Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, answers a question about inbound links in his latest Webmaster Help video where a user writes in to ask:
How does Google determine quality content if there aren’t a lot of links to a post?
In general, in a situation like this Matt says you would have to consider the way search engines worked before they started using links as a ranking signal.
In a case like this, content would be judged based on the text on the page. Matt gives a simplified situation of how that would work:
- The first word that’s seen on a page would be counted more compared to the other words on the page.
- The second time a word is seen it would be counted “a little more, but not a ton more.”
- Additional instances of the word would lead Google to believe the page is about that topic.
However, with that being said, it doesn’t help to keep repeating a keyword over and over. After a while that would be viewed as keyword stuffing and could negatively impact the ranking of that page.
Another way Google would judge the quality of a page without an abundance of inbound links is whether or not that page is sitting on a reputable domain.
Without links pointing to a page, Matt says there is still a good chance of that page being returned in the search results if it satisfies a somewhat obscure query. If you have one of the only pieces of content on the web with a rare phrase someone is searching for, Google will return that page because it’s relevant to what the user is looking for.
To hear Matt’s full response in his own words, see the video below: