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Recently I visited some local business websites that are linking out to their clients’ business websites. Is this type of linking a good idea?

Years ago, this method of building outbound and inbound links seemed like a good idea, but if not done right, it can result in negative consequences for both the linker and the linkee (aka link recipient).

Let’s review the good, the bad and the ugly of sharing links

At some point, years ago, businesses identified that linking to other business websites, with whom they did not share a competitive relationship, was helpful.  Is linking to other peoples’ website still a good thing to do? In fact, inbound links to one’s website can be helpful from an SEO standpoint, because search engines, like Google, do measure how many inbound links a website has.  It is the nature and quality of the links that determines whether the website domain will receive a positive or a negative outcome from inbound links.

First, let’s review why a website owner might provide a link to someone else’s website:

  • It’s a mutual admiration activity, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Okay, well, Google caught on to that years ago,Penguin and in fact, if not done correctly, you the linker and they, the linkees, can pretty much expect a ranking penalty from Google for doing this.
  • Aside from doing someone a favor by linking to them, you provide a link to help your website visitor. Case in point, you’ve mentioned a service or product or reference that backs up a point you’re making, and you want your visitor to be able to get to what you’ve referenced. Think Wikipedia or Smithsonian or the product supplier you’ve mentioned. This is all good, and best practice in the theory of when to provide an outbound link. Still, depending on the nature of the link, you might want to use the nofollow tag. Paid links or links a search engine might perceive to be paid should definitely use a nofollow tag. Read more about nofollow tags here.

Linking to content within your own website… should you? Absolutely.Internal links add depth to your visitor’s experience.  They allow you to make website visitors aware of other content on your website that will help them learn more.  All content on your website should add value for your visitor.Internal links also help search engines index content, which may not be linked from within your site’s navigation or sitemap.

Who will judge your website link behaviors and should you care?

First, let’s just say the phrase spammy links is not something you want associated with your website or how you approach digital marketing. Just don’t do it.

Second, links done for the right reasons are unlikely to be judged or even noticed by your website visitor. You should not be trying to send signals to your visitor other than, if you want more information beyond what is on this page, click this link to read more on a related topic.

Third, links done incorrectly are going to be judged by search engines who will either perceive a spammy link or a helpful link. Search engines are not that difficult to understand, and we should always bear in mind:

  • Search engines have a tremendous job of delivering the best answer to a question.
  • When creating content, consider your visitor’s needs first and foremost.

Simply put, is your webpage presenting the best answers to questions customers are asking? If not, it is time to get to work.

Is this all there is to ranking well in the search engines?

Ah, grasshopper, patience… there is much to learn.