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This 81 message thread spans 3 pages: < < 81 ( 1 2 [3]     
Outbound links harmful or not?
Is the "boost" in Google worth losing visitors?

 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]



 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.


 2:10 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

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

Note: LOTS of outbound links from google.com via their directory. Currently my 2 amateur sites both have a PR5 link from Google.


 2:13 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

I was referring to this site, WebmasterWorld. Personally, I like the whole idea of spreading links through the web, bots following those links, it's what http was made to do.


 2:19 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

it's what http was made to do.
and i thought it was just a vehicle to get to .swf files.;)

 2:27 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

No, you're clearly confused, it's mainly a way to view animated gifs, they are coming back strong, swf is on its way out : )

The concern I have is that I've seen this type of thing before, a method that relies on very easy to detect strategies which works for a while because it exploits certain loopholes in the http structure and how Google handles that.


 2:34 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

>I was referring to this site, WebmasterWorld. Personally, I like the whole idea of spreading links through the web, bots following those links, it's what http was made to do.

Dude, that is so 1990ish. Then again, the 1990s on the Internet did have their charm. Having just recently with my amateur sites managed to achieve everything I ever hoped for with Google rankings, I'm seriously considering just freely linking to whatever sites I think is worthwhile. Without even first asking for reciprocal links. The irony may be this will make me stronger with Google than ever. If those sites end up on their own linking back, not only would I get inbound traffic from those links, this could even strengthen my sites ranking in Google if some of these sites link back.


 2:37 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

"for maximal results exactly zero outgoing links per page is best,"

There are different issues here if you look at the thread title. For non-PR algorithmic reasons linking off a page can be valuable.

But if you just want to talk about PR, which is isolating one element and basically only makes sense to do as part of a larger equation, making dead end pages is wasting pagerank. Pages should link out. That is an absolute. Dead ends kill value. Linking off your domain sends PR to somewhere that you usually, but not always, don't control. Sometimes linking off domain has the exact same effect as linking on a domain, because the other domain links to you. These redirect links bleed off PR in the same way as any other link. PR is not mysterious. A page has PR. It passes a percentage of that PR to URLs it links to, whether those URLs even have pages on them or not. The PR that a page can send is divided by the number of href's on the page.

The equation that needs to occur is to weigh the value of recycling pagerank through your own domain pages versus the authority and relevance signals you can send via links to other domains that will help define the content and quality of your domain. This is a balancing act, with pages that don't need defining (like any generic forum thread) being ones that should emphasize recycling PR (and offering anchor text), while others that seek to define themselves very narrowly should lean to helping the search engine understand exactly what the page is about by referencing other similar, quality pages.


 2:47 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

Steveb, that's a very clear explanation, thanks. The model you describe is the model I prefer, but clearly not the model that this site follows. And studying this site a bit more closely than I usually do tonite has been educational.

The equation that needs to occur is to weigh the value of recycling pagerank through your own domain pages versus the authority and relevance signals you can send via links to other domains that will help define the content and quality of your domain.

And the most important part of this equation is that Google gets this and implements it decently, not an easy project I think. I would like to see high quality pages like this rewarded by search engines, not punished for putting useful and helpful links on the page.


 7:56 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

Oh my... obviously quite a lot has happened while I was sound asleep. Funny how a topic can suddenly start to seed conspiracy theories all of a sudden.

To get back to the initial question: my site is in no reasonable way comparable to WW. It's a coroporate hompage, focusing on products and services. It doesn't have a forum at all, and it is not even remotely connected to any web-services or webmaster-products. We deal in specialty software for specialty hardware, and we cover a niche where we are worldwide market leader with only ~2000 installations.

It was very interesting to read all the behind-the-scenes-of-WW stuff. But using these techniques will - I think - not work for me.

What I liked was the 50:50 example of - I think - isitreal. Clearly something to learn from, so I'm glad all my pages HAVE already many internal links.

It is good to see that waht I called the "grassroots statement" still finds followers. I wrote in an earlier article that I symphatize with it, and even though I run a commercial website now, being on the net (the net, not the web) since 1988 makes one more of a grassroots-netizen than a corporate-netizen. However I am very well aware who signs my paycheck every month, so I do what's in the best interest of my employer and which I can ethically take responsibility for.

Since I assume only a minority here runs sites comparable to WW I'd like to suggest - if I may - to get back on topic covering more "normal" sites. What I found from the last few posts distills like this:

No-outbound links considered harmful for the web aka the "Advanced grassroots statement"
If sites increasingly switch to no-outbound-links, the core concept of spider-driven search engines is in jeopardy. More and more they would need to rely on submissions. A thought occurs that this might give more relevance to catalogues...

