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Linking – What’s the big deal?

Or – the status of linking in today’s Webmaster World.



2:41 pm on Mar 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

It probably goes without saying that Google has made linking a big deal. A whole search engine has credited its importance so linking is not going away any time soon. Linking is also a biggie for spam filters. We’ve seen it time and again. Folks are still talking about getting out of those once ‘ever popular’ link farms of a few years back. The struggle with crosslinking and bans goes on. I continue to see people trying to create the next automatic linking system that won’t cause a major problem or maybe they are out for a quick buck because those systems just don’t last long at all.

We’ve talked about standards. Creating websites that scream for linking because the content is terrific and on theme, perhaps comfy in a nice little niche.

We’ve talked about hubs, directories and creating authority – although I believe we have so much further to go with this.

We’ve talked about how to attach reciprocal links to our site so they don’t take away from the site. In the process of this we’ve included discussion on what to call links because gee – we can’t call a link a link due to spam filters. Ah…….. a link by any other name or a link is a link is a link…. Oh well!

We’ve touched on linking for traffic. Rogerd brought this up again and I’m glad because I’d like to see more discussion on this.

We’ve discussed how to find links, how to get links and what to do once you have them. This has included sharing PR or how much to give away.

I suppose what I want to know from the community is where you believe the status of linking in the industry stands today and perhaps where it’s going. Along with that I’d like to know what you would like to see more discussion on in this forum, if there are holes and what you’d like to revisit or build on. Newbies (meant in the fondness terms) and lurkers welcome. We need to know what you think and what you’re looking for. This is an open discussion to generate ideas and figure out how to meet the needs of the community as a whole.


7:40 am on Mar 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I don't want to be misunderstood. Sorry, if what I write is not clear enough, English is not my first language. What I wanted to say was that outgoing links don't affect the pagerank of the linking page. Yes, of course linking to other pages (inside or outside your own site) has an impact on those pages' page rank, depending on the page rank of the linking page and number of outgoing links. Page rank of a page (not site) depends only on INCOMING links. Page rank of the pages you link to can neither hurt nor help the page rank of the LINKING PAGE. I can see a myth spreading around this forum, when people are afraid of being penalized for using 'BAD LINKS'. You certainly can't be penalized for linking to someone. SE (Google) can only decide, upon certain criteria, what value the link has. The worst thing that can happen is that the link will be given no value (means that it will not increase the PR of the page it points to). It has NO impact on the PR of the linking page.


8:32 am on Mar 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member woz is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I must say that I agree with you LegendQDI. This is something that has been nagging me for some time.

There seems to be the general fear that by linking to a page with less PR than yours then you lose PR. I can't see that this would be the case or else the overall PR of the web would be in a constant downward spiral towards Zero. (Now that would be a bug and a half!!!)

Most people here already know me for the Glossary Directory I have built so pardon me if I use that as an example. I have been fortunate in gaining a PR7 rating, mainly due to being linked to by educational and other highly regarded sites/pages.

However, being a directory, the site is all about linking out, with an OUTlink to INlink ratio of about 10 to 1 at the moment. So, if I lost PR everytime I linked out, then I would end up with a rating of about -7!

I view OUTlinking not as losing PR but rather sharing PR. Kinda like the story of two people giving each other something. If they give other an apple, they both have ONE apple. But if they give each other an idea, then thay both have TWO ideas.

Now, linking to so-called BAD communities is another situation altogether. We all know that LinkSharing Programs are a NoNo, so linking to one of those could lead to problems, but I don't believe that you would lose PR simply if the page to which you are linking has a lower PR than yours. Otherwise, the converse would be true and we would all be running around in cirsles linking to the highest PR page we could find.

So, go forth and link, for that is how the internet works.



