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Outbound links harmful or not?
Is the "boost" in Google worth losing visitors?
pmkpmk




msg:131770
 3:00 pm on Aug 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi there,

during all these months here at Webmasterworld, it seemed an undisputed truth that having outbound links in Google to authoritive sites will increase your ranking.

Also, in terms of link-building, you obviously can't get much backlinks if you are not linking out.

Recently I read a book on advertising/pr in general, and the author also covered websites. He made a very strong point of NEVER EVER linking to other sites because that's the surest way of driving visitors away.

I emailed the auhtor, assuming he only has marginal knowledge of SEO, and expained what I learned over the years to be the reason for having outbound links.

He replied to me and it seems he has a fairly good understanding of SEO. And again he claimed to have NO outbound link is the best idea!

So... I'm puzzled. All YOU guys telling me to have outbound links is important. But now I get a very sound description why it is harmful.

What are your thoughts?

[edited by: martinibuster at 3:17 pm (utc) on Aug. 3, 2004]
[edit reason] No urls, thanks. See TOS [webmasterworld.com] [/edit]

 

BigDave




msg:131800
 4:02 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

pmk,

There is one part of the "web" argumant that you are missing.

Google lives and feeds off outbound links. Links to other sites is how they find and rate content. If there are no outbound links, google fails to work.

So it does not make any sense for them to support PR hogging websites. It is simply not in their best interest.

That is why those PR calculating pages that suggest hogging PR are somewhat worthless. They are concentrating solely on PR, and while PR is the most important factor, it is still only one factor out of over 100.

What you want to do is to make sure that while you are linking out, that you are still reserving the majority of the PR for yourself.

If you only have a "home" link on the page in addition to the external link, you will pe passing 50% of your available PR to that external page. If you have 19 internal links to that one external link, you will only be passing 5%. 5% is not much of a price to pay for all the potential benefits you can get for having that link out.

isitreal




msg:131801
 4:14 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

If you only have a "home" link on the page in addition to the external link, you will pe passing 50% of your available PR to that external page. If you have 19 internal links to that one external link, you will only be passing 5%.

That's a very clear explanation, thanks, personally I agree that trying to hoard your pagerank is a fairly unattractive strategy from the perspective of being a good web citizen. I see it a lot, actually WebmasterWorld is where I first started becoming aware of this technique, since when you use tabbed browsing such redirects are the only way a new domain will stay in the same tab with Firefox/tab browser extensions.

So it does not make any sense for them to support PR hogging websites.

But support them they do, apparently, that's how I found WebmasterWorld, as I noted.

Edge




msg:131802
 5:11 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

I have had a PR7 home page for over two years and have linked out from this page as well as a few pr6 pages for just as long. I dissagree that linking out permanentely reduces a selected pages pr. It has been my perception that pr is built by those pages linking in. I can not prove to my self that a page will permanently loose pr by linking out. If there was a fixed amount of pr in the world then, linking out would truly matter. Just for the record, linking stategy can effect your pr should you link in such a manner that looks like spam.

As far as not linking out, do it because you do not wish to send traffic...

randle




msg:131803
 5:15 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

There is conversion, and there is traffic. When it comes to driving organic traffic, the goal is to drive as much as you possibly can. In our sector, it takes so many visitors to convert; you can never have enough raw traffic. If someone leaves your site because of the placement of outbound links, which are there to increase rankings and therefore traffic, so be it. You will always be better off with the higher traffic they help bring by boosting rankings.

Paid advertising, where conversion takes on much greater significance, is another story all together.

dirkz




msg:131804
 5:43 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

> The real issue is traffic flow. If you choose your link partners wisely you'll ALWAYS receive more traffic from them than they get from you. ALWAYS.

Hmm. From my perspective this would mean that outbound links are really harmful :)

BigDave




msg:131805
 5:53 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

isitreal,

It seems to me that WW blocks those outbound links for a different reason. Those links are added by the general public, and they are trying to avoid two things:

1. linking to a bad neighborhood
2. link spamming of forums by webmasters.

WebmasterWorld actually has quite a few links out, but they are there by the conscious choice of Brett and those others that are running the show.

AjiNIMC




msg:131806
 6:05 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

recent SEO competition proved that outbound links help in getting better position , but surely it can take some of your customers too.

