For those still pushing backlinks as the golden goose of SEO, a recent revision to Google’s Ranking help guidelines could be potentially frightening. But, if you’ve been watching the changes in SEO over the past few years it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Google has become more and more strict about backlink quality and linkbuilding methods, and links were bound to be dethroned.

As reported by Search Engine Watch, it was spotted late last week that Google updated the Ranking help article to say “in general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.” Before, it told webmasters that they could improve their rank “by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.”

There have been countless signs that Google would officially step back from linkbuilding as one of the most important ranking signals. There were widespread complaints for a while about competitors using negative SEO techniques like pointing bad links to websites, and every Penguin iteration that comes out is a significant event in SEO.

To top it all off, when Matt Cutts, the esteemed Google engineer, was asked about the top 5 basic SEO mistakes, he spent a lot of time talking about the misplaced emphasis on link building.

“I wouldn’t put too much of a tunnel vision focus on just links,” Cutts said. “I would try to think instead about what I can do to market my website to make it more well known within my community, or more broadly, without only thinking about search engines.”

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