9:28 am on Mar 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

>Now, linking to so-called BAD communities is another situation altogether. We all know that LinkSharing Programs are a NoNo

Those are the ones I am afraid of, and people do it innocently all the time. There's no disagreement on my part that linking to any page of value is worth doing regardless of Page Rank considerations. Some of those bad program are still around, and capitalizing on the effect of luring people by the promise that link popularity will raise Google rankings. They may not do any such thing, but traffic through links from all the sites participating is designed to bring traffic to a select number that I assume are client sites that are sprinkled throughout regardless of topic. When over 500 links get a site PR5 same as others with 20 links, it's not worth sending the traffic away to those bad linking sites. There's no inherent value in those links, the purpose is only for link pop - but the management benefits from the link clicks. It's a very skewed picture.

I think what's happening is that there's such an over-emphasis on Page Rank that other good reasons have taken a back seat. There's been perspective lost. There's a difference dictated by the type of site. A lot of the linking strategy can be based on what the original purpose of the site is. A large site with a primary purpose of providing content and information is different from an ecommerce site with the primary purpose of selling a product. They'll begin and evolve differently.

Probably the word strategizing fits, which would be the step after the purpose is clearly defined. The site with the intention to sell may link with others that are like-minded and complementary to exchange traffic for getting sales, and even content would be added with the intention of increasing sales by informing customers. On the other hand, a large information site may also bring revenue, but by it's nature it'll need to have more of a connectivity with the rest of the web. Others are a combination.

>where you believe the status of linking in the industry stands today and perhaps where it’s going

Fabulous thread paynt, and a great time to bring the topic up in this way. I remember when my perception of linking was just to link to sites that were funny or interesting or had something of value. Somehow loads of links in would come without ever asking for even 1 and there was much traffic, both in and to the many sites linked out to. I had such a site and was familiar with any number like it. They were not even submitted to search engines. Those were according to the original intended purposes of linking, the exchange of inherent value for the visitors.

I personally believe the status of linking today has gone way out of balance by the over-emphasis that always leads back to Google :)

(edited by: Marcia at 9:31 am (utc) on Mar. 14, 2002)


9:30 am on Mar 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks, Woz.
I just want to add that linking to whatever and whoever WILL NOT get you penalized. It is not how it works. Imagine that you write an article about the uselessness of so called linksharing programs, and publish the article on the web. Now, do you think that the web page with this article will be penalized just because the article will contain links to several linksharing programs, as an example? No. Outgoing links have no impact on the page's PR. No penalization can be caused by either outgoing nor incoming links. Outgoing links do nothing to your page's PR, and incoming links can either help or do nothing to the page's PR. Links recognized as being from these linksharing programs and FFA pages are simply IGNORED, they have no value. Otherwise everyone would go and submit their competition's websites to all kinds of FFA pages and all 'BAD' programs, and anyone would destroy their copetitors. All this penalization for linking to 'Bad Places' or being linked by 'Bad Places' is a myth.


9:37 am on Mar 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

We use outgoing links extensively throughout our site.

We've no idea of the PR value of the pages we link to as we use Macs so been spared most of the PR paranoia generated by the use of the G toolbar.

The links are to add value for our viewers, and apart from the SEs and directories, we haven't even checked if we have other incoming ones at all.

Having said that, I must confess to an unreasonable aversion to reciprocal links, have not requested any, and would probably refuse most.

But that's my personal paranoia.


9:40 am on Mar 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member chiyo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member


I would love to beleive what you say. It would be a perfect world. I remain agnostic rather than a theist or an agnostic in this case, until I see real evidence that I aint seen yet!


9:42 am on Mar 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

Another classic thread here - and what a dilemma it poses!

My own attitude has evolved dramatically over the last 12 months, and I think that applies to most folks on here. I don't, however, believe that this is necessarily good, and I don't feel comfortable about it - at all.

Looking at my sites from 12 months or so ago, I demonstrated a care free link to all type mentality... at least link to all who had good 'on topic' content. Largely, I got reciprocal links in exchange, as my sites were half decent as well.

The problem was, and is, that I operate in a series of fairly niche areas. From a search engine perspective I can see how these links may have looked bogus or manufactured for PR type benefit. They weren't... but I got the PR0 ban anyhow.

