Outbound Links as a Signal of Quality?

Outbound links as a signal of quality?Are outbound links a signal of quality? Is this one of the over 200 signals used by Google to rank a web page? How big of a factor can it actually be?

Before you suggest that outbound links are not a factor, consider that you can get penalized for linking to what has been referred to as “bad neighborhoods” on the web.

If you can link to the wrong sites and get penalized for it, why wouldn’t you be rewarded for linking to the right sites?

Citing authority sites in your articles, blog posts or content contribute to your credibility, assists your readers and can help to establish your own site as an authority on a subject and may very well invite inbound links and citations from other sites. Sound far fetched? Google doesn’t think so.

Linking out: Often it’s just applying common sense

Relevant outbound links can help your visitors.

  • Provide your readers in-depth information about similar topics
  • Offer readers your unique commentary on existing resources

Thoughtful outbound links can help your credibility.

  • 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 (e.g. sending visitors can get you on the radar of other successful bloggers and begin a business relationship)

So how can you find the best sites to link to when researching a topic?

There are a few places I like to look; one of them being the Google Directory. The sites are listed by order of importance and sorted by topic. It should be easy enough for anyone to find a few good quality resources there. If you want resources considered ”popular” by Yahoo, you can use the Yahoo Directory;  the directory listings are ordered by popularity or relevance, and most of what I’ve seen at the top of the categories are generally good quality sites.

Wikipedia covers a variety of topics and also cite references that may be worth linking to if you do not link to the Wikipedia article directly. Search engines can be a good source of resources depending on the topic; search results for highly competitive commercial topics can be skewed by spam, but I’ve found informational searches to be a bit better. Research the sites listed at the top of the results and use your better judgement when considering linking to them.

By all means, link out to other sites that provide information that is relevant and supports the topic you’re writing about. It’ll be of benefit to your users, it’ll add to your credibility and in the long run, I think the search engines do consider the quality of those links when scoring your web pages.