definitely not a matter of just links that are pointing at a website.”
Quality vs. Quantity
On the subject of backlinks, Mr Mueller was also recently asked to confirm Google’s stance on the whole ‘quality vs. quantity’ issue.
“What matters most? The number of unique referring backlink domains or the total number of backlinks?” – The question asked during the hangout.
To which, Mr Mueller again confirmed what most SEOs already now know; quantity is meaningless in the absence of quality.
“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 said.
“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,”
“Or 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. I don’t know, maybe from like a big news site’s home page, for example. So the total number essentially is completely irrelevant.” Put simply, you could get more credit from Google with a single quality backlink than a million low-grade links.