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Can Excessive Outbound Linking Hurt Your Rankings?

Posted in: Blogs,SEO,Social Media by Richard Hearne on August 10, 2007
Internet Marketing Ireland

I’ve said it before – links form the fabric on the Internet. On that occasion I was making a point about how silly it was to impose arbitrary rules on how people can and cannot link to your site. Today’s post is more about how links on your site can help or harm you.

And as a case in point, the site I’ll be looking at may be a perfect case study for excessively linking to external sites. Let me introduce…

The cute whore

There’s a saying, I believe originating in Cork, which refers to certain individuals as ‘cute whores’. I’m not sure if it can be taken as derogatory, but when I use it I do so with respect for the individual I’m referring to. That cute whore in question is just about to go on his holidays, so this post may not be much use to him for a short while. But some use I do hope it will be.

The great SEO freebie give-away

Ok – I hold my hands up and say that the last few guys waiting for their free search engine optimisation reviews really have been waiting. So I’m trying to work my way through the last few site now, starting with Pat Phelan’s Roam4Free. But bear with me while I digress for an instant.

The purpose of business blogging (IMO)

In my view business blogging should have just one ultimate goal – to become an authority in your chosen field or niche. If as a business blogger you achieve that goal I am quite confident that business success will follow. I am thoroughly convinced of this.

In fact this belief is fodder for a post that I have been threatening for a long time, and a subject that I have discussed with an increasing number of people over the past few months. (I really should write the post.)

The reason for this interlude? Pat is a business blogger through and through.

Back to the SEO advice

From what I can determine Pat really is a cute whore. He’s a doer first, and a talker after. You cant but admire his achievements, and look forward to some of the new ideas he has up his sleeve (he’s been kind enough to share a titbit or two with me from time to time).


But Pat has also been blogging significantly over the past year or so. In fact, I think he has probably become somewhat of an authority on his chosen niche – telecoms, in particular VOIP telephony.

Back to the post topic please…

So what about excessive outbound linking?

Well in the case of the Roam4Free blog the homepage (as of 9am August 10) had 18 internal and 66 external links. So Pat is really linking out from his posts. Or so it would seem…

What’s really happening here is that Pat uses Technorati and Flcikr (amongst other web2.0 bits & bobs). So on every post Pat assigns some Tehnorati tags, and he hosts his images up on Flickr. I can remember once reading one of Pat’s posts in Greader. He had an image of Roam4Free in the post and I thought I’d give it a visit to see if he had launched anything new. It was a link, but it brought me over to Pat’s Flickr stream. Hello back button and crappy user experience (IMO).

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that Flickr is bad, but I think that people like images, and often click on images, so it’s probably better to link intuitively rather than out to Flickr.

The real problem though is that Pat’s pages are littered with links to Flickr and Technorati, and these links are just spewing PageRank where it could be far better used internally on Pat’s site.

Suggestion #1

Add rel="nofollow" to all the outbound Technorati and Flickr links. If you do want to push some PR to those pages then perhaps do so selectively, e.g. have a link to your Flickr stream from the homepage, or build a page listing (and linking to) your Technorati tags.

I have to be honest and say that I’ve never been a huge fan of tagging, although I know it can have value. In this case those Technorati tags are just sucking the life out of Pat’s blog and really have to go. The same advice goes for the add-to-feed-reader links bottom navigation column. NOFOLLOW those fellas as well.

Suggestion #2

I looked for a robots.txt file and got this:

Error 404 – Not Found

Search bar and other tools go here! If you’re reading this, it needs to be implemented, remind me!

Well Pat, you also need to implement a robots.txt file to block out some of the content that you don’t want wasting Search Engines’ time. For instance, I can see literally hundreds of pages with URLs like index.php?tag=[tag]. At first I couldn’t figure where they were coming from. Then I saw that Pat is using two tagging methods within his posts – one to Technorati, the other within his site.

Well after NOFOLLOWING the Technorati links I think Pat should block access to the internal tag pages. I’m pretty sure that they will produce at least some dupe content, and I think Pat would do better to focus on his posts and categories. (TBH I would drop one or the other tagging techniques)

Here’s the start of what I think should go into Pat’s robots.txt:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /index.php?tag=
Disallow: */trackback

The other benefit of blocking that content is that you wont be wasting PR on non-performing content. Currently it appears that Pat has almost 2.5k pages in the supplemental index. Most of these are comments feed and the aforementioned tag pages. But there’s quite a lot of post pages in there also. Retaining more PR internally on the site by removing the leakage (#1 above) and removing superfluous content should bring more of those pages back into the primary index.

(Personally I would NOFOLLOW my comment feeds as well, but advising that is sure to start an argument.)

Suggestion #3

Another reason for many of the post pages to go supplemental may be because of WordPress’ inherent pagination issues. These can be solved using Jamie Sirovich’s excellent PagerFix plugin.

The pagination issue will be especially important for Pat’s blog as he tends to be a serial poster making multiple posts on a any given good day. More posts = higher level of pagination.

