Matt Cutts, Head of Webspam at Google, released a new Webmaster Video today.
Ashish from India asks:
How does Google determine quality content if there aren't a lot of links to a post?" - Ashish
Cutts says that in general, Google's forced to revert back to the way search was before links: basically judging relevance by the text on the page. From here, Cutts mostly talks about keywords, keyword density, and keyword stuffing. Of course he mentions a few other factors - notably the authority of the domain itself - but ends with saying:
"It can be kind of tough, but at that point we sort of have to fall back and assess based on the quality of the content that's actually on the text, that's actually on the page." - Matt Cutts
So what's interesting about this video?
From my perspective (and the biased view of a link builder) it appears that Cutts is more or less implying that not being able to judge content quality and relevance from links themselves is pretty rare.
"But typically, if you go back to a user is typing possibly some really rare phrase, if there's no other pages on the web that have that particular phrase, even if there's not that many links, then that page can be returned. Because we think it might be relevant, it might be topical, to what the user is looking for." - Matt Cutts
Although Cutts doesn't directly state that Google's rarely forced to return low-linked content, it seems implied by his example.
Of course, even if that's not true, this isn't a rousing endorsement for a link-less algorithm. Being forced to go back to a link-less algorithm is clearly not something Cutts is excited about - indeed, based on his tone and phrasing it seems to be a step backward.
So, as with a slew of other recent webmaster videos, Matt Cutts is once again sending the clear message that links are important in Google search.