Q: Hi! I’m very confused about outbound links. I was told by a SEO firm that outbound links were A Bad Thing as they canceled out your inbound links. But it seems this is not the case.
A: Outbound links are not A Bad Thing and they don’t cancel out your inbound links. In fact, a “natural” linking profile for a quality website would normally include outbound links, as it is natural for most quality sites to provide links to other resources.
Outbound links are only bad if they are done as a part of a link exchange or if you’re being paid for providing links that are not tagged with “nofollow.” In that case, your site could be penalized by search engines. I would certainly get rid of any outbound links that you may have created as a part of a link exchange scheme of any sort.
You should also check your outbound links periodically to make sure that they aren’t pointing to “bad neighborhoods.” Sometimes good sites go under, and the domains are taken over by squatters, spammers, malware, porn, etc. Your site’s status on search engines could be damaged if you link to these – not to mention your credibility with your human audience!
Lastly, it’s reasonable to link to your own website pages as a priority, rather than other sites. For example, if you have a page on your site that features “tea cozies” it certainly makes more sense from an SEO perspective for your home page text to link to your own “tea cozies” page rather than pointing to some other site’s “tea cozies” page.
My advice is to link out to sites if you think they will benefit your human visitors. This might include sites that offer related, but not necessarily competing services or products. For example, if you market tea cozies, you might link out to your favorite brands of tea. Outbound links are also important as part of an overall strategy of social marketing and participatory blogging. Outbound links can also be linkbait – for example, let’s say you link to a travel blog while criticizing it for missing the mark on the most charming high tea destinations. People in your target audience might be drawn into a conversation.
Naturally, if providing links to other resources feels forced or unnatural on your website, or if you don’t think it will benefit your human visitors, then you shouldn’t do it.