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Do Outbound Links Matter for SEO (and more)

Reader QuestionsCraig Harper asks – Thanks to the tips provided by yourself, Yaro, and Aaron Wall I’ve just managed to finally crack into the top ten on Google for my keywords ‘motivational speaker’. I read over on Yaro’s site here about the importance of outbound links being targeted at your niche. In terms of SEO I know there is a lot of emphasis placed on the importance of inbound links but I would like your thoughts on the importance of outbound links and the websites that you outwardly linked to.

Interesting question Craig. Let me answer this question about outbound links but taking us in three directions

1. SEO – You’re right, one of the common pieces of advice that SEO types give is that relevant outbound links to quality sites can actually help your own performance in the search engines.

I’m no SEO expert but all I can really say on this is that some SEOs that I know and respect argue good cases for this and that when I’ve launched blogs it is something that I’ve always done. I don’t know how much of an impact that it has had on those sites – but they do tend to do well in search engines.

My suspicion is that SE’s like Google and Yahoo! have hundreds of factors that they rank a site by and that outbound links is probably one of them – although not one of the ones that they give most weight to (ie it’s not as important as your title tags or the inbound links pointing at your blog).

The only guidelines that I’d recommend in outbound links from a purely SEO perspective (and there are others to consider below) are:

a. not too many links (apparently too many outbound links can be frowned upon by SE’s)

b. keep them relevant (link to other sites/pages that are on a similar topic to you)

c. use appropriate keywords as anchor text (the words you use as the link can help both you and the site you’re linking to with SEs)

d. high ranking sites (some SEOs argue that if you link to highly ranking sites for the keywords that you’re after that it will have more impact).

Note: these tips are purely speaking from an SEO perspective. My own approach with SEO is to know the principles but not let them dominate my blogging. As a result, the only two principles from these four that I do regularly are b and c because I can do them without impacting the ultimate goals for my blog.

So for me – the SEO benefits of outbound links are something I believe in but they are also something I don’t get to worked up about.

2. Reader Satisfaction – the impact that links have upon readers is more important to me than SEO.

Here at ProBlogger I link to a lot of other sites. In fact SEO experts tell me I link out too much (from a purely SEO perspective).

The main reason that I link out so much is purely that I want to give my readership as much quality information on my topic as I can. If I see something that someone’s written on my topic that says something useful then the chances are that I’ll link to it (either as a simple link in one of my speedlinking posts or as a longer post with some of my own thoughts attached).

Some argue that linking out to other sites isn’t worth doing because you drive people away from your blog – my theory is that if I send them to useful content often enough that they’ll keep coming back for more.

Keep in mind also that too many links can actually decrease reader satisfaction – if they are not relevant or useful links.

3. Other Reasons to Link - there are other reasons that it can be useful to link out from your blog including these two:

  • building relationships with other bloggers/webmasters – linking out and sending traffic to other sites is one way to get on the radar of their owners
  • perceived expertise – showing your readers that you have your finger on the pulse of a niche by showing what other sites are doing can increase their perception of you as someone who knows what they’re talking about.

I’m sure readers will come up with a lot more reasons to link out – so over to the ProBlogger Community for their response…

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. vijay says:

    good news darren.. wil try to follow this..

  2. knupNET says:

    Thanks for the great post Darren. I agree that outbound links are great for SEO. Being a new startup blogger like me – I tend to do outbound links for one of your extra reasons…

    “building relationships with other bloggers/webmasters – linking out and sending traffic to other sites is one way to get on the radar of their owners”

    I think sending outbound links to good posts you’ve came across is a great way to make other bloggers in the industry aware that you exist.

  3. Michael M says:

    And let’s not forget about Darren post some day’s ago.

    http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/03/19/how-a-trackback-after-a-comment-can-start-a-relationship/

    Another great reason ..

  4. I definitely try to do my fair share of outbound links. I honestly don’t think of it as a SEO method. To me, it’s really about two things you mentioned: providing info to readers AND building relationships with other bloggers.

