Monday, 1 August 2011

Incoming vs. Outgoing links

On earlier today I encountered a question, part of which included the statement

"I know that having links to other sites is one of the keys to a higher SEO ranking."

I suspect that this illustrates a fairly common misconception, so for the benefit of readers here I'll repeat what I said there in answer to that part.

"... That said, outgoing links are not the key to high SEO rankings. Bad links (i,e, links to unhelpful, possibly virus-infested sites) can bring your ranking crashing down, but links to good sites usually have only a marginal effect on ranking, at best, and can take traffic away from your site and to the linked-to site.

The two things that matter most are 1) having good INCOMING links, i.e. links from highly-rated sites which people following the links will find relevant, and 2) Having good content which provides just what the visitors want and makes them want to explore the rest of your site, and to bookmark it and come back again and again.

Outgoing links are relevant for just two reasons: 1) the good sites linking to you might want you to reciprocate. You scratch their back, they'll scratch yours. That's OK, but you must be sure that they are good sites; and 2) An important part of good customer service is directing them elsewhere if you don't have what they want. That is how Google became great. Instead of trying to keep people on their own page, they made a business out of directing people elsewhere. The more people get directed elsewhere, provided the dedirection is to something relevant, the more they will want to come back."