A leaking glass more than half-full
Links pointing in to your site are really important for SEO. Google has started suggesting they may be less and less important, and give it 5-7 years I think they’ll be one of the lesser important SEO criteria (in favour of RankBrain and Artificial Intelligence tools that can really determine how quality the site and it’s contents are.). But for now, external links from other sites are still important.
But, well, let’s think of links in and out like a glass of water being filled up and poured out.
- For each link pointing to your site, lets fill up the glass a little. As it gets fuller it gets more SEO authority, which is great.
- But for each link out, we can empty the glass a bit too.
So if for every link you have in you also have one out, the glass actually ends up empty*.
People used to make sites called “link traps” that didn’t link externally to anything, trying to full their glass right up. But as you’d expect Google got wise to this technique, and started to penalise sites if they did this—it’s contrary to the idea of a well-formed world wide web, and Google wants to help steer the web to be as useful as possible.
So it’s important to have some links out. I usually recommend a ratio of 4/1 – for every four links in, have one link out. That does vary based on a couple of factors, but it’s a good rule of thumb.
The glass fills faster than it empties, so Google is happy, and we are too.
* – important note, this is a very simplistic metaphor. Not all links are created equal, so if you have a link to your site from the BBC homepage, and a link out to your friend’s Etsy shop, you’d still end up with more water in the glass because in that case the link in has more SEO authority than the page you’re linking to. But because most sites aren’t in that position (most sites will have links in and out from sites swimming with them in a similar depth in the pool of link-juice; but I’ve used enough liquid-based similes for one day), it’s still a useful analogy.