As Rightlander gets to work on more and more sites, it’s interesting to see the contrast in how affiliate sites link out. It’s made me wonder, perhaps as affiliates we get used to doing something a certain way and don’t necessarily take time to step back and consider how the web fully impacts us as it evolves. I know I have definitely been guilty of this when it comes to links, concentrating more on who links to me rather than who I link to.
Historically, a commonly touted SEO mantra stated that you don’t want to send your “link juice” to other sites (and especially your direct competitors!) but the term seems to be used a lot less frequently in SEO circles these days and probably for good reason. “Authority” is the buzzword and the theory that you’d lose some of your authority by linking to someone else doesn’t seem a particularly logical argument to me.
No-one would argue that having inbound links from authority resources are important, although you might debate “how” important and whether the impact is declining but why would you get penalised for linking out to a good website? In fact, my opinion is that it can only benefit you if you are genuinely giving your visitors another source of great information. And looking at a lot of the links from sites that Rightlander looks after, I’m far from alone.
It is very noticeable that a lot of the newer up-and-coming affiliate sites and those that currently rank well also have a no-doubt carefully considered array of outbound links to great resources. Clearly linking to somewhere dodgy or useless or for reasons other than benefiting the user will continue to haunt SEO efforts but conversely, a good authoritative site which recognises other good authoritative sites makes a lot of sense.
And if there is one thing a good SEO strategy should consider these days, it’s common sense. Sure, there will always be loopholes and ways that webmasters can give their sites a bump up the SERPS but as a well-known Penguin proved, there could well be serious repercussions (see the section “Managing Risk” in my Business Decisions for Affiliates article for more). After all, if you owned Google, you wouldn’t want webmasters manipulating their positions, period: you would want the quality to dictate that. You’d want to shut off every loophole you can over time and inevitably, sites that enjoyed those benefits will take a hit somewhere along the line.
There’s no doubt that carefully monitoring links, both inbound and outbound, will continue to be a key strategy for affiliates in the foreseeable future but my opinion is that outbound links will become more important as an (indirect) ranking factor than inbound links once Google’s algorithms achieve a better level of intelligence.