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Outbound Links – An Endangered Species? [And Why I Still Link Up]

Yesterday on Twitter I made this remark:

“A change I’ve noticed from the ‘old days’ of blogging – people don’t link when they quote you as much as they used to.”

The replies to my tweet were quite varied – some agreed while some disagreed – some argued that a link was not necessary while others argued that it was essential. The replies highlighted just how much diversity of opinion there was on the topic so I thought I’d put together a few thoughts on the topic.

But before I share why I DO link to others from my blogs when quoting or borrowing ideas directly from others I thought it might be worthwhile sharing some of the reasons people gave yesterday for why they thought links were becoming LESS used in this way.

1. Competition

The most common remark to my tweet was that people thought it was mainly to do with a change in the way that bloggers viewed other blogs in their niche.

The theory is that in ‘the old days’ of blogging the blogosphere was more about sharing ideas, networking, communal learning etc – but that these days it’s more about ‘getting ahead’ or ‘empire building’ in some way. As a result other blogs are less seen as an opportunity to network or have mutually beneficial opportunities – but that they’re more seen as ‘the competition’.

Of course there are plenty of examples where this is not the case – but I suspect it’s one of the reasons that some bloggers don’t link out to others.

2. PageRank Sculpting

The other main theory that people shared (and a few admitted it was why they didn’t link out) was that they saw links on their blogs as valuable and wanted to use them in ways that benefited themselves by ‘sculpting’ the link juice on their sites.

This is an SEO (search engine optimisation) approach to linking – the theory is that the more links you have on a page the less weight each one of them carries in passing on page rank to the sites you’re linking to.

The idea is that you link to fewer sites so that the few that you do link to (your own internal links, links to your other sites, links to partners sites or those paying for links) have maximum benefit. The practice is to limit links and/or use nofollow tags on any link that you don’t want to pass page rank so that those that do pass it pass the maximum.

I know that most bloggers probably don’t page sculpting in mind when they’re linking to other blogs – but it was the 2nd most mentioned explanation that people mentioned to me on Twitter yesterday.

3. Laziness and/or Forgetfulness

The third theory shared on why people don’t link is that they either forget to or that they’re just too lazy to do it.

I suspect that most bloggers at one time or another have inadvertently forgotten to link to another page when quoting them or bouncing off something they’ve written. I know I’ve done this a number of times over the years (I fix them when they’re brought to my attention).

4. Ignorance

The last theory that some of my followers shared is that they thought that some people simply where not aware of the etiquette when it comes to quoting others (or that they simply didn’t believe in it).

This was highlighted to me in a couple of the DMs that I received after my tweet from people who admitted that they didn’t link to other sites that they quoted because they’d never heard of the practice. They did not do it maliciously, they had no ulterior motives – they’d just never thought to do it or been taught that that was what should happen.

5. Or Have Things Just Changed?

As I pondered the topic yesterday it struck me that perhaps things had simply changed and that I was ‘old fashioned’ in my approach.

Perhaps this ‘ignorance’ could also be explained by a change that is happening in the unspoken etiquette of the web? Perhaps there’s a transition in belief and behaviour happening here and I just need to get with the times?

After all times are changing – people of my parents generation are always telling me how things that they used to think were unacceptable are now common place…. social interactions change don’t they?

I really hope that this last theory is not the case – you see in my experience linking to other sites from your blog is actually something that is very powerful. In my experience it improves your blog to do it but also makes the web a better place.

Which leads me to an exploration of why I link out to other blogs and websites from my blog.

Why I DO Link to Other Sites

Let me start by saying that when I say I link to other blogs and websites that I’m talking about doing so as a way of giving credit to those sites. For example when I’m quoting someone or when I’m directly taking an idea that someone’s written about on their site and am extending it, reacting to it or bouncing off it some way on my own blog.

As I said above – I’m sure there are times when I’ve inadvertently not done this (you’re welcome to point them out to help me rectify this). Enough disclaimers – here’s some reasons that I do link:

1. Etiquette/Manners/Courtesy

At a base level I think it’s important to acknowledge the work of someone else when you use it.

When someone has written something that you’re quoting – that person has taken time to craft those words, they’ve gone to some effort to make the impression that they have on you. You in turn are using their words (and the effort that they went to to craft them) to improve your own blog in some way – as a result I think it’s important to acknowledge that.

