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A New Linking Strategy: Out is the New In

I’ve been thinking a lot about my linking strategy lately. Trying to get incoming backlinks, making sure I have good inner links…

But one area that I think is too often overlooked is outbound links.

Hello, it’s called the “web”

Linked

Image copyright stock.xchng user lusi

When HTML was initially designed (and yes, I’m old enough to remember those days), the resulting conglomeration of pages was called the World Wide Web. Why? Because the structure of the pages resembled a spider’s web.

There was no central starting point. Each page contained hyperlinks that referenced other pages that were relevant.

There were no search engines and directories were fairly small and specialized. The only way that you could get to a page was if you knew the URL, or followed a link from another page.

In those days, the idea was to provide access to information. The internet was not a commercial place back then.

But then things changed…

The nature of links has changed drastically in the past few decades. Instead of being a helpful way to share relevant content with our readers, we’ve come to view them as a way to increase our SEO. We’ve become stingy with links because we want to keep our readers on our own pages, viewing our AdSense ads and buying through our affiliate links.

We allow links in the comments, but we nofollow them so no link juice escapes. We’ll put the odd blog in our blogroll, if we even have one. But how many of those are owned by us as well?

No, our focus is all on how we can get links back to our own site and build ourselves up in the eyes of Google.

It has to change

All of us need to change our mindsets about linking. We need to get back to the original mindset of the web.

That’s not to say that getting backlinks is bad (provided you’re not spamming to do it—that’s another article altogether). Nor should you ignore the SEO benefits of internal links.

But we need to get back to the idea of sharing links simply because the information is of value to our readers.

As the search engines get smarter, and the value of comment links, forum links, and social media links drops, the value of in-content links (i.e. links from within an article itself) will rise.

Who else thinks this way?

Am I the only one thinking about this? Not at all. Some A-list bloggers have written about this topic.

Brian Clark of Copyblogger wrote Why Linking to Other Blogs is Critical back in 2007. He even suggests linking to your competition—you’ll have to read his article to find out why.

And if you look through the list of trackbacks, you’ll find Linking Out Instead of Link Building to Rank in Google as a recent entry by Tad Chef at SEOptomise. I especially like one thing that he said: “Linking out is a strategy you have to embrace holistically.” Read the article to see what he means.

Dawud Miracle wrote on Lorelle on WordPress Why You Want to Link to Other Blogs where he explores more than just the page rank/traffic benefits.

And to help you find interesting stuff to link to, check out Ben Yoskovitz’s Blog Hack: Link to New Blogs and Get More Readers.

You’ll also find articles here at ProBlogger that talk about how to use outbound links. Kimberly Turner’s Monthly Trends + 10 Tips for a Flawless Linking Strategy touches on the subject, for example.

And don’t forget Darren! He wrote about this back in 2009 in Outbound Links—An Endangered Species? [And Why I Still Link Up].

Explore the trackbacks and links found in those articles and you’ll find lots of people writing about how important linking out is for your blog.

So, what’s a blogger to do?

Excellent question! I’m glad you asked.

We all need to adopt a mindset that includes outbound links in our articles—not necessarily every article, but I think it should be 25% at a minimum. I think you’ll find that as you intentionally look for and link to quality articles, you’ll be able to link out in almost every article you write. This one has six (if you don’t count the blatant plug back to my own site in mu bio!).

I’ve actually come up with a list of six guidelines for outbound links. You can find the list at the end of this post. Maybe you can think of some other guidelines to add — feel free to share!

Above all, remember that Out is the new In when it comes to links.

Bill (LoneWolf) Nickerson is a programmer, web designer, trainer, writer and all around nice guy. He has several blogs on the go and loves to tinker with plugins and themes (more than he should). You can see what he’s learning about blogging and online marketing at LoneWolf’s List Marketing Adventure.

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Comments

  1. LisaNewton says:

    I couldn’t agree more. In fact, to me, outbound links also provide a service to your readers. If you don’t include all the knowledge necessary in an article (which no one can), then if the reader wants to learn more, outbound links, relevant to the article, is definitely the way to go.

    Thanks for confirming that for me!!