This came as a shock. I had to re-evaluate. I was all over the place initially, as I just didn't see a resolution to two conflicting issues:

a) The links are useful to my visitors in many of these areas
b) The links almost certainly triggered the PR0

This I think is the core of the problem here, a problem largely of Google's making. I am now paranoid about linking. Do I:

a) Build sites totally for the benefit of the users, and risk the wrath of Google by still providing the interlinking
b) Sacrifice some of the site's value by chopping the links for the sake of Google and the consequential traffic.

My wallet suggests option (b), but my heart (and common sense) suggests option (a).

In practise, I am caught a bit between the two... some sites follow one approach and some sites the other. For the best sites (option a) I am seriously considering sticking the robots tag on there and banning Googlebot. Why? Because these are built for the benefit of the user, and:

a) I don't want any search engine forcing me to compromise by dictating where I link to.
b) I don't want to risk inflicting damage on any of the sites they link to.

This can't be healthy, I think some of the contributors above are right in hinting that it is actually contrary to the ethos of the web itself. Maybe Google itself has recognized this as GoogleGuy did suggest a relaxation of the PR0 ban (which I have yet to see).

I do feel though that in the long run the strategy of linking to decent sites, based on their content only, is the route to go. It might attract some short term pain, whilst Google and others evolve in this area, but any other approach is fraught with real difficulty and is surely only a short term fix. It is very uncomfortable though.

Sometimes, the problem with evolution is waiting for time to pass.


9:44 am on Mar 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

you don't have nothing to be afraid of. Incoming links from other pages (from your own site or someone else's site), especially from pages with context related to your own page and with a high PR, can only help your pages' PR. It can do nothing bad to you.


9:54 am on Mar 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

On my site, I have linked to other sites which contain valuable information for my customers. There are thirteen categories, four of which were admittedly added when I was looking for link pop and was offering reciprocal links, which I have stopped doing and am now only looking for information of value to my potential customers and on theme with my site. That is how the www was designed to work.

I feel that Brett's comment, "You are who you link to" is very valid, but perhaps we have different reasons for linking. If the information contained on any given site has value for my customers, then I will link to them. It can only help my customers to point them to other sites which may help them gather whatever information they are after.

I have several links to my site which I wish were not there. In two cases, I have written to them and asked them to remove my site from their links page ... to no avail. They are link farms which I did not request a link from. What am I supposed to do about that? Its out of my control. The only thing I can control is who I link to.

My site has a PR5 and so do most of the other major sites in my industry ... which is ridiculous because for the most part, the other sites have far less to offer the customer. I am not boasting, its just a fact. I get e:mails literally ever day saying "Wow, what a site" or some such thing.

Although I understand the importance that PR has in Google, I do not feel that PR should have any affect on whom I choose to link to. Its MY site ... not Google's! I also feel that although Google is a wonderful search engine, there are inherent and glaring holes in their PR system which will eventually make PR useless. Why does a 25 page site which is chock full of spam and hidden text have the same PR as a 100 page site packed with solid information, no hidden text or other tricks? Does PR actually define the value of a site? ... Absolutely not!

I think many people are chasing their tails when it comes to PR. After all, it is simply an arbitrary figure assigned by an algorithm to any given site on the Net which is supposed to be a gauge as to how popular a site is. However, In my industry and for most of the sites with PR 5 or better, the site owners have paid for many of the links to their sites. I have paid for none. So the concept of link popularity is flawed simply because anyone can pay for PR these days just as they can pay for placement!

If PR was based on an altruistic concept of popularity based on "value" to the reader ... that theory no longer holds water and I don't imagine that this inherent failing in the PR system has escaped the powers that be at Google either.

I'm not about to lose sleep over PR and I'm not going to start buying it either! At one time, PR meant something and I suppose it still does in some industries, but in mine ... its been a joke for quite some time. Its just one more way to manipulate the SERPS IMHO.


10:49 am on Mar 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

LegendQDI, I did mention it was an "unreasonable" aversion!

As Chiyo hinted, there seems to be a wobble in the belief in the following.

Fiction: A competitor can ruin a site's ranking somehow or have another site removed from Google's index.

Fact: There is nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.
Your rank and your inclusion are dependent solely on factors under your control as a webmaster, including
content choices and site design.