You could of course do this without a link – but I think a link shows a little extra spirit of generosity and appreciation that is simply good courtesy in my mind.

2. Usefulness

Linking to your sources makes your content more useful to your readers.

Good content is useful content. I’m constantly talking about how to build a successful blog you need to be producing something that is useful in some way to those reading it. By linking to the page where you take a quote or idea you’re providing your readers with the opportunity to read more on the topic or see the quote in it’s original context.

Your reader may or may not click the link – but it does give them the opportunity to explore further or learn more.

I know that as a blog reader when I’m reading a quote that I find particularly interesting that I want to learn more about who said it. If there’s no easy way to do this I think have to go to the effort of researching myself. I actually find this annoying and it creates the impression to me that the author of the content is too lazy or stingy to go to the effort themselves.

Giving readers other things to read around the web adds depth to your blog. Yes it sends people away from your site to read someone else’s – but if it’s a link to something good they’re more likely to come back because you become a trusted source of information.

3. It Makes the Web Better

Links are what makes the internet what it is.

I still remember the first day I got online. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I connected on my brand new dialup modem but I do remember looking at my watch later that day and realising that 7 hours had passed and that I’d barely moved much more than the index finger on my mouse as I surfed from one page to another.

I was caught in the ‘web’. One site led to another which lead to another which led to another – the web inspired me.

I had a similar feeling the first day I visited the first blog that I had ever read – it linked out generously to other blogs in its niche which in turn linked to others. I was immediately hooked into this community of websites – but particularly to that first one which got me going.

Perhaps this is a little naive – but for me the internet has always been built on the ‘link’. It’s what makes it so great and as someone wanting to be a good citizen of the web I think it’s important to continue the tradition of what has made it great.

4. The Power of Links to Build Relationships

A simple link to another site can get you on their radar and be the beginning of a fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship.

Here’s a quick illustration as to the power of a link:

Every month or two on my photography blog I run a post that is simply a list of interesting links from other photography sites around the web from the last month. I sometimes throw a few internal links into these posts but they’re largely just a list of links with short descriptions to other photography sites.

There are many benefits of these posts, for example:

  • they’ve been on the front page of Digg and can be spread virally around the web
  • they’re useful to readers and I get a lot of thank you comments and emails from readers as a result

But the biggest benefit to me from these types of posts is the impact that they have on the sites I’m linking to. Last time I did one of these posts I linked to 15 or so other photography sites.

  • The next day I had 5 emails from owners of these sites. All thanked me for the link.
  • 2 of those who wrote offered to write guest posts for my blog.
  • Over the coming week 6 of the sites I linked to linked back to my blog
  • Others tweeted about the post
  • 2 of the other bloggers and I have been exploring ways we can work more together

All of this started simply with some linking to other quality content in my niche.

While my blog has a fairly big readership and the traffic I sent out was substantial – the same principle is true for sites of all sizes – links have the potential to get you on the radar of other bloggers and web masters – where this can lead you is anyone’s guess.

5. Outbound Links and SEO

Outbound links can help your blog’s search engine optimisation (directly perhaps but indirectly definitely).

I’ve heard it argued that relevant outbound links can actually help your own site’s ranking in search engines (ie search engines look at the sites you’re linking to as part of their algorithm).

I have heard this debated and in my own limited testing have not seen it as a major factor (it may be a minor one but other factors like your title tags have a much bigger impact) – HOWEVER I do think that linking out can definitely indirectly help your SEO – based upon reasons we’ve already covered:

  • Linking can stimulate reciprocal links – as a result of building relationships with other websites you increase the chance of being linked to yourself. It doesn’t happen every time but sometimes when you link to another blog you’ll find that blogger starts to subscribe to yours and in time will link back. This helps your search ranking.
  • Useful content ranks high – Google’s main purpose with it’s algorithm is to find the best content it can and rank it highly. If links increase your site’s usefulness (point #2 above) in time you’ll see this reflected in your Google ranking as your site gets passed around by readers and Google does its thing in finding it.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll rank high in Google by linking to other sites – but indirectly I think it can certainly be helpful. I guess this really comes down to my main philosophy about SEO – set your blog up well and be aware of the principles of SEO but then concentrate on producing the kind of content that the search engines are looking for and build relationships/network. Search rankings tend to have a way of looking after themselves.

