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Guide to Google ranking factors – Part 9: outbound links

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Last week we published the eighth instalment of our complete guide to Google ranking factors.

It concentrated on internal links, as well as the best way to use anchor text and hub page or category optimisation.

This week, outbound links!

1) An outbound link is a ‘vote of confidence’ to the site you’re linking to, and you will be passing along some of your own site’s ranking power. However try to avoid using anchor text such as ‘here’ as this is worthless to you and the site you’re linking to.

2) Sticking to the website name is a safe bet when choosing anchor text, especially if it’s ‘example company conducted a study’. That way usability and transparency is improved or maintained because visitors will know exactly what to expect when they click through.

3) When linking to other sites, try to avoid terms that describe what they do, especially if it’s something they’re trying to rank for. As an example, if you link to a particular SEO agency with the phrase ‘leading SEO experts’. This can be considered manipulative and may incur a penalty for either party.

4) Linking to authority sites: Reboot carried out a study to prove whether or not the strength of a site’s outgoing links has an effect on ranking.

The good news is that yes it does.

Reboot created 10 new websites each targeting the same keyword, only half of which included links to high authority sites. After five months it was concluded that, “Outgoing relevant links to authoritative sites are considered in the algorithms and do have a positive impact on rankings.”


5) Outbound links do not dilute your site if they’re towards high quality websites. And that doesn’t necessarily mean the ‘big publishers’ any smaller blog can have authority if its key resource in its field of interest.

6) According to the same research above, Pagerank retention is a myth. You may have heard the term link juice before, particularly in terms of having more internal links than external links for fear of leaking precious ‘link juice’ (or Pagerank) – but this seems to be untrue.

7) Any link building scheme is considered black hat SEO and will likely incur a penalty. So if you’re regularly linking to a website that has little to do with your own niche and/or those links have been bought or traded, you may get into trouble.

8) Outbound links can be a trust signal. If you’re linking to references in order to back up data or research, then obviously you’re doing your job properly. People will trust you, search engines will trust you. Well done.

9) Broken links whether internal or external can be a sign of a poorly maintained site, so make sure you double-check your links before publishing.

10) Affiliate links are fine, but make sure you use the nofollow meta tag in accordance with Google best practice.

11) You should also use the nofollow meta tag when linking out from sponsored content, native advertising or if you’re a blogger reviewing a product.

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Search Engine Watch.You can follow him on Twitter: @Christophe_Rock

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