1. SEJ
  2.  ⋅ 
  3. SEO

Google: Overfocusing On Links Could Be A Waste Of Time

Google's John Mueller suggested that "over-focusing" on links could be a waste of time "doing things that don't make your website better"

Google says links are a waste of time

Google’s John Mueller answered a question on Reddit about backlinks and suggested that overfocusing on links could be a waste of time, a statement that fits a pattern from Google over the past six months.

Backlink Checkers Prioritize Their Crawls Differently

The person asking the question wanted to know why backlink checkers show different backlinks and without consensus, particularly for this site which was “relatively new” but fully indexed.

Backlink checkers aren’t choosing a site and the backlinks. They crawl the web and create a map of the link relationships between sites. The tools also prioritize what they crawl because the web is huge, so not everything gets crawled, much less included in their index.

This is what was asked:

“I have a couple backlinks on google search console on the “external links” page and I know recently I have gotten a few more.

However, on Ahrefs it says I have none. Is there a reason? My website is relatively new but I feel like that should not matter because everything is indexed and working properly. Is there a reason?”

Counting Links Is Subjective

Mueller said that there’s no “objective” way to count links, which may be a reference to the fact that every tool has to make a choice of what they crawl and include in their index.

He answered:

“There’s no objective way to count links on the web, and every tool collects its own data from crawling, which every tool does differently, so there will always be differences.”

More Important Things For Websites

Mueller’s answer first addressed not focusing on link counts and that search engines are able to discover webpages in ways other than links.

He answered:

“My recommendation would be not to focus so much on the absolute count of links. There are many ways that search engines can discover websites, such as with sitemaps.”

In the last part of his answer begins talking about links and appears to downplay them.

Mueller commented:

“There are more important things for websites nowadays, and over-focusing on links will often result in you wasting your time doing things that don’t make your website better overall.”

It’s pretty clear that he’s not talking about backlink counts anymore. He’s talking about links.

Related: Link Building for SEO: A Complete Guide

Google Has Signaled That Links Are Less Important

Over the past six months Google has been saying and hinting that links are less important than they used to be. Google’s update coincided with four changes to their documentation that downplayed the role of links, including the removing the word “important” in a sentence about links as a ranking factor. Everything else in the sentence remained the same, they only removed the word “important” from the documentation.


“Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”


Google uses links as a factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.

Read about March 2024 changes to links: Google March 2024 Core Update: 4 Changes To Link Signal

The first express statement that a Googler made was at PubCon Austin last fall where Gary Illyes stated that links aren’t even in the top 3 of ranking factors.

John Mueller even gave a hint two years ago that the role of links was going to become less important.

He said:

“…it’s something where I imagine, over time, the weight on the links at some point will drop off a little bit as we can figure out a little bit better how the content fits in within the context of the whole web.”

Read the Reddit discussion:

Why are my backlinks not showing up?

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero

SEJ STAFF Roger Montti Owner - at

I have 25 years hands-on experience in SEO and have kept on  top of the evolution of search every step ...

Google: Overfocusing On Links Could Be A Waste Of Time

Subscribe To Our Newsletter.

Conquer your day with daily search marketing news.