Quick Tips on Linking Out

Let me conclude with a few last thoughts:

Don’t link out for the sake of it – I’ve seen some bloggers link out to other blogs in large quantities with the belief that it’ll help them build relationships with loads of other bloggers. Link out when it’s relevant to do so, when you’re giving credit and when you think it makes your content more useful.

Don’t get caught up in linking schemes – one thing I do know is that Google is always on the look out for ‘link farms’ or schemes designed to manipulate their rankings. I won’t pretend to know where Google draws the line but simple reciprocal links seem to carry less weight than normal organic links and when search engines spot you involved in a bad neighbourhood of the web engaging in lots of interlinking you’re probably going to do yourself more harm than good.

I don’t get into it at all these days but IF you’re going to get into reciprocal links keep them relevant to your content, do it in moderation and make sure that the sites you’re linking to are of a high standard and quality.

PS: a quote from Google’s Matt Cutts:

Let me finish with a quote (and a link of course) from Google’s Matt Cutts:

“I would recommend the first-order things to pay attention to are 1) making great content that will attract links in the first place, and 2) choosing a site architecture that makes your site usable/crawlable for humans and search engines alike.”

I’m interested to hear your thoughts (and practices) when it comes to linking out from your blog. Do you do it? Why/Why Not?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. I link out fairly often, I have a “do follow” plugin, and I also use the CommentLuv plugin to allow commenters to highlight one of their recent posts.

    I’ve stumbled across some good blogs via CommentLuv.

    The Casual Observer doesn’t have a niche (it’s more of a broad based web magazine covering a variety of topics), so competition doesn’t really factor into my decision to link.

  2. It is important to link sites when
    1. It adds value to the content – If you add more and more value to your content, inherently you will stand tall above the rest in your niche. So no need to worry about competition.
    2. You are quoting someone else, other blog post etc. As Darren has said it goes with Etiquette/Manners/Courtesy. And it’s about giving respect to others’ work. (I guess that’s why even when doing a research paper others’ work are mentioned:) )

  3. Links are very important on my blog. I run a music business blog and we’re constantly bouncing around ideas from other sites, and other sites do the same with us.

    I agree first and foremost it’s about respect. But it’s also great for building relationships with other blogs and sharing readership.

    For example my traffic has seen a huge increase over the last 10 days since a very big site linked to an article that i wrote. My traffic tripled that day and has remained pretty constant since, suggesting that people followed that link and have come back.

    http://www.GrindEFX.com

  4. I love linking to other folk, apart from the fact that it is the right thing to do… it has open up doors and windows with big bloggers while I was still really new at blogging. Generally if someone links to me, I like to go and see who it is and generally bloggers will come and see who is linking to them!!! It is a fabulous way to meet awesome bloggers without imposing them… they can choose to get back to you or not… It is a little less invasive than emailing them on their contact page, but trust me it works – the blog ego must follow a link. You would be amazed at how many lovely bloggers there are out there who take the time to follow and comment on a link!

    I love blogs that use commentluv, I do!!! It is a nice way for readers to spread the word about their own blog without having to seek you out first.

    Finally I don’t like sites that use my content, I don’t police it – you can’t be too petty on the internet – I am only a mom blog after all, but it does annoy me or if they link within their content without using my obvious name… it just irks, it isn’t nice… and spoils the community of blogging.

  5. Thanks for this Darren,

    I always link outward to blogs that give great information if I use anything learned from them in a post. One of the things I’ve noticed is that when I link to an active blogger, they usually notice and then they start to comment on my blog, participate, and in some cases, freindships have formed from this simple act of giving credit.

    In terms of losing people (for example they click on the link to your site in one of my posts and then leave my site to read your great blog), I’m okay with that. I want people to get the very best information on creating a money making blog so if they come here or go to the Blogger’s Workshop, Web Marketer Depot, or Money Era, then I know they will remember they learned about these great sites from News Notion. It’s win win win win win win.

    Glad to see this posting. If you want to do a guest post on News Notion about the same topic or if you don’t mind me using this post (with the link and credit back to you of course) I think it would be something my readers would really benefit from.

