I plan on starting the short new series at SEJ explaining most dubious and controversial SEO questions from the keep-things-natural point of view. If you look natural, no algorithm changes will affect you. Of course, everything might happen and Google does make mistakes too (no wonder, huh?) but keeping your SEO tactics natural, you will always remain "on the safe side" at least.
Should I outlink at all? They say once you link out, you are giving away part of your authority/allowing for "PR leakage" (for free!!!).
This is my favorite one! There is nothing more natural about the Internet than linking in and out – actually without links the web would have never existed. The absence of external links is unnatural – it’s like you are choosing to be isolated in the world where everyone’s connected.
I don’t like focusing on the ‘authority’ or ‘voting’ value of links; a link is a link that lets my readers/visitors get more information – nothing more; if it’s also good for the linking page – that’s even better: "Give, and it will be given to you" – is the way it has always worked for me. LOL: Link out loud – is the proven method to get natural backlinks.
Should I use relevant/keyword-based anchor text when outlinking? By doing that I help my competitor rank for this keyword.
That’s an interesting question and there are plenty of theories on this. My favorite is Jim Boykin‘s one – links look natural if people click on them. If you only outlink using ‘this post‘, ‘here‘, etc – you lessen the possibility that anyone ever clicks those links – thus they don’t add any value to your content and are useless to your readers – the links do not look natural. The solution? – Diversify your external link anchor texts. Anyway, the less you think about that, the more natural you look.
Directories are known as "red flags" – as most of them are low quality, have bad reputation and blacklist your own site… Is that true?
Directories can still be a nice way to gather quick free minor (deep) links. I’ve never seen in my life that they affected the rankings in a negative way (probably because I never overused them). I have run multiple tests recently submitting sites to directories and using some ‘ridiculous’ anchor text – and these sites always ranked high for these ‘ridiculous’ terms – so yes, directories do carry weight. But to be on the safe side:
- never buy dubious directory submission services;
- if you have multiple sites, better change directory lists for some of them;
- use “deep linking” directories – SEs seem to treat inner pages with less suspicion;
- my favorite way – stick to niche directories (relevance is always hard to put under suspicion esp. algorithmically).