Outbound Links – An Overview

We get a lot of queries about the advisability of having outbound links to related resources in the content areas of a website, so we thought we’d put up an article on the various aspects of outbound links, to give you some information about the subject.

Outbound Links And Search Engines

Although it seems that many people are hesitant to link out, it’s worth it to bear in mind that although search engines rank pages based on their content and inbound links, (known as back links), the pages that they link out to also play a part in establishing a site on the internet.

Your outbound links shouldn’t only be link trades that are hidden away in some obscure corner of your site. It’s a good idea to try and mix quality outbound links into your site architecture, wherever they are relevant, and make sense.

Refusing to link out in an attempt to keep all of your PageRank for yourself can have a negative affect on the way that search engines see your site.

According to a forum post made by Google’s Matt Cutts on the WebmasterWorld forums, “Of course, folks never know when we’re going to adjust our scoring. It’s pretty easy to spot domains that are hoarding PageRank; that can be just another factor in scoring. If you work really hard to boost your authority-like score while trying to minimize your hub-like score, that sets your site apart from most domains.”

Linking Has Social Aspects

Part of linking relates to the social aspect of the internet. The idea behind this is that you give to get. Linking out to quality sites makes it that much more likely that you’ll get links back to your own site.

How Linking Out Can Help

Linking out to good quality, relevant sites, can have multiple advantages for you:

* Linking out to other related sites throughout your copy makes your site look like a more natural part of the web. It will give you a ranking boost in clustering search engines, and other major search engines may factor outbound links into their ranking algorithms.
* Linking out to related quality sites or pages offers your users additional useful information. If you refer them to good information, they will be more inclined to associate you with that good information and many of them will remember where they came from.
* Your site visitors and webmasters you mention will be inclined to link to your site if you provide a wealth of information and link out to additional relevant information.
* Linking out to relevant sites can save you from having to duplicate the internet in order to have a useful website.
* People you link out to are probably more likely to link back to you at some point.
* Linking out to sites with content relevant to your themes makes your site appear more legitimate if it ever gets scrutinised by search engines.

What To Link To

Here are some examples of sites that it could be worthwhile to link to:

* Any content you find useful, and that you would have created for your site if it did not already exist on the other site.
* Blogs or blog posts in your industry.
* Old content that relates to your industry.
* A Wikipedia article about your topic.
* Useful .edu or .gov pages about your topic.
* DMOZ or Yahoo! categories about your topic.
* Good quality informational or non-competitive sites ranking in the search results for your keywords or related phrases.
* Sites that are authorities on your topic or a slightly broader related topic.
* Controversial content in your field or related fields.

Bear These In Mind

Reciprocal Links

If you link to a lot of the sites that link to you, it can appear as though you’re engaged in a low value link trading program. In most cases though, as long as your marketing is both diverse and organic, you don’t need to worry about having some reciprocal links. They are a natural part of the internet. However, many reciprocal links only carry the illusion of value. If two pages without appreciable value are linking to each other, there’s no benefit being exchanged.


When you’re planning your site, you can link to competing services, and tools that you find useful. As your site grows however, it’s a good idea to invest in creating tools, applications or content that is better than those competing sites, and then point those links at your own content instead. If you do this, make sure that you are providing at least an equal quality alternative, and preferably a better one.

Can You Succeed Without Outbound Links?

Absolutely. Of course it’s possible to have a successful site without having outbound links. Relevance, site age, and keyword matching domain names all play important, and indeed vital, roles when it comes to your page ranking in search engine results.

But being part of the organic web, that network of interrelated and interconnected sites that allows the sharing of, and access too, information, has its role to play as well.

(For information about internal links, check out our article, Internal Links – An Overview.)