    All the best,

    R.W. Jackson

  6. I do tend to link out on a fairly regular basis. I hope Google puts some weightage on which links are you linking out. In some sense, it gives a clear indication of the topic. However, as you have pointed out, out linking is an endangered (if not extinct) habit. We all link to the biggies in the field, making them even bigger.

  7. I completely agree with you, courtesy, community, and usefulness are all reasons why I’m an avid linker. Often times, bloggers get caught up in the techie stuff (SEO, link juice, blah, blah, blah) and forget that it’s only a part of the equation. The value you add to the blogging community, your niche, and beyond are as important. Linking should be done out of respect and a willingness to truly contribute in an honest way to the community :-) Great stuff, as always!

  8. It’s so true. I think if you concentrate on building a site for your readers then you can’t really go wrong. I think it is a big mistake to try and second guess Google – I hear some webmasters actively refuse to link for fear of losing page rank.

    But for all we know maybe Google actually looks favourably at sites that link to other authoritative sites? Or if not now, may be they one day will? Or maybe linking out is very insignificant in their algorithm compared to the benefit it brings from creating the network.

    It has always been my belief that Google genuinely wants to rank the best sites at the top of search results – the best sites normally link generously.

    You do the math… :)

  9. If I quote something that somebody else wrote, I always link to where I got it. I see it as polite, since I’m using their words and I think it’s important to give credit to the person who wrote it.

    If somebody quotes me, I’d certainly like them to link to wherever they got it. Unless it looks spammish, I let the trackbacks through.

  10. As a fairly new blogger I find that outbound links play a significant role for my blog. In my niche most of the blog posts you find are tutorial type blog posts so I use outbound links as a “Further Reading” type of device.

    Not only does this reward the blogger that posted the great content to begin with but it also helps my blog become more recognized as a resource – not necessarily the blog with all the answers but the blog that knows where to find the answers.

    I think that if you use outbound links smartly in your posts then your readers will subscribe to you because they know they’re going to get pointed at some really great content whether it be yours or someone you link to.

  11. I have to do more of this. I link up from time to time, but not often enough to be successful.

    Your point on competition reminds me of when computers were first coming into use. Hackers/builders were more or less sharing ideas and thoughts, testing things out, etc, and then suddenly it started to be a business model and competitive. Then it ended, famously with a certain letter from Bill Gates.

  12. Linking out to me was a natural to me. Of course I will still link to my own web page so long as its relevant.

    As long as the linking out is a good and relevant site, the search engines like Google will reward back for the natural linking.

  13. I agree about building relationships. If you link others, they know that you appreciate their content. You’re also showing your audience that there are different voices out there on your topic. Sure, that other voice may be “better” than yours, you may lose a reader when they decide they like the other guy better, but isn’t that just motivation for you to step up your game and work harder? :-)

    I’ve also found that when I link others, they link back to me. Doesn’t always happen, but most of the time, it does.

  14. Well I actually don’t care enough What Google thinks on my Outbound Links as my blog is completely do-follow and giving out lot of outbound links..

    When putting up the link in any of my blog post, it helps to increase the relationship with the other blogger and also the people admires it.

    Regards,
    Typhoon a.k.a Sushant
    http://www.smartbloggerz.com

  15. As a new blogger (less than 3 months), links and SEO are something that I am new to. Having a strong research background, I have had citing sources absolutely ingrained into my mind and soul. I always link back to my sources, and try to use the best keywords possible for those links.

    Is there any harm in having a large blog community list? Is using nofollow for less relevant links considered bad practice? I guess nofollow is better than no link.

  16. I haven’t noticed a decline in outbound links. The blogs that I follow, like yours and Copyblogger always link out.

  17. I fall into Laziness category. :) I am a lazy link builder (for my personal websites) and also lazy to entertain the numerous link requests I received in my email.

  18. I follow the golden rule when it comes to linking: I do it when I would want other blogs to do it if the situation were reversed. The main situations I do link would be if I found something through another blog or site or if I’m quoting them or working off their idea.

    I don’t put too much thought in it beyond that.

