Jim Boykin has an utterly fantastic new SEO tool that lets you view your outbound links. I have been on it like a hobo on a ham sandwich.
This was of such interest to me because I honestly have not paid all that much attention to my outbound links. Obviously I try to use credible sources and only link to sites that I trust (except for ones in which I link to sites because people bought me a drink/threatened my life/asked me to nicely), but in terms of working this into my overall strategy I admit to being somewhat out of the loop here. But no longer…I’ve seen the light.
Normally inbound links are my focus, when I’m not searching Google images for photos of Gang of Four or trying to figure out how to work Adam Ant into another post in hopes that he will find me one day and reveal that he’s a fan of my search engine optimization efforts and actually had me in mind when he cast that librarian-looking girl in the Goody Two Shoes video. OK yes, I was maybe 5 then but still. I try to keep to a formula of continuing to gather good inbounds (those should drop dramatically after this Adam Ant nonsense wrecks my reputation) while still referencing outside sources that are relevant to the topic at hand, with the inbounds obviously (hopefully) being higher in number than the outbounds.
The outbounds, however, are really worth noticing. I did use Jim’s tool (ahem) and, even though I wasn’t really surprised by any of the links that showed up in the results, I was somewhat taken aback at seeing them all neatly listed. You can see the title tag of the page you’re linking to, whether or not your link is reciprocated, and whether or not the link has potential problems. You also get a handy dandy list of your potential link problems so that you can print it out, give it to your friendly neighborhood assassin, and have things remedied lickety split, no shi…you know what I mean. Just go try it out for yourself so that I can quit telling you how cool it is.
So how can a bad outbound link hurt you? For a concise explanation on this, something I can’t usually give, here’s what Rand Fishkin says on an older post on SEOMoz:
* You might be perceived as part of a spam/link network and get penalized or banned * Your outbound links might have their value cut off if you link to too many bad neighborhoods (or even just a few if you’re a smaller site)
* Your site’s overall authority or quality might be perceived as lower than you’d expect, causing crawling, indexing or ranking to suffer
What makes an outbound link bad though? A site that is part of a linking neighborhood that would make Mr. Rogers shudder and snag his cardigan is a potential problematic site. Sites that are part of link farms or massive link schemes aren’t sites with which you want to be associated unless you’re up to some bad stuff, you black hat monkeys. It’s like hanging out in the bathroom with the kids who smoke and beat up smaller kids. You also look like a kid who smokes and beats up smaller kids. This is part of the whole reputation management and credibility thing that is kind of important. You really can be lumped in with the bad seeds you’re associated with. I’m not talking about Nick Cave here either. Those Bad Seeds would actually be quite cool to be associated with you know…
So in closing, your outbound links really are something that you need to carefully consider. If you don’t want to pass on your authority to a site you’re linking out to, use a nofollow. It’s all really quite simple isn’t it?