  2. Brankica says:

    Somehow I don’t think people will do it. Maybe an odd post here or there by a smaller blog trying to get noticed, but I think this idea isn’t going to work. People know about the reasoning behind this idea but they still aren’t doing it.

    • Hi Brankica

      I certainly hope that you’re wrong, but I suspect that for a majority you are dead on. There are some big names that practice this. ProBlogger is an excellent example. Darren does this a lot.

      It comes down to changing our attitudes about what links are really for. They are for the reader to follow and find more information, not for us to get more traffic. I believe that doing the former will eventually bring the latter.

  3. Jamie Harrop says:

    Good shout, Bill. I’ve just been reading Darren’s old posts here on ProBlogger (Hello 2004!) and it has amazed me how many posts Darren used to write that were nothing more than a pure link and recommendation for an article he had read and found useful.

    As the years have gone by, everybody has had a mind-shift on what linking on the Web is about, and while the argument for SEO and keeping our readers on our own sites is still a valid argument, the very fact the Web succeeded and reached the point we’re at today is because people linked to each other selflessly, for nothing more than to share something good.

    Linking is what the Web relies on… these days it can be a search engine linking to a Web site, a reader sharing a link in a comment, or an author linking to a fellow author’s article just like in the past, but however it is done, it’s what has created the Web today. We must remember that, and must remember to continue selflessly linking to things we find useful.

    Jamie

    • Thanks Jamie! Darren is definitely one of the examples that I look to when looking at linking. I think we need to get over the fear of losing readers by providing quality information. Most will come back after looking at the link.

  4. Kari Scare says:

    Definitely going to apply what this post suggests. There’s SO MUCH to learn about blogging and to try… it’s so overwhelming. I’m glad to have reliable posts like ones from ProBlogger to help me narrow down what to try. Thanks! I’m going to work on changing my midset and making sure outbound links are a part of my blogging routine.

    • It can be intimidating Kari, but learn to work in little bits at a time and you’ll grow as a blogger. It’s when we try to do it all at once that we get blown out.

      P.S. I took a quick glance at your “Books Within Arms Reach” post — now I have a whole new list of books to check out and excuses to get less work done 8=)

  5. Well, I for one agree with you Bill, (or LoneWolf), I don’t know which you prefer.

    I’m a real estate agent who’s built my own website and I do my own SEO. My “web strategy” is to provide visitors to my site as much information as possible. That includes providing links to outside sources since I don’t have the key to ALL information regarding real estate in Iowa City. And I do mean incorporating them in my blog posts and providing context at the same time. I hate those sites that have pages of links to other sites and expect you to find the one that covers your needs.

    You’re right, too many people building websites concentrate on SEO and don’t look at the bigger picture. What makes more sense is to focus on providing a balanced website with incoming and outgoing links along with relevant content.

    • Hi Denise

      I think that “LoneWolf” is so much cooler sounding than “Bill”, but I do answer to both (also, “Coach Sweet” to the kids on my basketball and ball hockey teams 8=)

      You hit the nail on the head when you say that providing links allows you to provide ALL the information. It also shows readers you care about them and are generous. People will remember that.

      If I ever move to Iowa City I know who to call!

  6. Great advice. Sure each individual declining to link out might initially seem like the best strategy for them. In the end though every individual mostly refusing to link out means that no one is getting linked to. As people in general become less willing to link to others, a kind of link depression sets in. Eventually you’d see the web’s link economy collapse.

    • It’s kind of a “what goes around comes around” situation Jacob. Linking out will get you noticed by the other bloggers, and if you’re writing quality, relevant stuff then you’ll get links back. There is also SEO value in outbound links. People tend to forget that.

      And links that are in the content of a site are more valuable than typical comment/signature links that most SEO is based on.

  7. Great post Bill! I preach it and I practice it. I am not afraid to admit I don’t know everything by linking out to expert information. A blogger should be dedicated to providing the best for readers and linking out to more information on a subject is a mark of respect for readers of a blog.

  8. Neil Duckett says:

    When I was blogging I always linked out. My theory was if they liked your post they’d hit the back button to return, therefore showing Google there was info worth returning too.

    • You’ve got that right Neil. Most people will come back to join the conversation. Having the link open in another tab/window can help as well. In some niches people are tech savvy enough to do that anyway.