Use outbound links like rare spices aka "Divide and conquer"
This is so beautiful in its simplicity that every junior webmaster should print it out and stick it to her/his screen:
If a page has one internal and one external link, PR is split 50:50
If a page has 9 internal links and one external link, PR is split 90:10

Take care to prevent PR discount aka "The dam breaks"
On pages with a tendency to gather large amounts of outbound links (like forums), it might be necessary for "self preservation" of PR to use redirection scripts in order to prevent gross PR leakage. This also prevents maleficent "link poisoning" and "forum feeding" from whoever has a grudge against you or your company.

Exchanging 1:1 links is neutral aka "Tit for tat"
If you ONLY have ONE outbound link, and the page you are linking to ONLY has 1 backward link to you, then it's a neutral game.
Obviously this makes most sense when you actually own BOTH pages/sites.

Get as many inbound links as possible aka "I want it all and I want it now"
I hear the senior webmaster howling right now. I'm simplifying here - the topic of the quality of inbound links is in fact a very complex one covered in many other threads.
Nevertheless, for the sake of simplicity, haveing MORE inbound links is in the vast majority of cases better than having FEWER inbound links. Is it not?

OK, did I miss anything?


 8:11 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

OK, did I miss anything?
Yes! Your users. Make your site for your users. Usability includes navigation which includes links to external sites. They should be good for your users.

and then add "target=_blank" to every outbound link. After all, we don't want to get carried away with this 'for the user' stuff.;)


 8:16 am on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

VERY good points!

My site exists for many years now, and we get good feedback from users in terms of navigation, useability and content. For me, it's natural to provide good (and honest) content. But maybe it should indeed be mentioned more often.

To open a new window while using external links as a classic technology. Most modern CMS systems do it automatically or let you define rules for it. Nevertheless, I see lots of pages who don't. Bizarre.


 2:57 pm on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

and then add "target=_blank" to every outbound link.

A small suggestion: target="_blank" will open up an endless number of new windows, instead select one window name for new windows, such as target="window2" and use that on every outbound link in your site, this will make one and only one new browser instance appear, which is good manners.

Personally, I'm starting to get away from that target thing, I think because I've been using tabbed browsing for a while, which is set to open new domains in a new tab no matter what you set your site to do [with the one exception of internal to external redirect pages], I prefer to give users the choice of what to do, although I think for more commercial stuff it's probably a good idea to not give this range of choice.


 7:41 pm on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

You live and learn. Never heard of the naming-thing before. Thanks!


 1:24 am on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Then why are directories dominating Google's SERPs?

It could because they list so many sites that match the correct criteria in one place. That makes them an authority just as much as the site that has pages and pages and more pages of content on the topic.

We would never link out to a competitor, but do have a "links" page for our human visitors full of ON topic links.

We also disallow our links page on the robots.txt file. I believe our links are for human visitors not necessarily for the bots.

We have been number 1 for a competitive 3 word term (7 mil results) for several months now.


 7:22 am on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Because I believe in practicing what I preach i just added 6 links to the content of the homepage of a site I have currently sitting in time out (sandbox, quarantine, whatever). Two of the links are to direct competitors, one is to the local newspaper (also a competitor for advertising), and three are to the chambers of commerce. None of the sites link back to me. The two competitors (owned by one guy who gains 7000 links to his sites from his network) have approached me for exchanging links and I have never replied because of the network thing. I'm not looking for an exchange here. I probably will join the chamber (only 1, they're expensive) soon as they have proven to be a valuable source of traffic for other sites I have dealt with over the years.
We'll see what happens, although from what I gather it should be unquarantined soon anyway so it will be difficult to judge if this has any impact.


 7:38 am on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Being member of the chamber of commerce is mandatory where I come from. We get a fair amount of visitors from them, but they mostly come in via the (seperate) "job opportunities" link.

I would have been surprised if there would be more (or ANY) targeted visitors from them, given the nature of our business which is a nice product.


 7:45 am on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

They used to send no visitors to sites I was associated with but when G started ranking dynamic pages well they went gangbusters (one of them did anyway). My site lies in an area on the border of two states with three chambers nearby and one missing for some reason. (mental note to self-send bid to chamber without site):)


 2:21 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google has switched to page redirects in their SERPs overnite.


 2:27 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Are you referring to the
onmousedown="return clk(this,'res',1)" in the links? What does it do?

 3:31 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Interesting, now google is back to normal, it's hard to say if that was a cookie based result, some kind of user tracking thing being tested, or what.


 10:24 am on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

I heard somewhere - I think even here on WW - that they sometimes do random user tests with new functionality.

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