Google Search Advocate John Mueller recently corrected a common misunderstanding about linking to popular sites like Wikipedia while conversing online with the SEO community.
Mueller was participating in a discussion on the r/SEO subreddit, where SEO experts exchange ideas and insights about the latest developments in their industry.
He clarified that linking to sites like Wikipedia won’t impact search rankings, dispelling a myth that has persisted among SEO practitioners.
The User’s Query
The user was asking about a common SEO question: whether linking from a smaller website to a popular high-authority site like Wikipedia or CNN can impact the search ranking of the smaller site.
This relates to how outbound links from a website can impact its SEO and ranking. The user wanted to know if search engines view the small site as more credible when it links to well-known, authoritative sites.
Mueller’s Straightforward Response
In response to this query, John Mueller stated, “Nothing happens. Why should it?”
He suggested that this has been a mistaken belief held by SEO professionals for decades.
Mueller further illustrated his point with a humorous example, saying, “Here’s my affiliate site about handbags – and here’s a link to CNN & Wikipedia, please take me seriously now, k?”
His statement underscores the misconception that linking to high-authority sites is akin to borrowing their credibility.
Linking Should Be About User Value
Mueller emphasized the importance of treating links like content.
“Does this link provide additional, unique value to users? Then, link naturally. Is this link irrelevant to my users? Then don’t link to it.”
His comments suggest that its relevance and potential value should drive the decision to link to another website to the user rather than an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings.
Mueller stated, “Name-dropping a dictionary doesn’t fix your spelling mistakes.”
This metaphor encapsulates his entire point: linking to a popular website doesn’t inherently improve the quality or credibility of your website, much like referencing a dictionary won’t automatically correct your spelling errors.
The Wider Context
The Reddit user’s question shows a common misconception in SEO that has existed for a long time.
Many people wrongly think linking to high-authority websites will automatically improve their ranking.
Mueller’s comments remind us that search engines care most about providing value to users through relevant, high-quality content.
The focus should be on linking to genuinely valuable sites for users, not just chasing authority or links.
The main point from Mueller’s response is that relevance and usefulness for the user should guide choices about linking.
The decision to link should be based on whether it improves the user experience, not whether there’s potential to improve search rankings.
A link should add something meaningful to the content. This can be achieved when the linked content:
- Expands upon a point
- Provides evidence or further reading to support a claim
- Explains a complex term or concept
- Directs users to relevant products, services, or resources
Just like the content on your website, outbound links should serve a purpose and be helpful.
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