Natural SEO FAQ – Linking In And Out

SMS Text

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).
Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing,... Read Full Bio
Ann Smarty
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • I completely agree. Long-term SEO success is going to come from doing things the right way, improving usability, and putting the visitor before the search engines when developing the site.

    I also like your philosophy on linking out. I think a lot of SEOs look at purely the technical aspects of outlinking, taking a kind of isolationist approach. This approach goes against the viral nature of the web, and as a long-term strategy I think this view is flawed.

  • Linking, for now, is still one of the top ways to garner top search engine results. And the description you use as your link back text is equally as important as the link itself. We like to adjust the description so we make sure we cover the top key phrases within our industry.

  • Fantastic article for those of us who are still learning how to make our websites more visible on the net. You’ve gained another loyal reader!

  • Great article. People seem to get far too confused about the algorithms of linking to and fro. It is helpful if you do it the RIGHT way.

  • Good article, I’m forwarding this to a friend of mine who recently got into some link trouble… thanks for sharing!

  • Wow, nice to read something for a change about SEO that’s TRUE!

  • Cool articles about SEO but if the methods in this post work for the Google new algorithm of PR, then this article is really great and helpful.

  • Mercy

    Good article Ann! It’s most natural for a good high quality link to appear in a page and have it point internally within your site.

  • I agree directories still work … 🙂

  • I don’t necessarily agree with your second point. You have to keep in mind that not every surfer is a blogger/internet poweruser. What may look ‘natural’ to us, may be completely overlooked by the average user.

    I’m admin on a football related forum, most people use link text such as ‘look here’ and ‘click this’. To them it makes sense and everyone understands what they are required to do.

    Definately agree with your final point though. My dad’s business went from not ranking at all to the number one spot for keywords which combined the business name with the place where its located, after I submitted it to various niche directories.

  • I agree with the benefits of directory submission…it is a really useful tool as long as you don’t over do it..I think just about anything..always keep it moderately..^^

  • SoloSEO’s Link Search tool can be useful for this:

  • Your feedback on “my favorite way – stick to niche directories ” was interesting and but I’d like to know your view on “links” pages. For my glass jewelry website, I have submitted to niche directories which has driven quality traffic to my site, but I’ve also submitted to relevant websites to be included on their “links” pages. A natural link within a page is always best, but what are your thoughts on “links’ pages? Are they worth pursuing? The reason I ask is that I’m still trying to figure out how to regain my old page rank. My site was one of the many that took a hit from the last Google page rank algorithm and we went from a 5 to a 4. Interestingly, it had no impact on my natural search rankings – we are still the top ranked website for almost all my keywords.

  • V. Interesting thanks. I was wondering about links out when the newsletter popped into my inbox.


  • Thanks for your insights, Ann….diversifying link anchor text and actually making sure they get clicked is quite important. We are after all trying to get both human and googlebot interaction, aren’t we?

  • @Mendyo as long as the links pages are relevant – that’s ok.
    And I wouldn’t worry to much about you toolbar PR as long is doesn’t influence your rankings.

  • We don’t actually sell links for the purpose of link building. The website is about generating relevant content for our search engine and directory, and in the end providing relative content to users. Question is; because people have to pay to be in the business directory, would they get penalized for listing in it? –

  • Directories come in many shapes and sizes, when used correctly they absolutely can help.

  • Thanks. SEO and “natural” are a refreshing combination. Can’t forget the user/usability. I always find it annoying as a reader to sift through all the “here” links to figure out where i might be going.