At GoggledeGoox I place a lot of importance of the value of a comment and occasionally one comes along that is the genuine opinion of its author, but flies in the face common best practices. this then calls for some research to be performed to clarify the situation.
“Search engines no longer place values on links like they did — this hasn’t been true since about 2003.” from a comment on The Purpose of Reblogging.
This caused me to re-investigate the whole question of whether links add value to either an individual blog post or the whole site. Finding a practical answer to this question is important because there are millions of posts created on blogs and general writing websites each and every day. First let’s be clear for any website there are three types of possible links:
- Internal links, cross referencing to another part of the website.
- Outbound links, pointing to pages on other websites.
- Inbound links, where other people or organisations value our work and provide a link to our post.
According to SEO expert MOZ “Top SEOs agree that getting external links is the single most important objective for attaining high rankings.” I agree, but the challenge is how we obtain a large number of links from other people’s websites without paying them. For clarity you should understand that the purpose of this discussion is limited to looking at the value of outbound links.
The View of Some Experts
According to ProBlogger links improve your SEO, Usability and Panda Scores and “the best websites will link out to high quality sources for their articles and it’s great for SEO and website rankings. While incoming links are more important (from a ranking point of view) outbound links, to valuable content, is good for your readers and that’s what gets rewarded long term. Too many blogs are scared of linking out in order to preserve their own Page Rank but they’re actually missing out on the other rewards.”
MOZ says “External links are the most important source of ranking power” indeed there are 5 reasons cited for using such links:
- It encourages positive participation and contribution.
- Outbound links provide an incentive to link to your site.
- Links are rewarded by Search Engines.
- It makes your site a valuable resource.
- The outbound link generates traceable traffic.
Problogger provides 6 reasons you should link to other sites from your blog:
- Provide resources for your readers.
- To create a ‘top list’ or set of best resources.
- Give credit for research or facts.
- To link to interviews or quotes from experts.
- For charts or data.
- Improving your SEO, usability, and Panda score.
Both of these experts have provided very different reasons for creating outbound links and I believe all of them to be valid.
The Google Algorithm
It is a challenge tracking the latest search rules as they change hundreds of times during the course of any year, but the majority of these tweaks are very minor indeed and simply correct minor flaws that have become evident. There are occasional major changes, such as Panda or Penguin, and at the end of 2015 Google introduced a new AI system called RankBrain whose goal was to “provide more relevant search results“.
The point is that how search engines generates results is an ever changing circle, so we should be aware that how they function does changes from time to time, but most SEO experts will agree that it is not possible to keep up with this ever changing rule-set, but there are some important aspects to remember. Google loves its job of mapping the web as a part of providing search results and if you think for one second about this challenge then the links used on any page provide a clue as to what information the writer considers relevant and will ultimately help the task of mapping the web.
The Blogger’s Battle
The links used on each newly published page helps Google (and other search engines) know what that post or article is likely about, it if a foundation for the indexing process, the value of providing outbound links are not about writing style, inspiration, telling the story, or creativeness, they provide something more, they are part of linking the web together. Bloggers have a constant battle with search engines about visibility, yet the majority of bloggers do not have the corporate resources that many web page builders have, they do not have the money to engage SEO experts to pick apart and improve their pages from a search engine visibility perspective, they instead guess which are the most relevant keywords on their page.
Having outbound links to external pages on a high percentage of your pages will make your site more attractive to the search engines because they know you will provide links to explore and analyse (a part of their core functionality). The curious effect is that as your site grows search engines will greater understand the benefits your site provides, which in turn aids your sites popularity over the longer term.
I have been unable to find any experts that agree with the proposition that links are no longer relevant for ranking of pages on search engines. It is true that links must always be relevant, but in my view the reasons for providing outbound external links in your work will:
- Provide value for your readers (it shows you have performed your research).
- Give credit for research or facts you have used (identify the author).
- Encourage participation.
- Show that you are a serious resource for information (the principle being that if you quote others, they may choose to quote you).
- As an aid to your search keywords and improve ranking.
Overall, it must be said that links are about building a community which involves your peers, which is also one of the purposes of reblogging. If you wish yo be taken seriously as a blog writer then adding links to your work is essential.