    When I first started blogging, I always forced outside links into new windows. I quickly realized (I believe I read it here) that trying to “keep” readers on my blog in that manner is completely wrong-headed. Instead, if I provide relevant and helpful links to other sites, readers will come back for information in the future. That’s the key.

    Great post,
    Andrew

  5. DygiScape says:

    Darren, the points you brought up are excellent.

    I’d like to add that balancing relevant links for readers versus SEO-motive is the key to SEO success. Ideally, if you link to a few helpful sources in a blog entry, a reader will be compelled to share it and come back to it again later.

    On a more technical note, I like to fill in the “title” attribute of a link, since they will add relevancy to readers, and is more keyword relevancy for spiders to crawl. Not to mention, if linking with an image to use the “alt” attribute to describe the image or the address it’s pointing to.

    Example: Problogger.net If you mouse over the link it should state “blogging tips” and thus you’ve added value in describing that hyperlink.

    -joe

  6. Raghu says:

    I don’t too much about SEO and all of that but from the list above the only reason why I link is to probably share information with my readers that either,
    a. Inspired me to write the post in the first place or,
    b. Sounded relevant to me as I wrote the post

    One another reason why I might link is to offer some credibility to my line of thinking. It’s always easier to get readers to appreciate a slightly modified line of thought than a completely new one.

    [ And aside this really liked the way that Darren ended his post by asking the community to fill for him - don't know if he does this regularly but definitely liked the approach]

  7. As a copywriter for an SEO firm, I would say that outbound links (OBL) might carry some weight but not that much. Focus on title and meta tags, keywords/keyphrases, and inbound links (IBL).

    Another tip is to link to your own previous posts within your content as it can help index your site with the engines.

    But I agree about using relevant OBLs as relationship builders. The people you link to might take notice of you and link back to you. Please note that this reciprocal linking will probably not help your rank – however, it could increase traffic and RSS subscriptions. Once that happens, you may experience even more IBL, which will then help you rank higher in the results. But only if you have solid content. No amount of SEO or relationship building is worth it if your content sucks.

  8. I agree. I have been blogging for a little while now and I like to put links in that I think people will want to follow. The company or service I am talking about or a site that provides reference material to the topic. I think I have too many links as well, but I don’t care. People wanting to read my site is first and foremost.

    Interesting that it can be frowned up on though.

  9. I am just a new and small time blogger and I’m not even sure if I will ultimately choose to try and earn income from my blog. However, I do want more readers. Specifically readers who are interested in my topic. From the perspective of being a ‘blog reader’ I definitely do value blogs that use outbound linking generously. It doesn’t deter me from going back to the original blog time and again. If their content is what I want to read and they provide useful outbound links, I return again and again. From the perspective of being a ‘blogger’ whose is looking for more readers, I have used outbound linking, I think successfully so far, to connect with other bloggers with similar interests. This is rapidly creating a community that I am becoming recognized in. The outbound links I’ve used have, in some cases, created comments on those sites that I have linked out to, that ultimately get referred back to me. The proof for me is that since I started blogging just over three weeks ago, I’ve gone from zero readers to about 40 per day using generous outbound links. And this is even considering that I fall into a highly specific niche, that wouldn’t necessarily attract general readership. I think you’re right Darren that using outbound links can increase the perception to your readers that you know what you’re talking about.

    Oh, and by the way, I really love your blog. Although you’ve probably heard that many times, you haven’t heard it from me!

    Camille NOW

  10. Cherran says:

    We have more control on out bound links than inbound links.Is there any possibility we get penalized for placing high page rank links in our site?

  11. Anuj Seth says:

    Outstanding article. I’ll try and adopt whatever I can for my blogs from this. Thanks!

  12. Mani says:

    you are right on the point Darren – Although, i’d like to add that never create a links page just for the sake of it.

    Cheers!
    Mani

  13. I agree with you Darren. Another reason outbound links helps your rankings in an SEO perspective is that search engines like Google are able to create a link profile for each website, is like checking your neighborhood, who are you linking to and who links to you, if you are surrounded by crappy websites (viagra, sex, loans, MFA) then that for sure is going to affect your rankings. So we want to watch who are neighbors are.