I use to link to gov sites now I donot have any outgoing link , even after that I doing well. So this factor is not that weighty to be significant.

PatrickDeese




msg:131807
 6:22 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

When in doubt I look at what WebmasterWorld has done, like this link [to google in this case]. No outgoing links at all, all sent to a WebmasterWorld page that forwards the viewer to the site without actually linking to the site. All page rank flows into WebmasterWorld from thousands of links, none flows out. That's leaving aside the whole pagerank discussion.

Webmasterworld.com has thousands of outbound links. Please know what you are talking about.

Firstly, every member has the opportunity to link to a site in their profile (and many do) - which Google and other search engines can and do recognize as a backlink - and as other people have pointed out - WW does allow links - the site simply doesn't allow self-promotional URL drops.

isitreal




msg:131808
 7:33 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

Webmasterworld.com has thousands of outbound links. Please know what you are talking about.

Firstly, every member has the opportunity to link to a site in their profile (and many do) - which Google and other search engines can and do recognize as a backlink - and as other people have pointed out - WW does allow links

Every member's profile page is free to distribute its page rank, that doesn't have any affect on the site itself, it's the primary pages I'm talking about. I give these WebmasterWorld guys a lot of credit, I know they know what they are doing, the reason I found this site, and most other users find it, is not accidental.

If you add a link of any type elsewhere it gets the redirect treatment, are you suggesting otherwise, it sounds like it.

birdstuff




msg:131809
 7:39 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hmm. From my perspective this would mean that outbound links are really harmful :)

Only if you choose your link partners unwisely.

BigDave




msg:131810
 8:13 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

If you add a link of any type elsewhere it gets the redirect treatment, are you suggesting otherwise, it sounds like it.

Here's the kicker, *you* as a simple member do not get to add outbound links other than the one to your home page.

Let me ask you a question, is the site that you are doing SEO on the equivalent of a Webmaster World? Do you have anywhere near as many incoming links? Do you have anywhere near the same amount of real content?

No one is suggesting that outbound links are vital when it comes to ranking well. There are lots of sites that rank well even though they do not link out. But the question is whether or not they are "harmful". The answer is that they are not harmful of done properly, and they can be helpful in many many ways.

To tell you the truth, if I was running a forum like this, I would run the links through a redirector too. It is a good way to keep others from ruining your site by dropping links.

But if you look at how the redirector works, you will notice that by using it you are throwing away PR instead of using it. That's right, the 302 redirect page that is pointed to will get PR but it will not pass it back into the main site unless Brett has figured out a bug in google's algo.

But, from a PR perspective, it does not really matter given the large number of internal links on each page. I counted 41 on an average logged out page in Google news. That means that if you add a link that goes to the redirect page that they are only throwing out 2.4% of the available PR from that page. Big whoop.

I think Brett would rather throw out 2.4% out of an occasional bottom level page than get loaded down with spam or run the risk of having some member link him to a bad neighborhood.

steveb




msg:131811
 8:22 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

"Every member's profile page is free to distribute its page rank, that doesn't have any affect on the site itself,"

Huh? Of course it does.

Webmasterworld links out liberally. This notion that it hordes pagerank is just bizarrely anti-reality.

I have virtually no link partners that send me more traffic than I send them. That is the "price" of having successful sites. Duh.

There are few more clear signals of a domain's quality than it linking to direct competitors. Only sites with weak quality content should be are afraid of that.

isitreal




msg:131812
 8:36 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

There are few more clear signals of a domain's quality than it linking to direct competitors.

So I should be able to link to a*listapart for example? I compeletely agree with your statement.

I'm not criticizing WebmasterWorld, I'm complimenting them, and study the methods they use because I believe very little that happens on this forum, or in the SERPs that deliver users to this forum, happens by chance.

Let me ask you a question, is the site that you are doing SEO on the equivalent of a Webmaster World? Do you have anywhere near as many incoming links? Do you have anywhere near the same amount of real content?

Me, no. But when I look at the sites WebmasterWorld is competing with I see most of them are not doing the full scope of what is being done here, to cover every possible base and contingency, that's why I view WebmasterWorld as a particularly useful and educational example. And WebmasterWorld is usually beating those sites in the SERPs, even though many of them have been around a long time, that's what makes it worthwhile studying every component of this site as opposed to the other sites.

