Search engine optimization has evolved over the past 10 years or so to be more intuitive and more user-based. That is, today search engines are attempting to mimic human behavior and to evaluate websites in a way that makes them more useful to actual web surfers—not just themselves. This increasing importance being placed on real-world website usability has created a system whereby a website’s popularity (what the search engine world calls “authority”) becomes almost more important than any other factor. But then the question becomes, how do I build authority?
Search engines don’t have brains or emotions, so they can’t subjectively evaluate a website’s quality or authority. All they can do is measure factors that would lead one to believe that a website has some authority. Search engines can measure how popular a site is, not just based on traffic, but on the amount of links around the internet that point to it. Search engines equate a link with an implicit endorsement of a site’s usefulness and trustworthiness—i.e., its authority. So if I put a link on my site pointing to your site, search engines will assume that I think your site is pretty cool and your page rank will improve.
Creating a system of good links back to your site is a great way to build your SEO and increase your page rank, and it’s a tactic used and advocated by virtually all SEO companies. And as the search engines continue to tweak their algorithms, putting more and more weight on authority, generating those links becomes increasingly important for any site concerned with SEO and getting to the top of a search engine results page.
But with all that said, why would you want to link to other pages? If incoming links are what build your SEO and authority, linking out would do the opposite right? Yes and no. Linking out is a factor in determining your page rank. For example, a website with a Google PageRank of 5 will have a bigger incoming/outgoing link ratio than a website with a PageRank of 3. However, you have to keep in mind that a PageRank rating, does not necessarily mean you’ll come up #1 on a search engine results page—it’s simply a metric to measure how well your site is doing.
The other factor to keep in mind when talking about incoming and outgoing links is the fact that you have to be noticed on the internet in order to get any traffic and to get people to link to you. So, although linking out doesn’t give you any direct SEO love, it has a secondary effect of getting people to notice who you are and to link back to you—giving you more authority. Essentially, there are a handful of ways that linking out can be a very good thing for your website: it will get you noticed by the people you link to; it will help you build traffic to your site; and it will help you establish yourself as a resource.
Linking out to other websites won’t give you any direct SEO love, but it will get you noticed by those websites. If you are like most marketers or webmasters, you check your website traffic daily (if not hourly) and you stay on top of the number of links that are coming into your site and where they are coming from. When a webmaster (or whoever is in charge of the company website) sees that a new link has popped up, their first reaction is to go to the site that is linking to them—if they aren’t already familiar with it. The simple act of linking to another website (especially one with some small amount of authority) will get you noticed by the website owners. And being noticed by someone who already has clout in the community is never a bad thing. If they like what you’ve said about them, or spend the time to find out about all the cool content on your website, most likely they’ll return the favor, mention you in future blog post, or simply keep you in mind as a future resource they can tap when needed. Linking gets you noticed and can have the secondary effect of boosting your SEO.
Another way to boost your SEO is to publish regular, high-quality content. Not only do search engines like websites that are constantly pushing new content to their users, but users like it as well. Publishing high-quality content on a regular basis keeps site visitors coming back. And part of creating high-quality content is giving users the information and resources they need to stay informed—in the form of links. That’s one of the reasons content aggregators are so popular. Content aggregators allow a single user to visit one site and get all the information they need without having to cavort around the internet to the same 10 websites everyday to check for new content. You can be a similarly valuable resources as well. Don’t be a content aggregator, but do provide your readers with valuable links to great content, and they’ll keep coming back.
Search engines respect authority, and users appreciate resources, so you should strive to become a resource. And resources don’t simply publish their own content, but link to other valuable bits of information. When users start to recognize that you are the one-stop-shop for all valuable information in your specific niche, Google will notice that people are turning to your website more than others and will give your site SEO love. Simply put, if you link out, users will respect your authority and so will search engines.
You want to build as many backlinks as you can, which will boost your SEO and your page rank, but you can’t do it alone. If you isolate yourself as a website, no one will know you exist and you won’t be a respected member of the community because you’re not playing with anyone else. Although linking out may seem counter-intuitive to building your SEO, linking out helps build your stature in the community and helps you become a trusted resources—both factors that will lead you to building a greater number of backlinks and getting some great SEO love.
Brad Anderson is the Founder and CEO of Fruition. Brad’s focus is supporting Fruition’s team to enable sustainable growth and excellent client satisfaction (EBITDA growth). With a strong statistical background, Brad built Fruition’s in-house software that is used to manage client success.
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