  9. You’re exactly right. Most natural blog posts have at lease a few links in them. Everyone is usually so concerned about passing on link juice that they don’t want to link to other sites.

    • Hi Mike

      I wonder where the idea that link juice is lost by linking out came from? I know that links to bad sites can affect your SEO, but links to quality content that readers like will build you up.

  10. Tad Chef says:

    Thanks for the mention Bill. Indeed linking out has been confirmed by Matt Cutts as a rankling factor back in 2009. So it’s not even about linking out to get links back but the sheer activity of creating outbound links by itself is already impacting your site positively.

    • You’re so welcome Tad. Obviously links for the sake of links isn’t going to work, just like backlinks for their own sake will eventually drag you down.

      But putting in quality links with appropriate anchor text is always a positive.

  11. Nice article. Just to clarify, the nofollow tag does not conserve link juice. It evaporates it. While link juice does not flow to the target page, it does not stick around either. It disappears.

    • Thanks for the update on nofollow Thomas. My philosophy is that all links that you’re willing to put on your site should not be nofollow unless they are administrative (i.e. things like the register/login, jump to comments, etc.)

      But the important thing I’m getting at in the article is the outbound links provide value to the reader, the target site and to you. Maybe not always in terms of SEO, but there is more to the web than that.

  12. Dynatec says:

    Thanks for the detailed post. I’d never felt I was utilizing Linkig Strategy properly… mostly because I didn’t understand how they work.

    • Hi Dynatec

      The basic premise for my linking strategy is to focus on content. Does the outbound link provide value to the readers? Does a backlink in a post comment or forum add value to the conversation?

      It takes a lot more work to create these kinds of links, but they are what I want to see when I’m reading so it’s what I strive for when I’m writing.

      I’m just waiting for the day when the search engines catch up.

  13. You said nothing about rel=”nofollow” – that is interesting…

    • That is interesting 8=)

      I’m not really a fan of nofollow links when you’re writing your content. It shows that you don’t really trust or want to “share the love” with the site on the other end of the link. If that’s the case then why are you linking?

      I think nofollow is appropriate for comments if you’re not going to moderate. It is also appropriate for administrative links on your site, things like “add a comment” or “login”.

      That’s my philosophy. Whether it’s good SEO or not I don’t know. But it should be 8=)

  14. Bryan says:

    Helping your readers should be the primary goal, so if outbound links are helpful they should be used. Sure it might hurt SEO, but maybe you’ll get more readers to make up for it.

    • Hi Bryan

      I hear a lot of people say that outbound links hurt your SEO. I believe that Google makes it clear that they don’t unless they are to sites that are “bad neighbourhoods” (although they spell it “neighborhoods” 8=)

      I do understand the fear of having people leave your site without staying long enough to click on an ad, sign up for a newsletter or whatever else you are hoping for. We don’t blog for nothing so we want to squeeze every last bit out of our visitors before they leave. We also don’t want to see a high bounce rate.

      But with links in the article the user will need to read to get at the links. And they will usually pop back when they’re done (or have them in a separate tab) to continue where they left off. And hopefully sign up and/or explore more of our site.

  15. Laura says:

    Hello I am a blogger I blog about cerebral palsy and life with it I agree about sharing links I try to share links via guest blogging and allow a select number of high quality niche related blogs that I personally find entertaining and share those with my growing number of readers
    thank you for this post it was insightful I hope you will check it out and leave a comment on my blog

    • Hi Laura

      Bravo on your blog. I’ll definitely check it out — the article about theme parts looks pretty interesting.

      Life with a disability can be frustrating, but you have a wonderful attitude about life and it’s great that you’re sharing it.

      One thing you can do to add more links to your blog is to link to a similar article at another blog, especially if it is one that inspired you. You’ll build your network and gain friends at the other blog.

  16. Thank you for writing this! (And for including all the helpful outbound links too!) A few years ago when I was blogging simply to be social and to meet other bloggers who shared an interest in the same niche topic as me, I never thought twice about linking out to others. For me, it was about sharing the mic and giving credit where it was due when I recognized a great idea that I just knew would be helpful for my bloggy friends. I think if we are serious about truly wanting to help our readers understand an issue or support them in addressing a particular challenge, then being stingy with our outbound links defeats the whole purpose of building a community in the first place.