11:00 am on Mar 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

glengara, I share your aversion. I hate working on link exchanges, I'd much rather just link to sites I like and call that the end of it.

>including content choices and site design

We know that internal linking structure and file naming are part of site design even though Google isn't mentioning it, but "content choices" is a bit ambiguous. What exactly does consitute content choices? Could it possibly include the links out we choose to include? That isn't at all clear; does anyone think it'll ever be specifically clarified? I don't.


11:27 am on Mar 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


I agree with you. I don't think Google will ever clarify (more than they have) anything which has to do with PR, content or linking in relation to their algorithm. If they did, they would be stuck with it ... and that includes any mistakes they may make along the way.

Better for them to keep us guessing. I "grudgingly" understand Google's thinking ... as things change and evolve so rapidly.

Its a game of action/counteraction for Google. As web designers become more and more sophisticated and more determined to manipulate SERPS by any means possible, the SE's have to be able to change the "unwritten" rules in order to maintain control over their search results ... which after all is their stock in trade.

Now that PR is being manipulated by a myriad of paid linking structures, putting Google's whole PR value structure at risk, it will be interesting to observe how Google evolves over the next couple of years and how they intend to counteract the situation. If in fact it can be counteracted at all.


3:47 am on Mar 15, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

PR stinks.

Not to undermine Google as a whole, or it's attempts to better the end users experience by providing more useful/relevant information. I appreciate that, I really do. Not only as a site owner, but as someone that faithfully uses the service as the "end user" myself.

My beef with PR is this, and something I don't hear brought up much - IT STIFLES THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW AND USEFUL CONTENT ON THE INTERNET.

There, I said it.

Everyone needs a starting point. Those with the resources might have the ability to shoot out press releases, the staff to contact potential linkers, the budget for directory inclusions and/or PR bolstering linkage (not that I know much of it, but it's been insinuated in this thread), or cash donations to the proper deities to ensure that magic happens one way or another.

Those without the resources? They get screwed.

Be it online or off, references to a product/service/website in the vast majority of cases have very little to do with personal recommendation, and more to do with personal gain from the party providing the reference. The fact that we're all discussing ways to create more inbound links instead of discussing ways to create content worthy of said links should be an obvious indication of the fact, not to mention the entire concept of reciprocal links (if you need your back scratched to provide a link, how great is it really?).

It's a spiral I fear will continue down the road. Those with the existing PR will receive the majority of traffic, and as such are more likely to be seen/referenced/linked from other sites due to their exposure, continuing to boost their popularity and PR upwards.

New resources obviously don't have the same exposure, and as such won't get the volume of inbound links that the more established sites enjoy. They can't compete in inbound links regardless of content, because they can't generate the initial visitor base to get the ball rolling without some SE exposure in the first place.

Basically, how can Internet users and/or Webmasters say a site's most useful if they can't find it in the first place?

If this is how things are to be, then how is the newcomer to get established? Most of us that are already established could care less, because we really don't want the 'competition' taking our traffic away from us. But I ask you, does seniority really mean we're better/more relevant?

I have a simple idea, and perhaps it's nothing new.

If it's really all about the search results, why don't we let the searcher decide what's relevant?

There's 101 ways this could be tackled I'm sure. Off the top of my head;

Step 1.

- Leave a spot in the top 2-5 search results for new URL's.
- RANDOMLY poll users as to the usefulness of the resource they've visited.
- Rotate this spot. Forget about PR, provided it's obviously relevant to some degree a listing gets in there.
- Set a number of visits/votes (based in part on search volumes for that term/phrase) before a URL is 'ranked'.

Step 2.

- AFTER a new site has an initial rank, relevancy is determined by whether the user had the need to visit more resources off that same search term. If I search for "widgets", visit your site, then visit 5 more "widgets" sites afterwards through Google, perhaps your site didn't meet my needs and isn't so relevant?

If it's random enough, the SE can block (or not ask for) "votes" from any user with repeated queries on the same term/phrase, making it harder to cheat the system.

Ok, it's far from perfect. But I still don't see why Webmasters get to determine what's "relevant" when the SE's are trying to appease the searcher! A step in the wrong direction IMHO.


