Linking out: Often it's just applying common sense

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Creating outbound links on your site, or "linking out", is our topic for Day 3 of Links Week. Linking out happens naturally, and for most webmasters, it's not something you have to worry about. Nonetheless, in case you're interested about an otherwise simple topic that's fundamental to the web, here's the good, the bad, and answers to more advanced questions asked by our fellow webmasters. First, let's start with the good...

  • Provide your readers in-depth information about similar topics
  • Offer readers your unique commentary on existing resources
  • Show that you've done your research and have expertise in the subject manner
  • Make visitors want to come back for more analysis on future topics
  • Build relationships with other domain experts (for example, sending visitors can get you on the radar of other successful bloggers and begin a business relationship)

When it comes to the less-than-ideal practices of linking out, there shouldn't be too many surprises, but we'll go on record to avoid any confusion...

  • Including too many links on one page confuses visitors (we usually encourage webmasters to not have much more than 100 links per page)
  • Hurts your credibility, turns off savvy visitors and reduces your authority with search engines. If you accept payment for outbound links, it's best to apply rel="nofollow" on them or otherwise ensure that they don't pass PageRank for search engines. (As a user, I prefer to see disclosure to maintain my loyalty as well.)
  • Allows comment spam, which provides little benefit for users. Also, from a search engine perspective, comment spam can connect your site with bad neighborhoods instead of legitimate resources. Webmasters often add the nofollow attribute (rel="nofollow") to links that are user generated, such as spammable blog comments, unless the comments are responsibly reviewed and thus vouched for. See Jason Morrison's recent blog post about keeping comment spam off your site to prevent spam in the first