My first reaction when I heard that outbound links actually make a difference from an SEO perspective was to scratch my head and say “huh?” I mean after all, it seems counter intuitive – sure you should like to sites that are relevant, but why hand out link juice to other sites just for the sake of doing so? If anything, it could make your site seem like a link farm.
Well, it turns out that the truth is actually a little more complex and nuanced than one may initially assume. Here’s the reality regarding outbound links:
Let’s start with the reason you actually create websites. Too often, we in the SEO world forget that websites aren’t meant to be read by a Google bot. They are meant to be read by human beings, real people who have real credit cards and who spend real money using said credit cards. That’s the only way you actually get any kind of traffic that matters to your site.
Now imagine that you went and visited a website and you saw lots of information and not a single outbound link. How would that look to you as a visitor to the site? Would you trust that site as being one that is truly authoritative? Would it be one that you’d come back to and visit on a regular basis? I know I wouldn’t.
Therefore, if for no other reason than the fact that you will gain credibility with your visitors, you should consider including a reasonable number of relevant outbound links.
How Search Engines Work
Okay, enough about your visitors. Let’s get back to discussing your search engine optimization efforts. Don’t forget that search engines also want to provide the most relevant search results they can provide. Therefore, it stands to reason that the search engines would look to see if you include relevant outbound links on your site to decide whether you are actually running a reliable site.
In fact, a number of SEO experts I looked at for this article say the same thing – that the search engines do count your outbound links as being important to determining your rankings (in a positive way).
How to Do Outbound Links
Now don’t go thinking that this means you should create a link farm with hundreds of outbound links. You shouldn’t be stingy about including outbound links on your website, but you also shouldn’t just put them up for the sake of putting them up.
Instead, outbound links should be relevant to the kind of material you have on your website so that your visitors and Google will consider your site to be authoritative. Just include two or three links which actually make sense to include so that your site seems to be truly relevant and not just a site with someone’s crackpot ideas which have no basis in other materials on the web.