The Early Web
I remember when the web was young. Me and Suzi had so much fun …
I didn’t get into making sites way back then, but I did surf the web a lot. This was before Google. Before Yahoo. I mean, I remember when Alta Vista was the new kid on the block and I was using a browser called Mosaic (rhymes with archaic 8=)
The internet was called The Web for a reason. Articles written always had links to other articles that related to the given topic. Sometimes they were articles by the same author on the same site (internal links we call them now) but usually they were references to other sites. The links formed an intricate web pattern when they were graphed out.
The idea was that the web was to share information (and entertainment) and to provide easy access to related materials. Before the web an author could reference another writer, but the reader would have to find the book or periodical referenced somehow before being able to gather that extra info. Hyperlinks changed all of that.
Fast Forward to Now
But the web grew up. Commercial interests came in. Search engines grew. And links became a way to make money.
I just finished reading a post by Mark Thompson called Google Hates You. Mark talks about how Google and other search engines are doing a pretty poor job of sifting out the crappy web sites and allowing quality sites like yours (and mine 8=) to fall way down in the rankings. In fact, many White Hat websites are punished by Google while Black Hat sites manage to get top rankings.
Who is to Blame?
But is the fault entirely with Google and the Black Hats?
Perhaps we need to look inside for a minute. Perhaps we, as bloggers, can take some part of the blame.
I know that my backlink strategy (which I don’t work very hard) consists of posting comments (good ones, not spammy) on other related sites and forums as well as social media. I also dabble in article marketing and want to get some more guest posting done.
But as I read Mark’s article, I had to think, when was the last time that I referenced another blogger’s post in the body of my article? I mean, other than an affiliate link?
I’ve done this in the past, but not often enough. I think that we as writers should pursue at least 1 outbound link in at least 25% of our posts. Some articles could have dozens of links. Some might not need any.
But at a minimum we should strive to find at least one article out there that is relevant to what we’re writing about and link to it.
And we shouldn’t expect anything in return.
What Do Others Say?
It seems like I’m not alone in thinking this. Some of the A List bloggers have this on their minds as well. Brian Clark of Copyblogger wrote Why Linking to Other Blogs is Critical back in 2007. Pay close attention to what Brian wrote about linking to your competition.
And if you look through the list of trackbacks, you’ll find Linking Out Instead of Link Building to Rank in Google as a recent entry by Tad Chef at SEOptomise. I especially like one thing that he said: “Linking out is a strategy you have to embrace holistically.” Read the article to see what he means.
I found another great article by Dawud Miracle as a guest post on Lorelle on WordPress. Dawud wrote Why You Want to Link to Other Blogs where he explores more than just the page rank/traffic benefits.
Ben Yoskovitz has some excellent tips about finding interesting articles to link to as well as how to add them into your post. Blog Hack: Link to New Blogs and Get More Readers is definitely a resource you need to look at.
You’ll even find a couple articles here ProBlogger that talk about how to use outbound links. Kimberly Turner’s Monthly Trends + 10 Tips for a Flawless Linking Strategy touches on the subject. And Darren Rowse himself wrote about this back in 2009 in Outbound Links – An Endangered Species? [And Why I Still Link Up].
Explore the trackbacks and links found in those articles and you’ll find lots of people writing about how important linking out is to your blog.
So you can see that there are great benefits available to you when you implement this strategy. And not just SEO benefits.
Where do We Go Next?
I firmly believe that if we, as White Hat writers, get back to the basics of backlinks (i.e. letting our fellow writers create them for us as we create backlinks for them) then the search engines will take notice. They will see quality sites linking to other quality sites.
The links will be deep (i.e. to specific pages) and relevant. Because of this, we should see lower bounce rates and more time on page from people who follow those links. These make Google and the writer happy.
Here are some guidelines that I think we need to have in the blogosphere:
- When you write a post, look for 2 articles that you can link to that relate to your thesis. They don’t necessarily have to support you. They can be contrary opinions.
- If your post is inspired by someone else’s post, link to it (as I’ve done here).
- Don’t get all your links from the same source — spread it out. Spread it out wide. It doesn’t hurt to have a couple sources that you go to regularly, but don’t be exclusive.
- Don’t expect links back. That defeats the purpose. You may get links back, but if this works as it should then you probably won’t. You may see that writer link to something else you wrote down the road though as you probably caught their attention (and you hopefully have something worthwhile for them to link to).
- Don’t focus on the big blogs. If you find a relevant article on a smaller blog link to it.
- If you can’t find anything that you want to link to a given post then don’t force it. Aim for at least 1 link in at least 25% of your posts.
I’m sure that there are other factors that you can think of that I’ve missed. Feel free to share them in the comments. But feel even more free to write your own post on this topic and link back here 8=)