Google’s John Mueller said on Twitter that he thinks that many SEOs and sites think about links “much more than necessary.” He said Google does “use links to help discover new content.” He didn’t mention ranking but yes, Google does use links for rankings.
The question he was answering was “is there any possibility that in future Google Search will remove backlink as their rankings factor?” John responded “everything is possible, but we tend not to make pre-announcements. While we do use links to help discover new content, I suspect a lot of sites think about them much more than necessary.”
Everything is possible, but we tend not to make pre-announcements. While we do use links to help discover new content, I suspect a lot of sites think about them much more than necessary.
— ???? John ???? (@JohnMu) March 17, 2021
John has been downplaying the value of links more recently, saying months ago links aren’t the only reason sites rank but removing them, if they are the reason you rank, can downgrade your rankings. Google’s Matt Cutts did say in 2014 that Google did once try to test removing links as a ranking factor and it did not go well. I suspect Google is always testing things like this.
I cannot imagine a Google Search results page that does not use link signals and anchor text as a ranking signal. Yes, Google is way better at not counting spammy links but still…
Forum discussion at Twitter.