So what’s the story with outbound links? Should you, or shouldn’t you? In our view, you should. You can see similar thoughts offered up about the value of outbound linking on Jim Boykin’s blog.
This flies in the face of traditional SEO that was into hoarding page rank and keeping visitors on your site. But we need to keep up with the times, and the way that search engine algorithms, and the web, are evolving.
To do this, it is helpful to think like a search engine engineer. What clues would you look for that you have found the best site for a particular keyword query? On page content? Sure. Links to the page from other sites? Sure. But you may also want to look at the pages that a site, or a page links to. Linking to high quality relevant content (that is non-competitive to your site) benefits you in three ways:
- Users who are not finding the answer they were looking for on your page may go to one of those links and find what they need. Don’t think of this as a lost sale. If they saw what they needed on your page, they probably would not have clicked on the link anyway. Think of it as a user in which you have scored some “trust points”. You have increased the chances that they will come back to your site when your product or service is in fact what they need.
- Search engines can evaluate the sites that you link to as further evidence that your site is really about a specific topic, and increase its ratings of how much value you provide to users on that topic.
- Getting killer links requires high quality content. People do not link to you for the express purpose of helping you make money. Getting major .edu, .gov, or news site links requires authoritative content. This means content developed with serving users in mind. Outbound links to other related resources enhances the authoritative nature of your pages.
It’s also helpful to look at Google’s patents. Looking at outbound links as a factor in improving relevance scores is something that they have documented in their patent filings. While there are no public statements that we know about that say that this is already built into their algorithms, it is our belief that it is.
It is also helpful to look at personal experience. In all of our clients, we strongly recommend that they implement high quality, relevant, outbound links. While this is one of many recommendations we make, our empirical analysis leads us to believe that outbound links have helped boost our rankings.
Lastly, don’t overlook how the web is evolving. More and more, it’s about building trust with your users. You may have to give something up in the beginning to earn that trust. But if you build trust in a user audience, it tends to pay you back in multiples.