A study conducted by marketing firm Reboot aims to show that there is a positive correlation between a page’s outgoing links and its search rankings. Reboot hypothesized that Google can determine the authority of a page or website based on what other authority sources it associates itself with (by linking to them).
According to the company, Rand Fishkin of Moz observed the data and results before the study was published. Years ago, Moz published its own piece on why external linking is good for SEO, so it’s great to have someone from Moz look at the data and see if it still holds true 5 years later.
The firm carried out the experiment by creating 10 new websites each targeting the same keyword, only half of which included hyperlinks to “very high authority” sources. Each site contained similar content and tag structure, though different enough to not get penalized for duplicate content.
After searching for the monitored keywords and recording the results over a 5 month period, Reboot came to the following conclusion:
“Outgoing relevant links to authoritative sites are considered in the algorithms and do have a positive impact on rankings.”
The results are presented in a series of graphs, each one showing that the 5 pages containing outbound links all ended up ranking ahead of the pages with no outbound links.
After reading through the study its clear that Reboot took into account as many uncontrolled variables as possible to present some interesting new data for search marketers. However, there are still some unanswered questions:
- What about linking to a high authority source vs. linking to a lower authority source?
- What about followed links vs. no-followed links?
- What about keyword-optimized anchor text vs. non-keyword-optimized anchor text?
It’s impossible to answer every question in one study, but I’d be interested to see a similar study conducted around those questions listed above.
It does seem to answer the question that linking to high authority sites helps a page’s SEO, or at the very least doesn’t hurt it. So if you’re hesitant to link out to anyone at all, maybe this study will make you less weary.
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