  14. The most persuasive reason I see of using outbound links is reader satisfaction.

    From the SEO perspective: If visitors to your site are happy, Google’s happy. Why? Because Google always says that they do their utmost to provide a good user experience to searchers. So if you make a website that has the visitor in mind you can’t go wrong (although it might take a bit longer for you to see financial results).

    As for the amount of OBLs: Google tries to weed out linkfarms. If your website has so many outbound (low-quality) links that the spider decides it’s a linkfarm, you’re screwed for a long time. You’d want to avoid this, I guess….

  15. Shuchetana says:

    As a new blogger, outbound links do make some bloggers aware that you exist. But most of the time, I just use them as references.

  16. blair says:

    Great post Darren. I agree with everyone here, relevant outbound linking is really important, particularly at providing more information to readers. The web is all about sharing info and it is impossible to be an expert in everything, so recommmending other relevant sites to your readers is a great way to add value to the user experiance.

  17. Deb/NJ says:

    Great question and answer post. This is something I’ve been wondering about as well. I appreciate your time in answering it. I guess we’ll always be left guessing, but I’d say you’ve done some better guessing than others!

  18. Robert says:

    Good points…there are more reasons for links than SEO purposes. Visitors should appreciate links to other sites that offer useful information. There’s no need to rewrite a good post on my blog when I can just refer my readers to it. and hopefully build a relationship with other blog owners. Maybe in the future they’ll refer their readers to my site if I provide useful information.

  19. Ajay says:

    If your are giving a link to other site they will get a benfit of one way link and what i think from seo point of view is not good for your site.
    What i think is from outbound link inbound link is very much helpful for you. If you think i am wrong please let me know.

  20. security says:

    ///a. not too many links (apparently too many outbound links can be frowned upon by SE’s)

    Didn’t a Google Engineer state on a recent blog post that Google did not penalyze a sites’ rankings because of the amount of outbound links it had?

    In theory, wouldn’t having this policy hurt directories?

  21. Search engine positioning, optimization, and increased website traffic are critical elements of a successful Internet business solution. High visibility of your website can make the difference between driving a high volume of sales leads and targeted traffic to your company’s website or being lost in “cyber space.”

    With the burgeoning popularity of the internet, new developmental tools are created daily. With these tools come new challenges, marketing, design, cross-browser transitions, etc. All of these can be a daunting task for those web gurus who aren’t well-versed in the W3 Standards.

  22. Nice article, I agree with most of it.

    Would you like to read my SEO Case study? It’s linked as my name.

  23. Tony says:

    I very much agree with this post.

    I personally think that concentrating on the benefits to the visitor is the best overall strategy provided of course, the linking out is relevant. From a human point of view, it makes sense to link out when appropriate and if that means lots of times, well so what. Provided the reader is happy, then I believe the SEs will also happy.

    Very good post. Thank you.

  24. Sophie says:

    Thank you, I was very confused as I didn’t know the difference between inbound and outbound links.
    Now it’s all very clear in my mind I will start using outbound links on my blog.

  25. SEO Advice says:

    I agree with you Mark. Another reason outbound links helps your rankings from an SEO perspective is that search engines like Google are able to create a link profile for each website, is like checking your neighborhood, who are you linking to and who links to you..If they are link farms or practising black hat this can affect you.

  26. Nikk Folts says:

    Good post, this stuff can be to confusing!

  27. ant says:

    With the burgeoning popularity of the internet, new developmental tools are created daily. With these tools come new challenges, marketing, design, cross-browser transitions, etc. All of these can be a daunting task for those web gurus who aren’t well-versed in the W3 Standards.

  28. Yes, do not be afraid of out bound links. I came here because of the link on the Newspaper Next blog. He actually added value to his blog by linking to Problogger. Here i got more info from blogger’s point of view and i am going back to read more about Journalism 2!

  29. Stella says:

    Very good post, I will try these techniques on my jewelry online store.