I would probably be tempted to redirect outbound links too, because it's solid practice currently from what I can see, for enough reasons to make it a good idea [linking to a bad neighborhood, link spamming of forums by webmasters, and of course, to get back to the topic if this thread, minimizing the number of outbound links, which if I go by what WebmasterWorld does, is clearly a good idea, for these reasons].

My preference would be that google value true outbound links more highly, stop draining pagerank through outbound linking, which is stupid and makes no sense to me, give you real credit for being a real webpage using real http methods, it's sort of my impression that Hilltop is an attempt to move towards this model, which I hope is correct.

PatrickDeese




msg:131813
 9:46 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

FWIW - Y recognizes the redirected URLs as links, as this simple search [search.yahoo.com] will confirm.

I am pretty sure Google does too, but it is a lot harder to look for stuff like that w/Google.

isitreal




msg:131814
 10:20 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

That was an interesting one, however:
linkdomain:w3c.org site:webmasterworld.com
returns a grand total of 1 results.
and
linkdomain:w3.org site:webmasterworld.com
returns a whopping 7 results.

Since I'd say it's a fairly safe bet that the w3c has been linked to more than 8 times on WebmasterWorld, I'd say the yahoo thing isn't working very well, or it's not catching the url redirects very accurately, I tried it on another site that doesn't use url redirects and it caught all the occurances on the site, so the overall thing seems to work.

My guess is that what yahoo is returning is something like allinurl:, the simple text occurance of the search string within the complete url string, no matter where in that string it occurs, in other words, not the actual site, just the fact that the domain name occured within a string contained in a url.

steveb




msg:131815
 11:15 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

"All page rank flows into WebmasterWorld from thousands of links"

Maybe I'm confused by what you are saying, but I think you drawing inncorrect conclusions here. Those redirect URLs don't benefit webmasterworld, and similar such links often (usually?) show up as normal backlinks.
===

<I meant that at least they showed up when the link command was working sanely...>

isitreal




msg:131816
 11:39 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

Thousands of links to the site, almost none leaving, especially on a per page basis, with the noted exception of the user profiles.

I see this redirect method used a lot on spam sites, directories etc, and as we all know, those sites probably aren't concerned with linking to bad neighborhoods, or self promotional postings, they are concerned with maintaining as much page rank as possible, bringing the user in to them through SERP manipulation, obviously. I look at what someone does, not what he says as a rule.

This study came to the conclusion that from a pure mathematical approach, outbound links WILL decrease the PR of pages

The article in question is at pr dot e factory dot de , it's very nicely written, seems like a good resource, but it looks like it's on WebmasterWorld's list of never link to by name sites, but in this case it's clearly relevant, meaningful, and on topic, not to mention one of the more in depth discussions of this topic I've come across.

One interesting thing that article discusses re dangling pages, like a redirect url page for example, is that in their opinion, although it sounds like they got this straight from the whitepapers, such pages are erased from the google db in terms of page rank loss, which would mean that there is in fact no pagerank loss to a site as a whole by using such methods. And of course this would explain why it is so many sites use that method.

BigDave




msg:131817
 11:46 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

and similar such links often (usually?) show up as normal backlinks.

Really? I know that 301s will show up as backlinks and be counted, but I haven't seen it with 302s (WW uses 302). Not that I doubt that it happens, but I just haven't seen it yet.

steveb




msg:131818
 11:56 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

My www.domain.com/cgi-bin/redirect? type links to other sites show as backlinks even though the cgi-bin is disallowed to Googlebot.

steveb




msg:131819
 12:11 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google doesn't care where pages go or what they do, and doesn't even need to follow a link to assign PR. Google only cares about seeing <a href=

isitreal




msg:131820
 12:35 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

and doesn't even need to follow a link to assign PR

What does this mean, I don't quite follow it. Does it mean that anything in an <a href= tag, which is a link, is all that google cares about? I don't understand this statement, it sounds like you're saying google doesn't need to follow a link, it only follows links, but I doubt that's what you mean.

How does google assign PR if not through links? Do you mean that the physical presence on site x of a link to site y is what establishes the page rank? And not the actual following of the link on site x to site y?

If it's the latter, does this mean that I could take an existing site, add links to a non existing site, and that non existing site would then have PR?

