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No Website Is An Island: Why and How To Link To Others

If you’ve read even a little about search engine optimization (SEO), you probably know that one of the single most important factors used to determine your search ranking is the number and “power” of other pages that link to yours. The more links the better, and the more “powerful” those links, the better. Much of SEO is centered around getting lots of good links in to your website.

But, that’s not what this article is about. This one’s about why and how you should provide links out to others.

Why And How You Should Give Outbound Links

  1. Google Loves Links: As we already know, links make the (Internet) world go round. Without links, the Internet doesn’t make much sense. Links are also the cornerstone of Google’s PageRank algorithm. So, it would stand to reason that since links are so important to Google, it would encourage people to create links (and conversely, discourage websites from not having any links out at all). The argument is that Google incents behavior that helps it deliver better results to its users. Nothing is more important than links between related websites to make this happen. So, I would argue that if your website is overly frugal with outbound links, Google doesn’t like it as much as if you had at least a few strategic links that helps Google help its users. My advice: Don’t try to be an island – share some link love.

  2. Training Google Via Links: In addition to helping Google out by powering it’s PageRank algorithm, links are also a great “signal” for you to send to Google as to what topics your site is related to. As you might suspect, if you link out to an interesting article or two on a key topic of interest to your business, Google uses this as one more way to “figure out” what your site is about. So, in addition to whatever content you have on your page, the content you link out to is an important factor in training Google so it can establish context.

  3. Linking The Right Way: When providing links out to other sites, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Let’s first take a look at the wrong (but unfortunately very common) way that people link.

See what I did there. The word “here” is what is known as the “anchor text” for the link. It is critically important to the search engines when they look at links. By just making the word “here” a hyperlink, I’m giving Google very little help in terms of hints as to what I think the page I’m linking to is about. Instead, here is a much better (and right) way to do this:

The second way is much better than the first for multiple reasons. First, the link is easier for readers to click on (and know that it’s a link). But, more important is the fact that we now have the anchor text as “improve your organic search results on Google”. When the search engine spiders “see” this link, they factor in the anchor text when determining what the target page is about. The reason that the anchor text is important (vs. the page title that the original article itself has) is that generally when you are linking to external (third-party) sites, you control the anchor text. As such, this gives Google an external point of validation around the site content of the external site. Giving the site a link is a “vote” for that site – and the anchor text you use is a “contextual vote” that helps Google reaffirm the theme of that website. In summary, I strongly advocate making sure that you provide links out to related websites to yours. It not only helps others by helping them improve their search rankings, it will help with your own search engine optimization efforts as well. And, as long as you’re going to go to the trouble of linking out, take an extra minute and make sure you do it the right way by using the right anchor text for the link. The sites that you link to will be appreciative and it helps the right circulation of positive search engine karma. Though none of this should be particularly controversial, if you disagree with any of these points or have some additional thoughts to share, please leave them in the comments. I’m also happy to answer any questions too. Set up a free booking to learn more.

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