    • Thanks Sarah. I think you said the magic word — “Community”

      A community is a network of people and the web is a network of sites. They are reflections of one another.

  17. Chris Price says:

    I frequently give links back to my sources, be they other websites and/or blogs. I think, from an academic standpoint, it’s only right to give credit to my sources, right? Plus, it helps my readers to check up on my if they so choose.

    • It is definitely a bonus to provide links to source material, especially in academic settings. While a proper credit could be given with just a reference, an actual link is so much better.

      But you should also strive to find complimentary articles to give your readers a more robust experience (I can’t believe I just used the word “robust” in a comment but I can’t really think of a more appropriate word 8=)

  18. Links have always been Value-Added for websites. Meaning, they were added in webpage to enhance or supplement information that people were looking for. It was of great benefit to have them because valuable customers and clients wanted you to click on their page and were willing to pay you to do this by simply adding their link into your website.

    When the web first started, they did this as a free service. If you added them, they would add you to yours. Over the years , it has become a pay service. Value revenue generator for companies if they would charge those who were willing to pay.

    A New approach my company is trying is to create a brand new social media website that allows people to interact with all their links via the traditional way of linking information with key words. Now we’ve begun to add links to everything once again. Blogging, for example, will be the key to it’s success. Soon you’ll be able to write a blog and everything within your blog will be linkable with a click of a button. You will have the option of choosing which parts of your blog are link worthy and which are not. This will create a niche market for all SEO’s out there who want to market products based on the words you type in rather than anything you type in at a social media prompt.

    Another exciting advance we are currently developing is the ability for links to have a graphical option as well. For those who can’t type well or are still waiting for voice recognition to save the day, they will be able to click on a graphic on the screen .. i.e., a pearl and that will expand to other links instantly. then when they find the information they are looking for, the pearl collapses and returns to a normal screen to where you were at. All done with a click. Fast. Easy to Use and Free!.

    Imagine a world where links will become as standard as advertising logo’s themselves. You will recognize key phrases within documents automatically and those will lead you to websites you’ve been searching for instantly with a Smart Interface that is easy to use.

    Yes, it is possible and will be coming . The Information society is now being re-organized as we speak to accompany the thinking machine. Our technology here will soon have the ability to understand and suggest something back to us , if we are stuck.

    • Hi Karl

      From what I understand, you’re talking about a contextual search that looks at what you are reading and gives you access to related articles on the fly. Basically, it would replace the search engine in some instances.

      It is an interesting concept. But it would have to do the same type of ranking as Google does now. And without the writers of articles creating links then a valuable metric would be lost.

      I’d still rather have the recommendation of a person I trust for appropriate links, although a generated list of related links would still be welcome in many cases.

  19. Christina says:

    I’ve been doing this for a while and am relieved to see that it makes sense to others as well. Since my background is in history, I’ve always been big on documenting my sources, and on a blog, it just makes sense to do that with links. I really don’t worry about the competition, since at this point I’m so far behind them, but I feel like I’m adding value for my readers by linking to others’ impressive blog posts.

    • Hi Christina

      Thanks for being part of the “real” web 8=) The fact is that we’re not just competitors. We’re also collaborators and friends. So it makes sense that if we all work together and support one another we’ll all grow.

  20. For the last several months I have been doing a featured blogs post every Sunday. The idea is that it is a blog that is much more established than mine but has similar content. It has been a great traffic generator and I think it is a great service to my readers to have access to more of what they already like. I am probably a long way off from getting inbound links, but I love how outbound links really add to my content both by featuring blogs and linking to similar posts (like you did above).

    Thanks!

  21. Sage advice that does take some getting used to. I allows guest blogs (real estate niche) and that provides a periodic source of outbound links to industry related sites.

    • Hi Anita

      Allowing guest posting is a great way to do this, but you should be looking at other ways that you can have outbound links in the posts you write yourself.

