One of the common myths about seo is that it’s bad to link out to other sites. The myth most likely gained traction when page rank was the be all and end with regards to Google and that linking out let to a site bleeding PR. The truth is that linking out, particularly by linking to the right sights, can go a long way in building trust for your site and improving rank in search results for your web pages.
Why Webmasters Fear Linking Out
As I just mentioned many webmasters are hesitant to link out for fear of bleeding PR. The page rank algorithm gives every page on a site a certain PR and when that page gives a link to another page it has the ability to pass some of it’s own page rank to the other page. The original page doesn’t lose anything, but it can only give out so much PR. The thinking was to only have links on your pages that led to other pages on your site. In this way your site would hold onto all the potential PR it could. And web pages that linked out were bleeding page rank from their site, by giving away some that could have been kept internally to external sites.
Another reason for not wanting to link out is fear of being associated with ‘bad neighborhoods.’ This is a valid concern since being considered part of a ‘bad neighborhood’ of sites can cause your website many problems, worst of which is being banned from search engines. However it really isn’t hard to recognize many of these spammy ‘bad neighborhood’ sites. If another site offers valuable information that you think your visitors will be interested in, it’s most likely safe to link to that site. If you’re really unsure about another site then maybe dig a little deeper before sending them a link, but most quality and trustworthy sites are easy to recognize.
How External Linking Can Improve Your Ranking
One of the recent changes to search engine algorithms is the inclusion of trust as a factor for where a web page will rank. Some of the aging factors associated with Google are built around the idea of trust. A brand new site doesn’t have trust since not much is really known about it. A site that’s been online for several years can at least be trusted enough to think it will still be online and operating tomorrow. When a search engine returns pages in the results to a query it’s certainly in their favor to send people to trustworthy web pages and websites.
Who you link to can be a measure of how trustworthy your site is. Quality sites tend to link to other quality sites. If your site links out to authoritative sites in your industry you can gain more trust with search engines. Linking out to trusted sites in your on a particular subject can also help place your site as being about that same subject. If you want your site to be associated with ‘mountain bikes’ one way you can achieve that is by linking out to sites about mountain bikes. It’s really the opposite of linking to ‘bad neighborhoods.’ Link to ‘good neighborhood’ and you site gains an association with that neighborhood of websites. The more trusted those other sites the more trust a search engine may see in your site.
Trust is playing an ever increasing part in search algorithms and whether due to an improvement in trusted sites or a penalty or filter applied against untrusted sites, building trust for your site can only help. There is still much discussion going on in the seo community as to how much linking out can help a site, but I’m of the opinion that it can help greatly and do nothing to hurt.
One thing the seo community does agree on is that anchor text, the clickable text that is a link, carries more weight with search engines than ordinary text. Common advice when getting backlinks for your site is to use keywords and key phrases in the anchor text. Well those links out of your site also contain anchor text. By using key phrases when linking out the words will carry more weight by being anchor text. If you’re optimizing a page for the key phrase ‘mountain bikes’ and you add a link on the page to an external page about ‘mountain bike trails’ you’ve just given extra weight to that key phase on the page. Add links to pages about ‘mountain bike reviews’ and ‘how to repair your mountain bike’ and your page starts look like a page that might be very relevant to someone looking for ‘mountain bikes.’
These outbound links shouldn’t just be placed anywhere though. I’m not talking about a page consisting only of links. That link page can still be made to work for other reasons, but what I’m talking about here is links embedded directly in your content. Links within your content will be seen as less artificial than a page devoted to links. When you combine page content about ‘mountain bikes’ with links pointing to other quality pages that are related to ‘mountain bikes’ it can go a long way in improving both the optimization of your page as well as the trust a search engine sees in your page and site in general.
Myths still abound when it comes to linking out from your web pages and you’ll still find many website owners leary of giving a link to another site. However if you want to help your pages do link out where appropriate. You don’t need to link out from every page on your site, but if you have a chance to link to a trusted authority please do. It can lead a search engine to place more trust in your site and if you use keywords in the anchor text of those links it will help optimize your page for your key phrases. Beyond search engines it will also make your visitors happy to know they can count on you to direct them to quality resources. Regardless of how a search engine views your links, if your visitors find you linking to quality sites that they can trust they most certainly will place more trust in you.