There’s a common belief that has spread through the SEO community faster than a cold in a nursery school that linking to another website will negatively impact your website’s rankings and SEO. But is it true? Can linking to another website hurt your website’s organic rankings? Is this always the case or are there times when linking to another website can actually improve your site’s rankings?
Think for a moment about what Google ultimately wants. Google wants its users to find the most relevant and authoritative websites for any given search query. When you link from your website to other relevant and authoritative websites, you’re adding value and providing a great service to searchers.
To us, it stands to reason that Google would interpret your actions as helpful and that they might actually cause a lift in your site’s authority and perceived relevance—two extremely important factors for getting ranked on search engines.
We’re in the process of performing some tests to determine (with more certainty) whether outbound links help or hurt your website’s rankings and SEO.
In the meantime, before linking to another website, you should consider the following:
How strong is your website’s authority?
How often have you linked to other relevant, authoritative websites in the past?
How strong are your website’s rankings today?
Is your site informational or commerce-oriented?
Is the website you’re considering linking to relevant to your business/topic?
Is the site you’re considering linking to an authority or subject matter expert?
Like a good referral, does the site you’re thinking about linking to make you look better/smarter or suspect?
Set SEO aside, would the site you’re considering linking to be beneficial to your visitors/audience?
We’re of the general belief that your long-term SEO strategy is simple—free from tricks. To have a website that ranks consistently high in the organic search results, you must establish and promote your site as THE authority for what you do in the markets you do it. If linking to another website provides support for the argument or point you’re trying to make, provides genuine value for your readers, and makes you look good, you should link out to the website in question. If the website you’re linking to has the potential to make you look worse or to call into question your intellect, don’t create a link.