  19. Great read Darren. I was taught in school about plagiarism and I still link or give reference to any information sources I use. As an avid reader with limited time, deep and quality links allow ease of absorption of new concepts and background reference reading. I wish to provide this same functionality to all my blog readers.

    In the long run quoting and failing to provide a link to the source will be a detriment to any site or author. Ultimately the readers get less value, everyone loses.

  20. I think outbound linking is the only way to make blogging an even more credible way to learn and teach. It is also extremely useful tool for proving that your ideas have validity.

  21. I’ve written several posts on exactly this topic, but nothing quite as good as this post.

    It’s true. Back in 1994 when I first went on the web, linking was extremely important. There weren’t any viable search engines. Without links, there was no web.

    I’ll try to dig up some of the articles I’ve written on this topic and post a link or two. And I’ll definitely update the articles to link to Darren’s article here.

    @Blake – I have the same training: ALWAYS cite your sources.

  22. When I quote from an online source, I always link to the source. For me, the motivating factor behind my linking practice is probably my Reed College undergraduate education, in which we studied the humanities and other topics by looking at the original sources. Perhaps not as rigorous as a Deep Springs College, but still the intent was there.

    This translates into my blogging. If I say in my blog that John Smith said something or another, then it’s essential that I provide a link so that my readers can verify that John Smith actually said what I claimed that he said.

    When possible, and when time permits, I take it one step further. If I say in my blog that John Smith said something about what Jane Doe said, then I often try to not only link to John Smith’s statement, but also to Jane Doe’s original statement. Perhaps Jane Doe said something that wasn’t important to John Smith, but is important to me. Or perhaps John Smith mischaracterized Jane Doe’s intent.

    I believe that providing access to this background material in a blog post makes the post that much richer. Perhaps 99% of my readers won’t click on the links, but I’m sure that the 1% who do will appreciate this.

  23. Darren, this is a good article, but I would like you to go further and reflect on the effects of product like Pretty Link Pro. These plugins cloak all outbound links using your own domain then redirect to the sites you want to link to.

  24. A newcomer to blogging, I was unaware yet have been curious as to the overall status of linking. As I think forward about making these affiliations, it certainly will help me know why I may be encountering road blocks.

  25. Great source of info. SEO is such a debated topic, but it does payoff to stick to basics!

  26. In my opinion, that post was dead on. I think that outbound links are essential for bloggers, and if asked I would have given the exact same reasons you did. The good definitely outweighs the bad for me in this case. Wonderful post, and keep up the outbound links.

  27. I link all the time with the belief that is taught in school. Don’t use other folks words if you are not going to give them credit its plagiarism plain and simple.

    I also link to blogs in hopes that they will visit and add some weight and authority to my blog.

    I link because it is the right thing to do! :)

  28. If I’m quoting someone, I always link out. If I’m not willing to add the link for any reason, I don’t use the quote.

    And I also use “via” links to acknowledge blogs that send me to other good sites.

    To me, it’s just what you say: a matter of courtesy. Some of your other reasons come into play with me, too – but “manners” is #1.

  29. I would add one more reason to the not linking – people don’t know how. Before you dismiss this idea – really blogger (and others) has made a blog so easy that my 10 year old could easily do it. I find it easier to use HTML for my posts rather than to try to get those little buttons to work – but I am a weirdo who learned HTML for fun.

    For some people the whole HTML thing is too intimidating and they are doing good to type up a post. Adding links is beyond them.

    I do link for a variety of reasons. It is just good manners. It helps build friendships. As a smaller blog, I know how much I enjoy seeing a link to me on another blog.

  30. It definitely makes the web better. Linking is the courteous thing to do. Plus, it let’s the reader know the person’s blog/site they’re visiting thought the person was not only knowledgeable with regard to what your post was about but also noteworthy enough to be mentioned by the author.

    I miss the old days…too much link juice…blink juice

    great post Darren

  31. I used to litter my articles with outbound links, including pre-configured Google search queries and links to any sites or bloggers I mentioned. I’d link to Wikipedia whenever I mentioned an obscure or even mundane topic. Now I rarely link out, even when mentioning someone, unless the entire post is about an external site.

    I do more internal links now, for posts on my site or my other sites. But I do far fewer links overall, making my posts much easier to read. I no longer feel obligated to explain concepts or words. A year ago, if I was mentioning the opossums in my yard, I’d link to the Wikipedia article on that animal. Now I would include no link. If you want to know about something, look it up yourself. There is no reward for laziness.