6:01 am on Mar 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Greetings and Gidday folks,

er ... don't want to sound like a total newbie (only been in the game since 1997), but what's "PR " mean?

I've seen lot's of references to "PR", "PR0", "PR5", "PR7", and from the topic I'm assuming it means Popularity Ranking, but it would be nice to be sure.

Oh, for the record, I have a tight niche site in travel, but because of the type of content we hove, I've got outgoing links to and reciprocals back from wide ranging and seemingly unrelated sites, (for example ... how many other tourism sites do you know of that have a link from NASA?) but then, isn't that what it's supposed to be all about?



7:30 am on Mar 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have been off the web during the day for the last few days, so I've not been able to follow this thread. Just reviewed whats been said since my last post and the first thing i got to say is:

The pr (pagerank as defined by google and displayed in the directory.google.com or toolbar) penalty based on outgoing links is real. And all of my comments are based on that change in the rules. I don't like the new rules but?

I will have more to say shortly give me another 16 hours.

Before i sleep and then finish my work i would like to address one concept that has appeared, "linking to sites with a lower PR will not hurt you." I believe this to be true. linking to any relavant site helps determine what your site is about. weather it has a higher or lower PR, This is almost always (explain next post) a good thing. on the opposite side is tring to capture PR internally, which can lead to many problems.


7:44 pm on Mar 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

My site has a PR5 and so do most of the other major sites in my industry ... which is ridiculous because for the most part, the other sites have far less to offer the customer.

Then, those sites having an "identical" PageRank (that is, as identical as you can tell by using the toolbar) would be ridiculous only if PR had any connection to how much the sites have to offer the visitor, or even to the site's content in any way. But it doesn't; it's only a way of evaluating linking.

My point is that people get too wrapped up in issues involving PageRank, which makes sense because it's the only part of Google's ranking process that site operators can access information on. It's not necessarily any more important than any other element of the ranking algorithm, but it's the one we can (approximately) see graphically.

If instead of the PageRank indicator there were a toolbox widget that showed "HeadRank" -- a measure of effective use of heading tags -- we'd obsess over that, and would talk much less of PR.

PR isn't everything, and doesn't measure everything. Yet the concept is often criticized for failing to do things it isn't meant to do -- like measuring what different sites have to offer to visitors.


but what's "PR " mean?

PageRank. A basic explanation is here: [google.com...]


3:50 am on Mar 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

i completely agree with those who say PR does not determine the value of a site or page.

While PR may do somethings good it has its own set of faults. 1- New sites no matter what the quality is are biased to the end of the search results because it takes time to get links. 2- people who don't have multible or large websites are at a disadvantage, because collections of sites provide some support for themselves.

A few of the good things include: 1- proven sites generally have some rather good information (although it may not be the best it did stand the test of time). 2- Spam normally can not pass the test. 3- The computer algo is not so expensive that they are limited in scope such as a human directory.

Now if high PR sites never link to lower PR sites the whole system fails. New sites never get a chance. Google will need to scrape the model or they will never discover new content to discover new pages. It is also not normal for higher ranked pages not to link to lower ranked pages, yahoo links to many lower ranked pages, the index page on most sites is the highest rank page and links to lower ranked pages within the site.

I have seen no evidence that linking to higher ranked pages increases the rank of the page or linking to lower ranked pages decreases it. You can say that have more links on a page makes the page less effective to passing on PR but not that it reduces the PR of that page.

Both the incoming and outgoing links on a page can be used to determine a theme concept for the page. which can help in the overall position in the search results. But the outgoing links don't give the page any PR, ... You may want to look at this the way you would look at a page title, the title does not give the page a better PR but it does tell the search engine what the page is about (which can be way more important than PR).

A circle of links into a lower PR community of sites and back to your site, can be used to give a penalty. This link loop can be broken on either the high PR or the low PR site. You may claim ignorance but you cannot claim it was outside of your control.


4:24 am on Mar 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Sound reasoning, wasmith. Can you elaborate a bit for us on this point:

"A circle of links into a lower PR community of sites and back to your site"

This 48 message thread spans 2 pages: 48

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