      In looking at your site it seems that your articles are mainly property listings which makes it hard to do this. But in your blog section you could start writing articles about things in the community — schools, local businesses, etc. Then you could find others writing about the same topics (maybe a local newspaper or other bloggers in the area) and link to their articles.

      All of that would provide value to your readers, introduce you to the people running the sites you link to and hopefully provide an SEO boost. Provided you don’t link to “bad” sites then you won’t hurt your site from an SEO standpoint.

  22. Hi Bill,

    Sensational point here.

    I switched up my linking strategy a few weeks ago. I now link to or share only stuff which my readers find valuable. No more extraneous stuff.

    As for the competition I feel it does not exist. If you create and work with others, you will never have to beat anybody to prospects, customers, readers, etc. More than enough plenty for all ;)

    Google likes your tips too. Think of it: the principle behind the web is setting up a network of links through a particular niche or area. If your link pops up in well-known, authority sites in your niche, and you link back to these sites, and you ONLY build your web on authority sites, good things will happen for your site.

    Super helpful tips Bill. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Ryan

    • Hi Ryan

      Thanks for your kind comments! It is important to remember that we’re not linking just for the sake of links.

      The biggest thing with linking out is that it is something that shares value. Building your own backlinks through comments, articles, etc. always has that ulterior motive that lessens it’s value although they still have value. But if we all start linking out to other quality sites we can raise the experience of our readers which will in turn raise our value in the SE’s.

      Rather than trying to game the system, we get the benefits by making the system work better.

    • David says:

      Ryan,

      I like what you’re saying.

      I’m certainly not a very experienced blogger but your take on linking to sites in your niche and authority blogs which would in turn benefit one’s own blog, makes a lot of sense to me.

  23. Josh Sarz says:

    This is great, because a lot of people talk about linking to your own posts but not to other people’s posts.

  24. I think search engines actually like when you link out too, they see it as more ways that your website is connected to the rest of the web. And the website owners that you link to might see your links when they are checking their backlinks, see your site as a referral in their traffic data, or notice you through a pingback.

  25. Liane says:

    I do think this post is long overdue though. My observations have noted that this new approach you’re describing about shifting link building strategies to its roots have been going on about since last year (and I heard SEO link builders to be applying this more subtle strategy years back).’

    But to be fair this is a good collaboration of the reasons why, and the insights of notable people on the blogosphere. Still worth the read

    • I feel that this is important for the simple fact that it is the right thing to do in building a community. The SEO benefits are secondary.

      I think we need to stop thinking of SEO as the primary factor in our site development. As the search engines get more sophisticated they’ll pick up the things that readers like better. So focusing on the readers will be the best SEO strategy in the long run.

  26. Daniel says:

    Very interesting, Bill.

    I have got a number of outbound links on my site to relevant blog and website articles.

    As much as internal linking within a site serves to help a sites ranking, I think outbound links are of great importance for building relationships, not just links.

    • I think that it’s time for bloggers to get more intentional about outbound links. I’m glad to hear that you are doing this.

      It does mean taking the time to read other blogs and do a bit of research though.

  27. I will admit here that I am not too much of a link builder (to be honest, till date I am no even fully versed with what is LINK BUILDING exactly). But surely these tips have made me quite a bit aware about what it is.

    Thanks for the share

    • Hi Tushar

      I know you’ll hear more about link building as you build your blog. It is one of the major ways to build your site’s value in the search engines.

      Unfortunately, many people have taken to gaming the system in many ways. In the beginning, linking to related articles was the natural way of the web. It wasn’t done to get more traffic. It was done to provide more value. That is what we need to get back to — even in building our backlinks.

      I like the theme of your site (i.e. your message). One of my passions is to see integrity built up in the web. It is too easy to let is slide when you are not operating face to face with people. Keep up the good work!

  28. Doug says:

    This is great information.

    In 2012 I’ve launched a new personal site and didn’t have a link strategy at all. Perhaps now is the time to make that happen.

    Linking to new and old players in a niche seems to be the best way to build an effective balance as part of the link strategy.

    • Thanks Doug

      I like to think of it as a linking philosophy more than a strategy. Link to articles that your readers will benefit from, whether they are high profile sites or new bloggers just getting out of the gate.

      The important thing here is relevance. You can even link to articles that present an opposite point of view.