    Most people link out too much. Make your blog a DESTINATION not a portal.

  32. I also like to link out to other people as courtesy to them and usually if I get something from another site it is usually a site like wiki or something. I have never really thought about the effect of it to pagerank, but it shouldn’t matter if you have good content and a good marketing structure then people will continue to use you and link back to you which makes your site higher in pr to!

    Randi Miller
    http://www.allmojo.com

  33. Darren — I don’t have a blog and yes, I know I’m the last person on earth who doesn’t, but as an avid reader of blogs of all kinds, I wanted to comment. Most of the blogs I subscribe to I read for information — because I want to know more about something. And what better way to share information than by linking to other relevant blogs, posts, sites, etc.? It gives a post context and often, validity. To me, a great blog post is one that sends me all over the web, following links and more links until I sometimes forget where I started, but I’ve had a wonderful, rich learning experience. A blog that sends me on an adventure like that is one I’m going to return to and isn’t that what it’s all about?

  34. I like linking others and think this is really a good idea. I agree with you saying that ignorance may be the main reason behind decreasing trend of linking back.
    However, i see no problem in doing this and this really helps to both parties.

  35. So glad to see you writing about this. Back in the dark ages, I was always taught to attribute other people’s ideas and words appropriately. In a paper for school or a book or some types of magazine articles, this mean footnotes. On the web, IMO, it means a link, for several reasons.
    1. It’s honest. If you’re going to quote or paraphrase someone else’s website, you have to be able to refer readers to it so they can see the entire thought for themselves. If this were a term paper, you’d cite the author, publication, date of publication, publisher, page number, etc. Since it’s not, the best you can do is a link.
    2. It’s polite and shows consideration for the person whose ideas you are using.
    3. It sets a good example for others.
    4. It shows consideration for your readers, since it assumes they have the intelligence to come back to your site after they look at the link!
    5. It protects you from possible accusations of plagiarism.

    In short, if you think enough of someone else’s idea to include it on your website, you should link to it. It’s that simple. And it really shouldn’t matter how Google analyzes it, it’s the right thing to do and we need more people doing the right thing in this world.

  36. Most of the time, I’m linking out to give my readers (all three of them) a way to get the rest of the story, so there’s not the appearance that I’m making up info or quoting things out of context.

    It’s just common courtesy. These other sites did all the work to gather the info, and I’m paying them back with a link.

    If you go back a few years and look at the origin of blogging, many of the earliest “weblogs” were simply lists of links; interesting pages that web surfers had come across in their daily wanderings.

  37. I agree with your first point there. Either they’re threatened by competition or some people just don’t like sharing traffic anymore. Darn recession’s got people holding onto anything and everything :P

    -Jesse
    http://www.powersellerpath.com/blog

  38. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve had an ongoing argument with my friend about whether or not we should link from blog posts: She says that it’s sapping our PageRank to link out to other sites (for the record, we’re talking about two links in a 400-word post); I say that if I quote somebody or reference their blog post, then they deserve a link-back just from courtesy, if nothing else. And with the advent of trackbacks and pingbacks, linking out to another post can be helpful in that way as well.

    I also think part of it is the “cite your sources” thing that Blake and Dave mentioned. You quote somebody in a research paper, you cite it. You quote somebody in a blog post, you link it. :-)

  39. The first thing that you MUST do is to provide quality content for your readers. If background information that readers might reasonably desire to further understand your work requires a Google or Wikipedia search then you are not providing the best quality.

    When you quote someone you should provide a link to the quote in almost every case, not only is it an issue of manners, but you need to substantiate your case. If you don’t link then some people may claim that you made it up!

    I don’t link to hate sites. If I’m going to comment about an organisation that I regard as a hate organisation then I will try and stick to general commentary so that a link is not needed. If my readers need more information then I will consider including the URL in the text but not as a link – not only to deny them Google ranking but to discourage users from visiting the site in question.

