do you link in or link out?

hi, my name is muhammad saleem and i used to abuse internal linking. last november, a few months after i had started blogging, a regular reader and frequent commenter said the following to me,

as much as I enjoy reading your blog… you link back to yourself in your blog far more often than you link to outside sources.

another reader chimed in, saying,

most blogs link back to themselves more than outside links…it just makes sense. look at engadget for example… i don’t find a problem with it.

and at that time i didn’t find a problem with it either, but now i do. since then, i’ve realized certain benefits of linking out (beyond linking in or out just based on search engine algorithms and for seo purposes). by linking to other sources you can either use them to back up your own argument or provide your readers with another viewpoint to consider and come to their own conclusions. this helps your reputation as an author and makes you a more complete information source, giving your readers more of a reason to come back to you rather than someone else simply because you provide them with a more complete experience and most likely have richer conversations.

what’s surprising is that some of the most popular sites on the web right now are also the ones that most overuse/abuse internal linking. i took a few of the recent articles on techcrunch and mashable, and looked at their internal-to-outbound linking ratio and in many cases over 50% of the links were to their own previous coverage (even when they were regurgitating other people’s content). in fact, techcrunch doesn’t even link directly to the site they’re talking about anymore, rather they link to that site’s crunchbase profile.

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22 thoughts on “do you link in or link out?

  1. Urbanist

    I find it is all about the balance, personally. I agree that more people come back and read a site regularly when they feel it is authoritative – which in turn is demonstrated to readers by linking to outside sources. However, linking internally to other good on-site content also shows readers you are an authority beyond the one article they first read. Search engines look at what you link to as well as who links to you, and linking out can be a good way to get links in.

    I wouldn’t say I shoot for a 50/50 split but that is typically what I end up and I feel that’s a good balance.

  2. HMTKSteve

    If only you can fix your problem of not capitalizing the first word in each sentence… 😉

    Wait a minute, why didn’t you link to the sites of those two commentators who left the comments?

  3. lucia

    I think the appropriate linkin-linkout ratio depends on the type of blog and niche. My old knitting blog mostly links-in. I knit things, and when I need to use a new technique, I link to my tutorial on that technique. Often, I have no choice: there is no good online tutorial on the technique. (When there are, I’ll link to mine and the other one because different knitters responde well to different presentations.)

    I do link out to other people’s patterns, blogs, etc.

    On my “money blog about blogging blog”, I’m linking out more. There is a lot of good on line information on topics I blog about there.

  4. Edward

    I especially enjoy “linking out” to my own website. (Although I might be getting punished by google for linking to myself too much, my pagerank completely disapeared…)

  5. Vlad Balan

    I don’t see the problem in over-linking to you own content, but depends a lot on what your blog’s about, because there are some domains where, as you said, it’s good to give the people the choice to see some other opinions.

    Just like there are also domains where linking too much to outside content could leave you without some readers. However, I think this is just up to each one of us.

  6. HMTKSteve

    If I remember correctly (this was a year or more ago) the issue had to do with Mu writing something and then linking back to his own opinion piece to support his argument. When you are linking as a way to support an argument you need to link to someone other than yourself.

  7. Sebastian

    I don’t think it makes sense to look at ratios in this case. Lets forget that a link might boost anything in Google’s index, lets forget that linking to authorities is a method to gain attention, and all that. Basically, a link is a recommendation for your readers (if not labelled otherwise in its context or anchor text). Whether or not you vouch for another post depends on this post’s quality, comprehensiveness with regard to the topic/arguments in the outlinking post, trust, and things like that. A honest blogger eager to provide good content will judge the quality of her/his own posts in no other way than external sources. Hence a fair amount of links to own posts should mean that the blogger considers her/his content relevant, and high quality.

    Unfortunately, the most common reason to link back to own posts is Google’s PageRank and other SEO/traffic hoarding (not management!) purposes (often a result of the crappy standard link structures of unpatched blogging software).

    Does it make sense to compare the 50% ratio of a high quality blogger with the 50% ratio of a blogger using a script to link to old posts simply based on the appearance of keywords? Nope.

    We’d need a use vs. abuse ratio, counting link destinations is just a first indicator for any judgement. Interestingly, search engines try exactly that when they analyze the quality of a blog’s linkage by checking signals at both ends of the links. I wouldn’t say that overdone internal linking is exactly helpful with regard to search engine rankings.

  8. Hamlet Batista

    I not thinking about ratios and linking out is important for a couple of reasons:

    1)You are more credible when you back your points and/or provide alternative perspectives
    2)you get noticed by other bloggers when you link out

  9. AgentSully

    In the beginning most of my links were outbound. Now that my blog has a lot of content, I link back to it when I think the information will provide more help or detail to my readers.

    I like this reminder that it’s important to link out.

    Bottom line is I think as long as the links are helpful to the reader, that is the best basis for linking, whether internal or external.

  10. Matt Jones

    If your site already has a great article/resource about a certain topic then by all means link to it, but if you know your article is not really in-depth enough to warrant you linking to it then it’s best to link to someone else.

  11. Ciaran

    Sebastian & Sully have it right on the nail here; link to the best place for your reader. If that means you have to work harder on your own content so that you have something worth linking back to, all the better.

    Anyway, it’s rude to hoard links – just look at Wikipedia!


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  14. Matt Keegan

    This is a good reminder to me to make certain that my linking strategies are sound. Linking out should be a common practice for all serious bloggers, while internal linking should be handled with care.

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