If you’re a good blogger and content writer like you’re supposed to be in this “content is king” dog-eat-dog world, you’re probably writing content that links to other websites. What you might not know is that those outbound links might actually be hurting your SEO instead of helping it!
Link juice explained.
Let’s do a brief review of a concept called “link juice.” This term refers to inbound links to your website from other websites, it refers to links within your website to other content on your own website, and it also refers to links on your website to content on other websites. In a nutshell, it’s a link to anything, and search engines (especially Google) use all these links to help gauge the value of your website.
The most valuable link juice to your website comes from highly ranked websites that write about you and link to your website in their content. I wrote about that the other day in my blog post: How to write SEO content for Google. You also get a little value by linking TO highly ranked websites in your own content.
If you think about it, this makes total sense. If a highly respected website links to you, that must mean you’re also highly respected or at least have some credibility on the topic of the link.
Likewise, if you link TO a highly respected website in your content, it must mean you recognize their position in web society. That’s worth at least a little something to search engines.
The effect of linking to low ranking websites.
Now, what if you link to a website that isn’t so well respected? A website that has a very low PageRank (PR) without much traffic? In the real world, that would be like recommending a restaurant that’s always empty. Or referring a real estate agent who doesn’t have any clients. Would you stake your reputation on either of these recommendations?
The same rule applies on the web. If you link to a poorly ranked website, that must mean you don’t know what you’re talking about because Google knows which websites are good and that’s not one of them. You’ve just referred a bad “restaurant” and Google punishes you for it.
This is very unfortunate for new websites because well-ranked websites are discouraged from linking to them. That means a new website must scratch and claw its way to the top of rankings using brute force.
Avoiding outbound link punishment.
How can you get around this SEO trap with your new website? The best advice is to be very careful about what content you link to. One way to verify if Google has waved it’s magic wand over a website is to check its PageRank on a website like PRChecker.info.
You can also install the Google PageRank Status extension to Chrome so you can easily see the PR of every page right in your toolbar. You can enable this feature on the Google Toolbar in other browsers, too.
Once your website has higher ranking, you can start linking to sites with a (slightly) lower PR than yours. This will bump up the other site and won’t hurt yours much, especially if Google deems their content valuable.
In the early days of your website, don’t try to be too altruistic by helping less fortunate websites. Instead, link to sites with a higher PR than yours to keep the SEO gods happy.