Recently I noticed that the SEOptimise blog ranks at #1 for the query [seo blog] in Google.co.uk
Then it dawned on me why we rank at #1: the single most important factor to getting there was linking out.
Yes, it wasn’t link building or even getting links; it was simply linking out. You could argue that it’s lots of great content etc, but many SEO blogs from the UK have great content. Nobody is linking out like we do though.
Just consider my most popular posts, the 30+ lists you love. Many of these lists link out to 30+ resources; some don’t, but most of them contain at least several links to resources outside SEOptimise.
I have often pondered whether it’s good or not. I have linked out to authority sites in the SEO industry but also beyond it. In most cases my motive for linking out was a great article, tool or other resource. I’m quite sure that many links were influenced by my virtual friendships. I know and trust many people in the SEO arena now, even without having met them in real life. But even given that bias, the links were genuine.
Great content by itself does not rank
There are lots of great SEO blogs in the UK. I often read and link to them, but many of them rarely show up in the generic rankings for [seo blog]. There are, of course, other reasons not to rank for that particular keyphrase; because it’s not as popular and lucrative as others, some people who blog about SEO don’t aim for it.
Some SEO blogs call themselves search, search marketing or online marketing blogs to name just a few synonyms. Some of the bigger agencies and more well-known SEO companies from the UK do optimise for [seo blog], but don’t even rank in the top 10 – despite publishing regularly and getting links from all over the place. I mean very well known and valuable blogs by the likes of Dave Naylor or Freshegg, who really deserve to rank in the British top 10.
Note that both SEO blogs mentioned above have a PageRank of 5, while we only have a 3. SEOptimise is linking out more than getting links in from other industry publications, so that we actually lose PageRank. As toolbar PageRank is not really a ranking factor but just a metric measuring the number of incoming vs outgoing links, it proves the point even more.
There are only two other UK blogs on the first page for the [seo blog] query on Google.co.uk, while #2 to #6 are firmly in the hands of the US allstars.
Of course I cannot prove the theory that linking out made us rank; it’s my gut feeling. I can’t show you pretty graphs of the number of outgoing links vs the ranking for [seo blog] over time, as I don’t watch these numbers that closely.
What I know for sure is that people I link out to often notice it and either link back sooner or later or at least spread such a post on social media. This is of course logical, and who isn’t glad to get mentioned on another publication. Also, contrary to popular belief, sites that link out plenty do not necessarily lose readers; the best example is Drudge Report which has a much higher engagement than other news sites despite being simply a one-page link list.
Moreover, Matt Cutts acknowledged in 2009 that outbound links are a ranking factor.
Linking out is a strategy not a tactic
Ok, now you think linking out may be an SEO trick or something, you try it out and… nothing happens. Michael Gray of Graywolf SEO did that a few years back. He linked out for testing purposes and tested whether his ranking would go up just by the sheer fact of linking out. His logic was to test whether Google uses linking out as a direct ranking factor and rewards sites that link out accordingly. It didn’t work, at least back then. Still, it doesn’t suffice to link out to Wikipedia from time to time.
Linking out is a strategy you have to embrace holistically.
This is what happened here on SEOptimise. It’s not just the great content we have. Other UK SEO blogs have great content as well, maybe even more in-depth content, but we offer a resource which is like a gate in many directions, while other blogs focus on making the readers stay longer on their own sites. We are not afraid to send you away because we know you will come back. Also we don’t hoard PageRank because we know it’s not been a real SEO metric for a few years.
Linking out also establishes credibility on the Web so that users ultimately come back to your site for more, even where they left via a link they’ve found on your site.
I’m not the only one to suggest that linking out is actually a modern SEO best practice. Check the following articles from renowned industry publications and experts for more opinions on linking out: