How Google Views Authorship, Links, and Disavowing Links in SEO: Insights from Gary Illyes

How Google Views Authorship, Links, and Disavowing Links in SEO

Keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of SEO can be a herculean task, as search engines like Google are always improving their algorithms to generate more accurate and relevant results.

Gary Illyes of Google recently divulged key areas that SEO experts should concentrate on when improving their websites’ search engine optimization.

In his speech, Illyes explored the significance of authorship, links and disavowing links in SEO through Google’s eyes. In this article, we will go further to examine each one of these topics with more detail for SEO professionals.

Authorship: Why Big Names Won’t Guarantee Better Rankings

At PubCon, Illyes offered an attention-grabbing insight: the size and fame of who authors your content won’t necessarily increase its search engine rankings. Google isn’t too swayed by a name behind it—so you can rest assured that quality reigns supreme in this case!

Although having well-known authors write for your website will certainly add credibility, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the article will rank high. The content itself needs to be of excellent quality for it to truly perform well.

This might appear to make no sense, especially when renowned authors only publish top-notch content. However, Illyes made mentioned that even if a major author had an off day and released something not up to par with their normal standard of writing, it still wouldn’t do well in the rankings due solely to his name being associated with it.

This highlights the importance of quality content in SEO, regardless of who writes it.

Quality Content Matters More Than Who Writes It

Illyes’ comments on authorship correspond with the burgeoning focus in SEO to prioritize quality content.

For many years, Google has highlighted the need for content to be relevant, precise and useful for their users. But more recently, they have further focused on user experience with key features like page speed, mobile optimization and safety.

Every one of these elements contributes to the ranking of a page in search engine results. Even though links remain significant, they no longer reign supreme when it comes to SEO. In fact, Illyes himself conceded that webmasters place greater emphasis on linkbuilding than necessary for gaining search visibility.

Links: How Important Are They?

Link-building has been a pivotal element of SEO since its foundation. It is based on the notion that if other webpages are pointing to your website, then search engines understand it as an indication that your content holds importance and pertinence.

As technology has advanced, so too have links. Google’s PageRank algorithm assesses the value and applicability of each link to ensure its authenticity. Additionally, other algorithms like Trust Rank evaluate a website’s trustworthiness based on external features such as domain age and content quality.

Links still play a critical role in SEO, yet more and more stakeholders in the industry have come to recognise that they are not all-encompassing. In reality, links don’t carry as much weight for optimisation purposes as experts had originally believed – something even Illyes himself confirmed at PubCon this year.

The Declining Importance of Links in SEO

For the past few years, Google has been steering away from using links for website ranking. In 2005, it added a nofollow attribute which enabled webmasters to keep Google from following certain backlinks. Later on, link directories that were seen as low-quality and spammy were removed by Google’s indexing system.

Google has been striving to assess the quality and value of content without depending on external links. This includes algorithms such as RankBrain, which use machine learning to ascertain what is meant in search queries and offer more applicable outcomes.

Can You Rank Without Links?

In light of the diminishing impact of links on SEO, many professionals in this field have been inquiring about whether or not it is feasible to achieve a ranking without relying on any external links. Luckily, Illyes corroborated that yes – it can be done! He declared that if there isn’t suitable content online already then you’re able to get top positions with just one link.

Crafting content that meets the standards of your target audience is an essential step in a successful digital marketing strategy. If you create content that provides value to your readers and solutions to their problems, it will likely be shared or linked by others without any effort on your part. This makes high-quality, pertinent material crucial for achieving greater online visibility and success.

It’s not only possible but highly likely to attain high rankings without a comprehensive link profile. Websites that focus on cultivating their brand identity, manufacturing top-notch content, and optimizing the user experience are just some of these success stories!

In fact, the graph below is from a website that I own: zero to 50,000 page views per month within 6 months and zero backlinks built.

0 to 50 000 page views per month in 6 months

Disavowing Links: Do They Really Matter?

Disavow files are one of the most debatable topics in SEO, as they offer webmasters a way to inform Google which links should be disregarded when assessing their website’s performance. Disavowing links is an effective solution for eliminating backlinks that could potentially hinder your site’s ranking in search engine results.

Disavowing links can be a beneficial tool to defend yourself from spammy or low-quality websites, or if your website has been targeted by malicious SEO attacks. However, according to Illyes’ research, it may not have the same level of importance that some SEO experts suggest.

Illyes expressed that disavowing links offers more peace of mind than true benefit. In actuality, there has been a higher ratio of sites affected in the negative by disavowing links instead of positively; as it can easily be done incorrectly and therefore important connections may unintentionally be lost in the process.

Disavowing Links: When It’s Appropriate

Generally, disavowing links is not a necessity; however, it can be the optimal choice in certain scenarios. If you have obtained links from questionable or low-grade websites or if someone has executed negative SEO tactics against your website, disavowing these links may serve as an effective tool to safeguard and maintain your website’s search engine optimization.

When leveraging disavow files, it’s a must to comprehend the harmful links and be mindful when discerning which ones ought to be disregarded. A complete link audit should be conducted in order to specialize potentially detrimental links, with further scrutiny into each one for assessing risk if discarded.

Disavowing Links: Potential Risks

Disavowing links can be advantageous in certain scenarios, however, there are likewise potential risks. One of the leading dangers is over-disavowal; this involves disavowing too many connections and negatively impacting your website’s SEO as a result.

Conversely, being careless during the disavow process can have disastrous repercussions. If you mistakenly delete beneficial links while deleting harmful ones, this could lead to significant SEO losses and your website’s rankings will suffer as a result. It is thus essential to be judicious when selecting which links should be revoked and which remain undisturbed.


To summarise, SEO professionals must now shift their focus to creating high-quality content that meets the needs of their target readers. Links are still vital but no longer essential; there is much evidence of websites achieving success in search engine rankings even with minimal link profiles. Ultimately, authorship, links and disavowing links have all changed significantly as far as relevance for SEO goes – and this warrants a refocusing on more meaningful material from marketers.

Disavowing links is a valuable tactic that can when utilised strategically, help your website stay optimized and rank highly in the long run. Thus it’s crucial to remain educated on SEO trends and best practices so as not to over-disavow or inadvertently lose important backlinks. By doing this you will ensure that you have an effective presence online for years to come.

SEO Consultant at Graham SEO
Graham McCormack is a technical SEO and organic website traffic growth specialist based in Wirral, UK with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
Graham McCormack
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