      When I look at your site I see you pulling in a lot of great content from the web in the form of video. You might look to add links to articles written by and about those presenters that relate to the topic. You can also look for completely unrelated articles that support (or challenge) the basic idea.

  29. Hi Bill,

    Your idea is very similar to what I recently wrote at Firepole Marketing http://www.firepolemarketing.com/blog/2012/01/13/give-referrals/

    The point of my post was that businesses should give referrals to their customers. The benefits are actually somewhat similar to the ones outbound links have…

    • Hi Peter

      The benefits of a referral (as well as the pitfalls you outline) do mirror outbound linking. You spoke there about 3 requirements to give referral and they are the exact same requirements for linking to another site (anyone looking for those 3 requirements will have to read Peter’s article 8=)

      Thanks for sharing Peter!

  30. Gillian says:

    I used to write a regular blog post “This week in the blogosphere” so there were a lot of outlinks.Sometimes I read a post by someone which is relevant to my peeps and so I summarise the key points and then discuss them so again there are outlinks. I like to share relevant information. The upside might be that the blogger is keeping track of who mentions their post, will visit my litle blog and might even make a comment which would add to my credibility. I have to admit though that I do tend to put the outlinks in the last third of a post so that my reader reads most of my post before they head off to read what the other blogger has to say – I don’t want to lose them after the first sentence !!!

    • This is exactly the kind of thing that we need more of Gillian! I hope that you change “I used to write…” to “I decided to continue writing…”

      And having the links later in the post is a good idea in many cases. But even if you do lose them early, many will come back afterwards and remember that you’re the one who put them onto the cool stuff.

  31. I’m a big proponent of linking to other blogs, especially in my own niche. Not only does it create links to other relevant sites, but also helps SEO and lead generation.

    I built my blog up to a PR of 5 rather quickly, by finding lists of top blogs, for example, http://top50mlmblogs.thatmlmbeat.com/top-50-mlm-blogs-2011/ (Check out #26, I hear he’s a lot like me…… :-)

    I regularly comment on relevant, high PR blogs in my own and other related niches as part of my overall blogging, SEO, lead generation strategy.

    • Hi John

      #26 does seem a lot like you — an evil twin perhaps 8=)

      I like the fact that you are linking out and building backlinks with relevant comments on appropriate blogs and forums.

      Don’t be afraid to use lower ranked sites as well. Focusing on high ranking sites is not natural. It is like the advice about changing your anchor text as you leave links — it is more natural.

  32. I’m link out quite a bit, always have, not as much as I interlink my own articles, posts and sites, but still I think 1 in 6 or 1 in 7 links throughout all my blog posts is outbound to a website I don’t own.

    • Hi Jamie

      Don’t be afraid to link out more. 1 in 6 or 7 is still pretty good though. But more won’t hurt you.

      Think about the guy at a party who is always talking about himself vs the one who is talking about others. Who do the people gather ’round?

  33. Mike says:

    These are important pieces of information. To be able to maximize our efforts, perhaps we need to start focusing on being able to comfortably be able to start getting our relationships and priorities right both online and offline. It takes efforts of both to be able to get ourselves going and also to be able to gradually get the results that we are seeking to be able to get out of our time trying to market.

    • Hi Mike

      You are right. We need to focus on the relationships we’re building to reap the benefits. It takes time and effort. There is no easy way to build that.

      It is easier for some than others, but it still requires work.

  34. Loren Weaver says:

    From a user experience / human relationship standpoint providing links to additional resources of value or interest to your visitor is beneficial, a service…and (if done well) will build trust and authority with your audience. As others have mentioned, before links mattered to SEO this is how Web publishers conducted themselves – it was a natural, logical activity.

    The prominence of link profile as a search engine ranking factor turned this all upside down. The unfortunate fact is that the “link juice” model (accumulating SEO benefit from inbound links for rankings; preventing the loss of that accumulated “juice” by reducing the instances of outbound links) will persist until search engines become more sophisticated about how they evaluate the value of links and their impact on rankings. If one of your main goals includes building an audience through visibility in organic search you play by the SE rules…until they change…which is inevitable.