    Finally there is a trend among some bloggers to having a “via” link. The way this works is that blogger A writes a post about a news article, blogger B reads blog A and decides to write about the same article but references blog A for informing them of the article. I believe that this is a form of moral jeopardy, it encourages bloggers to rush to comment on a news item without thinking it through adequately. If a blogger comments on an article and I find nothing in their commentary worth quoting then I will not cite their blog post – I will just link to the original article.

  40. I don’t think too much about outbound linking – I do it when I’ve got something to link to and don’t when I um don’t. I think your point about building relationships is definitely the most important especially as now people who use WordPress can see inbound links in their Trackbacks section.

  41. I find it very sad to read that so many don’t or won’t include a link to someone else’s work when they’re borrowing from it or quoting it. And “borrowing” from someone without permission and acknowledgment is stealing.

    Like you, I have forgotten a time or two but I have corrected the oversight. But to deliberately omit the link? For shame to those folks!

  42. Linking to others not only serves the readers, but also yourself. After all, we blog to get messages across. If people can click on a link to check out the articles we are referencing, they have a better understanding of where we are coming from. I believe this serves your message well.

    It also allows people to check out the original piece to spark up discussion. It’s like when people have read the same book or seen the same movie start talking among themselves.

  43. Yes I do link out. I primarily do it so readers will know what I’m talking about. We’re all time poor. No reader would want to go googling for something I’ve referenced but not linked up for them.

  44. Hi Darren,

    Unfortunately, I think your 1 & 2 above are the primary reasons for what appears to be less linking. And something related, that adds to the problem, is basic misunderstanding of SEO. Not only are people worried that linking out will reduce the value of their internal links … but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people think that linking out will actually somehow Reduce their own page rank … ie, “I’ve got a PR3, but I don’t want it to leak, so I don’t link out” … or “I think my PR went down, because I gave too much of it away to other sites”.

    It’s mind boggling. Just goes to prove that sometimes a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

  45. I could not agree more. Call me old-fashioned but let’s give credit where credit is due! Eh?

    Thanks for posting this. Cheers!

    -Dena
    Evolution

  46. I’m with you Darren on how why/how to link.

    I think that my blog has grown (and continues to grow) BECAUSE I link out so much. My blog has a very strong emphasis on sharing information and on linking to relevant resources and the websites and/or blogs of people I mention. I get emails all the time from people telling me what great traffic they get from my site and thanking me for linking to them.

    While I understand the principles of SEO and page sculpting, I’d just rather spend my time on creating the content and finding the great links to include in my posts than on checking whether I’ve tagged certain links as ‘no follow’.

    The only think that I really do find pernicious within my blogging community are the people who use my stuff (or other people’s) without any attribution or linking. That’s just plain rude and/or downright lazy – take your pick!

  47. Interesting discussion, Darren. Gives us a lot to think about. But I suggest that one very good reason to add a link back to a site you quoted comes down to fine tuning the right of authorship and giving FULL credit where credit is due.

    I look at adding the link as if you were adding a footnote or reference at the bottom of a written document. You mention the source in your copy, but you can also add a bit of courtesy by linking to that source.

    Now maybe courtesy has grown old fashioned??

  48. Thanks very much for this post. I was actually kind of shocked that people would choose not to credit a source or quote. Golden Rule applies – I would want to be credited and others deserve that same courtesy.

    I also want to add that I’m in a relatively small niche. I have a passion for what I write about (dance education). And, while I want my site to be prominent in that niche, I also feel that the subject is under-covered and that not enough people are writing, sharing, and talking about learning & teaching dance! More people writing great content is what is needed, not less linking. If I want my site to be prominent, I’ll get that by doing good work (not by ignoring “the competition”).

  49. Absolutely I link when I mention other people, interesting articles or unusual terms that my readers might not know. It’s simply the right and polite thing to do. My mantra is ‘always make it easy for people’ – I know as a reader, I find it immensely frustrating when I have to go and google someone who’s been mentioned instead of just being able to click and I assume that my readers feel the same way.

    On a more selfish level, I believe it often brings readers to my site and I know from experience that it helps foster useful relationships.

  50. Thanks for the interesting blog post. I suppose I’m such a blogging newbie, it never occurred to me not to link to other sites. If a site as additional information that my readers would find useful, why not link to it? Part of the value I try to provide on my website is connecting readers to information on the web they may not know about so linking to other sites is a big part of that!

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