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Google's Gary Illyes says you can't know which links are "deemed critical"

     
4:04 pm on Sep 5, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Google's Gary Illyes was responding to a question about links, and commented that it's close to impossible for webmasters to check which links are actually deemed critical. He went on to say that Google ignores "tons of links."

I'm sure we can have a good guess. ;)

[twitter.com...]
9:36 pm on Sept 5, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I prefer to ignore the critical links and bask in the complimentary links. :-)
2:06 am on Sept 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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^^ Grooooannnn
2:42 am on Sept 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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By "critical" I assume he means having an adverse affect.
6:58 am on Sept 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I understood him to mean "important" - especially as contrasted with non-critical = ignored.
7:04 am on Sept 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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crit·i·cal
adjective
1.expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgments.

Of course it depends on the context.

But the important message here IMO is that he's saying we can't tell. If that's true, then using a disallow file becomes even more enigmatic.

I removed the disallow files from all sites and didn't see any difference.
10:04 am on Sept 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Correction: intended to say "disavow" above.
10:14 am on Sept 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Everyone's favourite search engine:
critical
...
adjective
1. expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgements.
"I was very critical of the previous regime"
synonyms:censorious, condemnatory, condemning, castigatory, reproving, denunciatory, deprecatory, disparaging, disapproving, scathing, criticizing, fault-finding, judgemental, negative, unfavourable, unsympathetic

2. expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work of literature, music, or art.[OR link - Ed]
"she never won the critical acclaim she sought"
synonyms:evaluative, analytic, analytical, interpretative, expository, commentative, explanatory, explicative, elucidative


In usage: Context is the critical aspect in determining meaning.
11:25 am on Sept 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Now that they learned how to ignore links does this mean no more link penalties?
12:03 pm on Sept 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I am strongly of the opinion that Google has not been penalising links for a while.

They tried to move away from link penalties with Caffeine, but didn't get it right. They then asked for webmaster help in identifying link sellers, and many duly obliged by importing vast files of sellers. (This was packaged as a "disavow" file, to help against the perceived neg-SEO epidemic).

If I were a gigantic data-processing machine with an AI development programme, unparalleled in-the-wild usage data, and a sudden influx of user-provided disavowals, I would have combined the lot and started ignoring paid links.

Penalties are only required as a FUD-creation tool. If you have perfect detection, you can safely discount paid links. If you have rubbish detection, you have to discourage the market.
2:12 pm on Sept 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'm sure a good SEO would be able to tell which links are "critical", either from a positive or negative perspective. It should be relatively obvious.
What we can never know for sure is which ones Google class as critical, but we could take an educated guess.
4:51 pm on Sept 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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In my opinion it's best to have a large diversity of backlinks from many different domains, with a mix of dofollow and nofollow, numerous different anchor texts, etc.

There are two types of backlinks that I consider to be the best:
-- Backlinks from other sites in the same niche
-- Backlinks that send traffic

I think that Gary Illyes may have been a liitle careless in the use of the word "critical". In my view you shouldn't try to depend on a very small number of backlinks -- this could be precarious since for various reasons backlinks disappear all the time
5:43 pm on Sept 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I prefer to ignore the critical links and bask in the complimentary links.
“There's no such thing as bad publicity.” *

Yes, I realize you were joking--but seriously now, does G### know or care whether a link says good things or bad things? If 6000 different places say “Don’t pay attention to <a href = "http://example.com/">this site</a>: it gives terrible information” that's still 6000 sites choosing to link to you when they could equally well say “I refuse to give these charlatans any more publicity so I won't even spell out their URL”.


* Looking up this phrase, I was staggered to learn that plenty of places take it at face value and therefore feel they have to spend time composing sober rebuttals.
5:30 pm on Sept 20, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Come on people! Really, we're going to go round and round about critical vs crucial? (not counting EG's joke, which I rather enjoyed?

We are, of course, referring to critical as in sense #1 in Merriam-Webster: "of, relating to, or being a turning point or specially important juncture." Think critical as in "critical mass," "critical condition," and "critical path."

Before getting diverted onto the links topic, this was a discussion of getting MFI-ready that is more interesting, in my opinion, than Gary's comment that most SEOs don't have the skills to evaluate which links are truly important for rankings


1. Critical content
2. Metadata, like hreflang
3. Images and videos
4. Structured data


A few things to note.

1. critical content. I take this to mean that all content on desktop is also on mobile. But when we talk about critical path for CSS and JS, we are talking about above the fold rendering. Are we back to the days of thinking in terms of source-ordered content? Does MFI lead us to think about that again?

2. meta tags. The one tag he lists is hreflang? I've worked on two multi-lingual sites and despite improving tools, it's still hard. I'm not sure why MFI means paying more attention to this though. Why is this more important on mobile?

3. images and video. Assuming a rendered-page crawler, what does this mean for responsive design?

4. Structured data. Google has been pushing this since... I don't know. I remember Pierre Far really pushing it. Does MFI make this more important? I think this is just the same thing we've been hearing about for years.
2:31 am on Sept 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'm sure a good SEO would be able to tell which links are "critical", either from a positive or negative perspective. It should be relatively obvious.


Most SEOs see the "relatively obvious" and stop right there. That's a red herring they see.
4:28 am on Sept 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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martinibuster - haven't your heard, 90% of SEOs are above average?
10:20 pm on Oct 5, 2017 (gmt 0)

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What a silly thing to say
12:28 am on Oct 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Gary Illyes "knows" what he is referring to?