You see it on a lot of websites: a page that is filled with links to other sites.
Maybe there's a page like that on your site?
The question is, should it be there? Is it doing more harm than good?
The correct answer is...depends.
Some links can be good for your website, some are definitely to be avoided.
First let's just clear up a spot of confusion...
I come across this often when it comes to links and building websites:
“But I've heard links are important for the search engines to find me and I want that. So I want lots of links! Let's make a link page...”
It's true, the search engines do consider your links as one of the (over 400) factors they use to decide where to rank you. BUT, they're looking at your “incoming” links i.e. links that come TO your website FROM another site.
So the more links you have coming into your website, the better, right?
Um, no, not exactly.
Think of an incoming link as a “vote” for your site from someone else. Search engines, like Google, like to give their searchers results that are close to the search they entered. So they'd like to send their searchers to websites that other people have indicated – with some kind of link (vote) - have useful, relevant knowledge.
Some of these links to your site may be from other websites dealing with topics in your industry that are related to your business. They know what they're talking about and they refer to you as someone who knows what you're talking about too. So their link to you counts as a “vote” with a fair amount of “authority.”
Other links may come from websites that have nothing in common with your business. Their link to you has very little value for a searcher as it isn't helping his search for answers in a specific direction. So this link counts as a very weak “vote”. In some cases it may even count as a negative vote if it looks like the link has just been created with the idea of boosting your number of links to con the search engines. A link for link's sake has no value.
If your business is selling new cars, links from car insurance companies, for example, may be relevant. A link from a toothpaste company is not.
So you want to have plenty of links coming into your website from sites that are complimentary to your business. You're building lots of little paths to your business on the internet – from places where people are already looking for answers to an issue they want to solve and may find what you offer useful.
So, should you offer links from your website – like on a Links Page?
Again, the correct answer is... depends.
You've marketed your website and have people visiting to see what you're offering. Why would you now offer to send them off to someone else – especially someone that is either a competitor or who has nothing to do with the topic they've shown obvious interest in by coming to your website?
If you asked me for a carrot cake recipe and half way through I suddenly sent you off to go look at new paint techniques, would I be solving your problem or confusing you? Would you ask me for info again?
Same thing with links on your site. You want to keep people engaged with the content and offerings on your site, showing how you can help them solve their problem. You don't want to be sending them away as soon as they've arrived.
When should you have outgoing links (i.e. links going from your site to someone else's)?
If a link would add to your credibility, it can generally be added.
For example, if you're a Chartered Accountant firm, a link to SAICA would enhance your image of being properly qualified and registered.
If you're an Events Company, logos from your biggest clients (which can be links to their websites) can give a positive image of the successful events you've organized for well-known brands. (These would be better displayed in specific places on your site instead of only stuck on a Links Page though.)
If you're a Guesthouse, you might want to help your visitor by providing links to COMPLIMENTARY (not competitive) businesses in your area that may make his stay more enjoyable. For example, local restaurants he might enjoy, the nearby aquarium he could visit and so on, are types of links you could include.
The bottom line:
You want: links coming into your website from relevant websites in your industry and from reputable search engine listings.
You don't want: Links to competitors or random other websites on your own site.
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