  30. Thank you for the information.

    I am just about to use a flash menu built with a flash menu builder tool that contains, within the code links, to their website.

    Will the search engines frown upon this since their site is not an authority site on the same topic as mine (being a travel website)?

  31. I have also heard that having too many links on your web site hurts your ranks as it drives traffic away but the argument you’ve given (direct readers to quality sites so that they come back to your web site) is a noteworthy point. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  32. I agree 100% with your views. OBLs do help if these are relevant to the topic of the page.

  33. zazo says:

    This was pinching in my mind from so long…I am now much more enlightened on this important SEO issue of outbound links.
    Thanks for nice post there..:)
    zazo.

  34. Thank you for that post Darren I’ve been thinking long time for what are them outbound link and is it good to have.Now I know and I’ll come back to that site again for more useful information

  35. Mohit Anand says:

    Well, I agree with your post. Earlier, I had no outbound links on my site, then going through some websites like yours, I decided to include two relevant outbound links, and I can see a positive difference in number of visitors and my keyword positions on google.

  36. rzcars.com says:

    I think out bound link is very useful like inbound link that crowling more speedily google robo.

  37. mysapce says:

    It didn’t really matter to me much about outbound links, but after reading this post it really put it in better perspective and understanding the meaning of them.

  38. Karl says:

    I’ve been experimenting with adding relevant links – seems to cause google to index the pages.

  39. I have been optimizing my site for a long time but still can’t see any position improvement in Google. I don’t know what else I can do.

  40. Pretty decent and informative post. What i think you can add upto 20 out bound links on your page, but the major point is the relevancy of the links. If you gona add irrelevant links i think it gona harm your page. Anyways you hve provided cool information. Keep on sharing.

  41. Transport says:

    thank’s for the information, very good sharing

  42. Hi

    Thank you, I was very confused as I didn’t know the difference between inbound and outbound links.
    Now it’s all very clear in my mind I will start using outbound links on my blog @ http://www.bolg.sentersoftech.com

  43. Cash Makers says:

    Nice article. Great read for all the newbs, trying to ensure me that if I link to some spammy “buy viagra” site, nothing will happen to me. Yeah, right!

  44. Outbound links should only add SEO value, if in fact the links add real value to the web. The intent of the SE’s is to provide the most relevant information to those searching, which means they want their visitors to find the most relevant sites. So, a poor site linking to good ones will never score higher then a good site linking to no one, assuming all other things are equal.

    Bottom line, linking to other sites is good so long as those links are providing some real value to the web. This is why doing a “link exchange” with someone with a site without similar content is a wasted effort, no matter the anchor text. A user will not want to leave a site featuring used cars to another about breast feeding small children just because the two setup a link exchange and the SE’s will know this.

  45. Sonia says:

    Will outbound links will get juice from our site?

  46. I know from speaking to many, many journalists that in some news organizations, outdated print- or broadcast-focused content management systems make it cumbersome for reporters to add links to stories. In other cases, reporters either don’t know how to add links, or don’t bother to do so. And in a few cases, editors still actively discourage reporters from adding links to stories due to mistaken ideas about what drives online traffic and demonstrates value to readers.

    ==>> Margi

  47. Ricky says:

    thanks for this great article i never thought linking out also counted as everyone keeps talking off link juice flow leaving the site and PR i have ended up on my link exchanges adding the NOFOLLOW attribute do u think i should leave at that???

  48. Saad says:

    Thanks for the post i was little confused on this topic But now it’s all clear.I will Do work on OBL… Thanks

  49. hosting guy says:

    Nice informative post, i was looking for some proper information about the quantity and quality of out bound links, at last i found some thing that worth reading.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Pro Blogger, who admits he links too much from an SEO perspective, shares some of his advice in his article, do outbound links matter for SEO. A lot of his advice could be considered common sense: [...]

  2. [...] (readability, spam-like?, and possibly manual ratings) • Internal links (and here, and here) • Outbound links (topic, quantity, and reciprocal; case study [...]