    But the SEO landscape shifts quickly and the incorporation of social signals (shares, likes/recommends and the lot) is an example of that happening right before our eyes. In Matt Cutts’ dream world (if you read this Matt, just kidding) search engines will evolve to where results will be driven purely on the merits of how well the available content meets the needs of the searcher, leaving nothing for an SEO to exploit…or even optimize. In that world a page that contains outbound links to relevant, high quality resources will be viewed by search engines as providing a beneficial service to its readers and rewarded. This is in line with advice Google and Matt Cutts has long proffered to Web developers and SEOs – “optimize for the user experience”. I don’t believe we’ll get there for a while and until then the link game will still have relevance for getting a page ranked.

    That said, getting high quality links these days now involves more and more outreach and relationship building with other publishers. If your outbound links are helping you establish and nurture these relationships, and that effort results in high quality inbound links then the tradeoff (loss of link juice) is probably more than worth it. Think of it as an investment.

    • Hi Loren

      I agree with you that the ultimate in search engine will not be exploitable by SEO tweaks. It’s come a long way since the early days with 100′s of keywords in the meta tags and hidden text, but looking at the search results shows us it still has a way to go. I do remember what search results looked like 10 years ago and it has definitely come a long way.

      But outbound links that are well chosen and appropriate shouldn’t hurt your SEO. I believe that the loss of link juice everyone talks about depends on the target. A good link out will bring more benefit than loss.

  35. I look at it this way: outbound links are content. Good outbound links are good content. Good content means both readers and search engines are happy and that’s good for me.

  36. Susan Fuller says:

    I never did understand the prohibition against linking out. I have always found it helps my rankings. Interestingly I just installed WordPress SEO (Yoast) on a new site. It alerts you to what may be missing in your post for SEO purposes. One of the alerts is not enough outbound links. (Great plugin BTW)

    • Hi Susan

      There is such a thing as too much linking as well as linking to ‘bad neighbourhoods’ that can hurt you. I remember searching for something and getting the top several results being simple lists of links to other pages (with ads on them 8=) Google and the other SE’s had to clamp down on that — bad user experience.

      But a well written article with links to appropriate, well written articles else where will not hurt you. Quality and quantity are important.

      I also use Yoast’s SEO plugin on some of my sites. I like the feedback it gives.

  37. Joseph says:

    It only makes sense to have out-going links particularly when some of the information you’re using is coming from different sources. Not only does it enhance the experience for our readers, it cuts down on plagiarism, too. If only more writers engaged in the practice of outbound linking and citing their sources, we’d have a better internet.

    • Joseph, you are right. Focus on providing a great experience for the readers. Tweak it a little to help with SEO. That’s my philosophy.

      Providing relevant links and crediting sources is part of the great reader experience.

      It think part of the problem is that it takes a bit of extra work to do it. People are often too rushed to take the time.

  38. alansm says:

    Linking is an important part of SEO. Without it, we may have trouble with getting traffic. Besides it , Facebook, Twitter is also good ways to get more traffic for your blog, website.

  39. I totally agree! I think being generous with our link love, comments, shares is what brings it all back to us. A lot of people have started following me, because I first linked to their site. I don’t do it all the time, I mostly link within my own blog, but at least one post a week has a link to a blog I’m following.

    Great post!

    • It is about building a web, a community as one of the commenters above mentioned. And it looks like that is what you’re doing Kimberly!

      Maybe you could experiment with increasing the amount of outgoing links to see what happens. If you’re getting followers from 1 link a week, how much would you get with 5?

      Just remember not to link just for the sake of linking. Make them relevant to what you’re writing.

  40. I have been linking to other blogs forever. However, if you are the one being linked, try not to change your url or at least have the old one directed at the new one. Broken links aren’t fun.

    That being said, if anyone links to me, I always say thanks since I am deeply honored. That should be a standard practice.

    • Broken links is definitely a problem. And they will become a bigger problem as your article ages as the posts in question get moved, removed or the site disappears.

      I have a plugin on some of my sites that checks for broken links and alerts me to them. It also highlights the links on the blog itself with a strikethrough (I believe it is customizable). Off the top of my head I think the plugin is “Broken Link Checker”. I like it when the plugins are named well 8=)

      If you are moving your content around, there are plugins that can handle redirects (or you can edit (or create) your .htaccess file to do the redirection).