BigDave




msg:131821
 12:45 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

What he means is that even though the following code points to a non-existant page on a non-existant domain, that google will assign that URL a PageRank from the link. That is why you can have URLs from servers that are blocked by robots.txt show up even though they have not been crawled.

<a href="h**p://arglebarglewoof.woof/nonexistant.page">

Powdork




msg:131822
 12:54 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

You'll notice a link to westhost on every single page of the site as well as a link to searchengineworld on the homepage.

I heard about webmasterworld from ciml while learning slowly over at google groups.
I have and will introduced it to other webmasters and webmaster wannabees.
I link to my direct competitors.
I DO NOT introduce WW to my direct competitors.;)

isitreal




msg:131823
 1:06 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

You'll notice a link to westhost on every single page of the site as well as a link to searchengineworld on the homepage.

Yes, I notice that, and then I notice that when I refresh the page, having switched to a googlebot useragent id, there is no link to westhost, and a link to searchengineworld, on every page, which is run by PHD software. Why did I check that, and why was I not surprised to see that result? Because I know these guys are good, and that they know what they are doing, and clearly no real outgoing links on a page is part of that system.

I have no doubts about the WebmasterWorld admin's SEO skills, they are self evident, it's why I read this stuff. The only external link on these pages that google sees goes to an affiliated site, this method works very well. You'll also notice that the rotating top link, upper right, stops rotating, and only points to SEW.

When you go to sew, you'll notice that there is a link back to WebmasterWorld on each page. This fits exactly with the conclusions in the above article, which claimed that a direct 1 to 1 link exchange should result in a neutral result.

I would take this as a model of how to do it, or at least one possible model (not one I'd follow, but I like the idea of the open linked web), clearly outgoing links are being treated here as very valuable commodities, only to be used to boost affiliate properties, very nicely done. And if the document above is correct re dangling pages, this thing is very tightly sealed, I'm more and more impressed the more I look at this.

Powdork




msg:131824
 1:35 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

having switched to a googlebot useragent id, there is no link to westhost, and a link to searchengineworld, on every page, which is run by PHD software.
The plot thickens. I've often thought Google was pulling the strings here. Perhaps its in trade for overlooking the cloaking.
steveb




msg:131825
 1:39 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

"I don't understand this statement, it sounds like you're saying google doesn't need to follow a link,"

Yes, in terms of PR, Google doesn't need to follow a link.

isitreal




msg:131826
 1:48 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've often thought Google was pulling the strings here.

The strings they pull are not I believe related to this topic, Brett T actually dealt with this exact question in this thread [webmasterworld.com], after digitalv discovered the same thing when he switched to firefox and started playing with the useragent switcher.

It's not so much cloaking as a very clear indication that no matter what rhetoric is used, for maximal results exactly zero outgoing links per page is best, and fully controlled link exchange like with SEW is also solid, coupled with a massive number of incoming links. You can use whatever word you want to describe this method, it obviously works.

The fact that the westworld link is removed for the googlebot, leaving precisely zero outbound non reciprical links per main page should be all the proof that is required to see that as far as WebmasterWorld is concerned, shutting off all outbound links is the way to go.

Powdork




msg:131827
 1:49 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

If it's the latter, does this mean that I could take an existing site, add links to a non existing site, and that non existing site would then have PR?
Check out this thread.
[webmasterworld.com...]

Powdork




msg:131828
 1:57 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

But aren't we talking about giving the search engine something different in order to manipulate rankings. That's a whole different ballgame from claoking on the other environmental variables.

isitreal




msg:131829
 1:57 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

I read that thread too, it was very interesting, but I had missed that what was being talked about was linking to a non-existent domain, I thought they meant just getting the domain name and linking to it using a basic html filler page on the new domain, I wish I had known that method a few years ago, very interesting, thanks for clearing that up.

isitreal




msg:131830
 2:01 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

But aren't we talking about giving the search engine something different in order to manipulate rankings.

Yes, obviously, but as Brett said, all the big sites do it in some form or other, it's easy, so why not? He's not really delivering different content, he's just eliminating a link, adding some links, it's pretty minor, but that's what shows me that very clearly the topic of this thread was not irrelevant, and the perfect case study for that topic is on this very website.

Note again, zero non-reciprocal, non-affiliate outbound links given to google. I don't know about you, but that makes me take notice.

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