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SEO & External Links
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SEO & External Links

by on 02/06/07 at 2:05 am

I had a client tell me today that a former SEO who had worked on his website insisted that linking to competitors would improve the client’s ranking in the search results. I was floored.

Can you imagine Starbucks handing out coupons to the mom & pop coffee stand across the street? It would never happen. So why then would you ever want to link to your competition, especially without a “nofollow” attribute tied to the link? You wouldn’t, and besides the obvious reason, here’s why:

Links are votes. Let me repeat that last statement. Links are votes. The higher your current PageRank is on any given page, the higher value each vote (link) receives. You’ll hear this a lot in the SEO community: Avoid linking to external websites on your homepage. Reason being is that you want the Googlebot & Slurp to navigate through your website when they hit your homepage, instead of finding external links leading them away.

Point: If your website has not established a PageRank with Google yet, you may want to limit outbound links.

I have many sites with external links on the homepage. However, they are all established websites with PageRank and plenty of click-through volume to afford giving away a few votes. Here is my “Best Practices for External Linking” for new website owners:

  1. Never link to competitor websites
  2. Never link to competitor websites (Getting the Idea?)
  3. Avoid linking to external sites from the homepage
  4. Always include a rel=”nofollow” attribute when linking to untrustworthy sites
  5. Unless your website is a directory, have more internal links then external
  6. Only link to websites with related content (don’t link to cars if you sell wine)

You get the idea. Be conservative when you link to websites outside of yours. It’s not just a link, it’s a vote. Keep your votes to yourself to maximize on potentially higher PageRank.

Below is a fantastic tool I’ve used in the past that should help give you an idea of how Google may analyze your site in terms in internal and external links. It’s pretty fun to play with too, check it out here:

PageRank Calculator

One Comment


Jul 10th, 2008

Thank you for sharing your ideas. I really appreciate it!

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