Losing Link Juice to Outbound Links

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There are major arguments running around in SEO circles about nofollow vs. do follow and the draining power of outbound links.  The nofollowers argue that a dofollow link could go to a bad neighborhood and drain page rank.  Let’s look at this a little more closely.  Is it true?

A bad neighborhood site is one that uses black hat or outdated SEO tactics, which gets the site banned from search engines.  You can use SEO Hosting’s own banned site tool to see if a site has been banned.  The trouble with checking a site’s link in real time doesn’t mean the site will be permanently “healthy.”  The site could get banned in the future, which means your site is linking to a site with damaged authority.  It’s the concept of: you can judge a person by their friends.  If you link to a site with a bad authority, it damages your own authority.

Traits of Bad Neighborhoods

  1. More than 100 outbound links.  They say this, but if you look at most blogs, they have well over 100 links – including tags, categories, ads, and blogroll.  It’s very easy to go over this number so you can be more liberal with this criteria.
  2. More than 25 affiliate links.
  3. More than 2 Adsense boxes.
  4. Lower in page rank.

It’s important to realize that you are not going to be penalized automatically for one bad neighborhood link.  But if you do this over and over again, you can expect to hurt your PR.

The solution for many sites is to use nofollow tags for links so that this never becomes an issue.  A spider will not follow the link to a new site, so that site’s authority will have no effect on the host site.  This is especially common in comments, where there is little control of who links to a site.  Somebody could (and will) link to a site that has nothing to do with the site.  A car site, for example, linking to a sports site.  The sports site could be totally legitimate (no black hat tactics) but given that the sites exist in different neighborhoods, it can damage the first site’s authority.  SEO is sort of like baseball: it’s a game of inches.  And the effect of all these minor issues is cumulative so there can be lasting damage to a site’s page rank.

Why Nofollow’s a Problem

The problem with this scenario is that it can actually damage a site’s authority by NOT linking to quality outbound sites.  Suppose that a commenter links to a site with a high PR and good authority on the same topic – you’ll receive none of the benefits of this outbound link.  Given that most sites don’t get hundreds of comments in a day, it’s not too hard to monitor these sites.  If you’re an affiliate marketer with a fleet of sites, this will no doubt be more difficult, but monitoring outbound links comes with the job description.

The fact is that you want to link to site’s with a good authority and you want those links to be followed so they’ll reflect back on you – especially if the outbound link is better positioned in your niche than you are.  This leads to another area: link juice.  By linking out, does this drain the PR of the linked page?  This is not just a case of not linking to a site so people will be more likely to click on your affiliate links or products, but the fact that having too many outbound links can damage a site’s PR authority.

Draining Link Juice

No doubt having a lot of links housed within minimal content could have your site branded a link farm.  This is something to stay away from.  But what about the typical blog post/sidebar/comment section?  Will a large number of links – housed within adequate content – drain a site’s PR power?

First, a definition.  The term link juice pertains to a link’s ranking power: so a link from a PR 8 site will have better link juice than a site from a PR 0 site.  At the same time, link juice also refers to the links out from your own site: so a bunch of links in a blog post will drain the power of all the carefully-crafted links in your sidebar and elsewhere on the site.

The issue that you will drain the PR power of your own site – as well as the quality of all outbound links – is a myth.  Don’t worry about it: it won’t drain your site’s link juice.  This is especially true of new sites looking to gain a foothold in a niche.  It only becomes a problem when you’re linking to a fleet of link farms.  But linking to a list of quality websites, and housing those links within relevant content, will not drain the PR value of your own site.  Actually it will increase it, as it will increase site relevancy.

The conclusion of this post: always monitor links that you link to – both the first time you link to a site and down the line as well.  But linking to quality sites will not damage your site’s overall authority.

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