What Impact Does Outbound Linking Have on Your Rankings?

Discussion in 'SEO and Marketing' started by cardine, Jun 4, 2016.

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  1. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    There has been a lot of debate as to whether outbound links to authority sites have a positive effect, a negative effect, or no effect at all.

    There has been a lot of people arguing both sides, and both presenting evidence to support their claims.

    Linking out has no effect:
    [​IMG]

    Linking out has an effect:
    [​IMG]


    All three points have flaws. Google spreads FUD all the time, and their claim that it doesn't "directly affect rankings" leaves open the door that it indirectly affects it in some way in their algorithm. The Ahrefs data is certainly very useful, but correlation does not imply cause and effect. The case study seems the most interesting to me, but the sample size is incredibly small, and since they are all websites with no links, it may be that the benefits of outbound authority links are so insignificant that they would only become apparent when doing SEO for a dummy keyword with absolutely zero competition.

    What does everyone here think of all of these data points and is there any additional research or any additional case study that could be done to give us a more definitive idea as to whether outbound authority links are worth paying any attention to?
     
  2. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    As someone who's doing a case study ranking for dummy keywords, I can say that there *are* other variable that are influencing the rankings of dummy keywords.

    Here's the ranking for a site targeting a dummy keyword with no OBLs. The SERP has other sites that are targeting the same dummy keyword that has dofollow OBLs to another site in the study. (they're blogspot blogs so you can view them as "authority" or not, whatever you want).

    [​IMG]

    The red line was when OBLs on the other sites were added.

    Notice that the site started at #1, then went to #6, and, when the OBLs were added to other sites, nothing happened for a month and then the site with no OBLs went to #2 and then #1 2 months after.

    Do you notice something that's different with this graph and the Reboot graph? It took a month before Google adjusted the site's rankings. The Reboot study took 2 weeks. If they're isolated sites, why did Google's sliders update the site that fast? It would have been placed at such a low priority as Google Bot crawls sites based upon importance, which is deemed by PageRank. No inbound link = lowest priority level.

    There's also no control group in the Reboot study.

    This (the sites for the graph above) was intended to be the control group when I planned the study but, now, it's obvious that the OBL on other pages do have an effect on something (or not having any OBLs has an effect on something).

    If this graph was taken as a case study, it's conclusion would be "having no OBL outranks pages with OBLs to blogspot blogs" which doesn't make sense at all.

    I think it's more likely that Reboot was seeking some inbound links and attention, hence they published a non-rigorous and controversial case study.
     
  3. msharron

    msharron Member

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  4. Golan

    Golan Established Member

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    Agree with Mark ^^ , all benefits are indirect.

    But Mark, in the article you have linked to, Barry tells about totally other type of links - spam, paid, reciprocal etc.
     
  5. xepa

    xepa Member

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    Aren't we supposed to do the opposite of whatever Google claims works anyways? Google employees tell people what helps their algorithm not what helps people rank higher.
     
  6. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    Err... no. Google tells webmasters what are best practices. Things like using rel=canonical, blocking non-helpful pages for searchers in robots.txt, and submitting a sitemap aren't stuff that'll rank a site higher but, if you don't have those things down, you won't be ranking well anyways.
     
  7. xepa

    xepa Member

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    In this case is it a best practice to never link out to outbound links?

    What I mean is that Google uses spokespeople like Matt Cutts to get people to do things how dictator Google wants them done. Google wants people to block non-helpful pages and submit sitemaps because it makes it easier for Google's programs. So when Google tells you something it may be helpful but it may be bullshit to get you to behave how they want you to behave. Google tells people that building links is bad but building links almost always works. Google isn't giving you proper SEO advice in this case, it is giving advice that makes it easier for them to determine whether a site is a high quality relevant whitehat site or not. That often means giving bullshit SEO advice.
     
  8. KingsWood

    KingsWood Member

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    I have never even considered outbound links to be a ranking factor for the page they appear on, but rather just a way to add relevance to the other link you dropped, so you start with a few links to a reputable resource, then drop your link to your vested interest, (be it an internal page if posting on your site, or a page on your "money site" if posting on an external site), inferring your target link is as reputable as the aforementioned authority sites.

    I have never done any kind of testing, but as this clearly works on real human visitors, i doubt it would have negative effects.
     
  9. dzianis

    dzianis Moderator Staff Member

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    I've never done an isolated study and I think it would matter very little anyway because real sites and keywords don't exist in a vacuum - but I'm always placing good outgoing links on every site I launch, that's just part of my onpage checklist. I do think they help (yes, not backed by data) and moreover I see no reason to hold back from linking out.

    Of course I don't just link to a wikipedia page on the thing I'm writing about. When I research the niche for a site I note good content sources - they can be blogs, newspapers, forum threads, social media discussions - I link to all of them as I write the homepage content. As a result it always ranks on pages 5-9 before I throw any links at it, no matter what the keyword is.

    By linking to sites you sort of put yourself on the map. Your site gets picked up as a backlink by all the backlink tools, webmasters visit you, Google notes that you're related to all other good sources on the topic and so on.

    Here's a recent outbound link effect I noticed (obviously this is not isolated so it could be older inbound links kicking in) - it's my site in the SEO contest. It's been jumping like crazy and then I started adding more content to the ranking page, WITH outgoing links in it (comments). That was exactly on May 11th and that was when it settled too:

    [​IMG]

    to sum it up - I say link out generously and make it a part of your copywriting, there are really no reasons to avoid that.

    ---

    Thankfully, not anymore! With Matt hidden and PR toolbar dead Google's now a black box ...that shows everything that works directly in SERPs :)
     
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  10. msharron

    msharron Member

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    Per @dzianis' post....indirect benefits of linking out, leads to direct benefits and very eloquently described. Could not agree more.
     
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  11. John Stover

    John Stover Member

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