In case you’re not aware of the pagination problem – the basic gist is that when you first publish a page it appears on your homepage. Then over time it rotates down to page 2. And then further again. Each time the post moves to an older page it adds one more click to the path from the homepage. Each extra click means less PR to the page. If you use WordPress’ default pager that is. PagerFix does just what the name suggests – fix the WordPress default pager.

Any further thoughts?

The only other thing I would suggest to Pat is possibly to link a little more to his own properties from within his posts. Pat has links to ‘Our Brands’ in the sidebar, but my experience is that links within the body content carry more weight, so don’t be afraid to Pat to plug yourself more often :grin:

I think that Pat might also be well advised to upgrade WordPress from 2.04 as there may be some security issues with that install.

Hope some of that will help you out Pat, and look forward tot he next toy you’ll be releasing soon.

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  1. Thanks Richard, really appreciate it, moving to patphelan.net soon as we feel that the blog.roam4free address is problematic.
    off on holidays today, great going away present

    Comment by Pat Phelan — August 10, 2007 @ 11:14 am

  2. Richard

    It would be very interesting to see how many people are still running really old insecure installs of WordPress ….

    I’d say the numbers would be frightening!


    Comment by Michele — August 10, 2007 @ 5:37 pm

  3. @Pat – enjoy the hols. Let me know when you move across to new domain and I’ll try to shoot you some tips.

    @Michele – I would say quite a few.

    The only good news is that WP isn’t as simple to abuse even in insecure mode. If you read any of the BH fora you’ll see lots of exploits (ahem… not that I do or anything…)

    Comment by Richard Hearne — August 11, 2007 @ 4:27 am

  4. [...] Richard Hearne writes (a bit) about Search Engine Optimisation for Bloggers. One point that he made in his review of Pat Phelan’s (Roam4Free) site was how to help Google find your older content. Taking this advice, I’ve installed the WordPress Page Navigation Plugin on this blog – it’s the widget giving the ‘Page 1..2..3..end’ at the top of this site. [...]

    Pingback by Technology and People - SEO for Blogs - help Google find your older content — August 13, 2007 @ 7:51 am

  5. Richard,
    I have just set up a local (Belfast) web design company and have quite a few clients coming along all of a sudden. However i’m not 100% on the world of SEO.

    Like most web design companies i have links to our Recent Clients (http://www.jacksonmullan.com/recent.php); however is it true that by doing this is is harming my sites Google ranking by “leaking page rank” from my site?

    Many thanks,

    Comment by Sean Mullan — September 22, 2007 @ 5:34 pm

  6. Hi Sean

    I wouldn’t be too concerned as generally these links will all appear on a single page. If you linked to a large number of client sites from every page then there may be an issue.

    Think of it this way – if everyone stopped linking (or NOFOLLOWed) the Internet would come to a halt.

    Best rgds

    Comment by Richard Hearne — September 23, 2007 @ 4:16 am

  7. Thanks Richard!

    I have installed the Google Toolbar, and can see that i have a Page Rank of 1/10, which i’d obviously like to try and improve.

    I have heard of a company called Service Wrap (www.servicewrap.net) which “seem” to have a decent reputation at getting a higher Page Rank and Google listing.

    Have you heard of them? Would you recommend such companies or are they just a load of chancers??

    Thanks again,

    Comment by Sean Mullan — September 23, 2007 @ 9:35 pm

  8. LOL

    “Would you recommend such companies or are they just a load of chancers??”

    Difficult for me to say they are all chancers given it’s how I make my living :)

    I haven’t heard of them, and there are a lot of chancers in this space. If you are a designer I would highly recommend that you learn some SEO and try to do it yourself. Depending on how technical you are you might be a natural.

    Main thing at the minute is not to give your site to anyone who promotes the idea of increasing pagerank – they definitely haven’t a clue if they are trying to increase your pagerank given that it’s not even clear currently if Google are going to retain the little green bar we can see. Pagerank is only one small factor in the ranking equation.


    Comment by Richard Hearne — September 24, 2007 @ 3:53 am

  9. Richard, thanks for the info.

    However, I also have a few questions.

    I hear a lot of directory’s put a no follow on the outbound links to hoard their PR.

    Also, if I have say 90 outbound links and only 70 inbound links, would this be hurting me? I hear that it does not matter how many outbound links you have but this does not sound correct as I would imagine if you have too many outboundlinks, you start looking like a link farm.

    What do you think?

    Comment by George — October 25, 2007 @ 6:06 am

  10. George

    As long as you keep it natural then you shouldn’t have any issues.


    Comment by Richard Hearne — November 1, 2007 @ 2:40 pm

  11. [...] has a good few tips on ongoing links and how they may potentially hurt your ranking, there’s alot of common sense advice over [...]

    Pingback by Long live the link. Why outgoing links are your bestest buddy. — November 16, 2007 @ 10:59 pm

  12. Thanks for the advice Richard. Love the blog.

    Comment by Niall Devitt — May 6, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

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