  41. Lorelle says:

    Thanks for the shoutout, Darren. Links are a passion for me and I take them very seriously.

    And thanks for the deluge of copyright infringement trackbacks! LOL! That’s part of the power of links and a piece of the puzzle in understanding linking we often forget. I got a dozen or more trackbacks on this post being illegally used around the web.

    This is another, often overlooked, reason why intrasite linking is critical. Not just to link our content together across our site, but to get notifications when our content is being abused.

    I totally agree with you that we have to go back to the beginning when links had real power and magic, including the power to change lives by the “gift” of a link. One of my favorite stories was about how I thrilled a young man with a link to his site because what he had to say had value. He didn’t think so and was caught totally off-guard by the link. It changed his whole way of thinking and validated what he’d been thinking up to that point. I love that about the power of links. Magic. Blessings.

    I am against blogrolls and link lists for the sake of linking and link juice. I tell my clients and students that if you link, consider it a mini letter of recommendation. You are telling the world that you recommend this person and value their opinion.

    Make the link matter, and the web will matter more.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Lorelle

      Your story about the power that linking can have in another person’s life is great. You said something there that I think is worth quoting here:

      “You can push and shove all the linking energy you want around on your blog, but there is something to be said about the old fashioned, humbling appreciation you get from making a tiny difference in someone’s life just by linking to them.”

      Amen!

  42. Thanks for this article … just way too often lately I’ve come across “linking strategies” that were borderline unethical (in my mind) and just made me feel like maybe I need to rethink blogging if that’s the only way to make it. It’s hard to work through the noise some times, so thanks for the breath of fresh air.

    • You’re welcome. There are a lot of linking strategies that are beyond the borderline too. Anyone running a blog knows how prevalent spam is today (whole other rant/topic). We need to encourage conversation in and amongst blogs — recapture the sense of community and provide value.

  43. It’s so cool when SEO and good manners converge ;-). It’s also really intriguing the way the search engines do seem to consider things that have positive impact on the web in general and a web that’s interconnected is more valuable and more interactive for readers. Plus, it’s more fun to write that way. (Though, it’s also a bit more time consuming–I try to vet sites a bit before I link to them–so I don’t do nearly as much of it as I’d like to.)

    • You are right Jessica. Ultimately, SEO and good manners should be pretty much in line. The search engines survive by providing value to the searchers. Unfortunately, the technology still needs to catch up and there are too many ways to game the system.

      In the mean time, we need to build the quality experience that readers are looking for even though it is time consuming. If you’re in it for the long haul then the extra work will pay off — I hope 8=)

  44. Wow!! Your article plus the links you added kept me reading for a while!! Fantastic information! On one of my sites I found that I was doing quite a bit of outbound linking…my thought was, why not give my readers the best quality content possible…even if it meant sending them to a competitor!
    It works! I have seen a steady rise in readership of those articles with the outbound links! As far as SEO goes, I’ll have to wait and see..that site is still fairly new.
    I guess I was on the right track! Thank you for reaffirming that!

    PS..thank you for the comment on my photo tips blog…you were the first one…made my day!!

    • Hi Brent. Good to hear that you’re finding that the linking works. In some cases you actually get a back link if the site you link to provides a trackback (a lot don’t anymore due to spam).

      I’m glad that my comment was encouraging. I shared your tips with my daughter who is a budding photographer.

  45. @dellons says:

    Thank you for the info and a great reference to what I’ve been trying to confirm on many unfruitful debates in regards to outbound linking. To add onto the conversation, I believe doing what one think would benefit their readers would ultimately help with gaining popularity. The more you give, the more you will receive should be on everyone’s thought, instead of monetizing everything up front.

    • You’re most welcome. It seems that we have a tendency towards hoarding. “What’s in it for me?” is the most prominent question. Yet time and time again we see that helping and sharing bring joy and often the financial rewards that we’re looking for.

  46. Niki Payne says:

    Are these outbound links followed links or nofollow links? Will it help or hurt your SEO to do one type of outbound look versus the other?