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Outbound Links to Authority Sites Good For SEO?

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Google’s John Mueller offered his feedback on the SEO practice of linking out to authoritative websites. John Mueller explained the background of this SEO tactic and offered Google’s point of view about it, saying that it doesn’t really change anything.

Outbound Links to Authority Sites for SEO

There is an SEO practice dictating that that linking out to an authoritative website will help a site rank better.

This tactic doesn’t have any basis in anything a Googler said or published to indicate that linking to an authoritative site is a ranking factor or helps SEO.

It’s actually a practice that evolved from a 1998 algorithm research paper and from the seminal document of SEO practices created by one of the fathers of modern SEO, Brett Tabke.

HITS Algorithm

In 1998 Jon Kleinberg published a paper detailing his ranking algorithm research paper that used a new form of link analysis called, HITS.

This new process assigned a web page two scores:

  1. A hub score
  2. An authority score

Kleinberg based his HITS algorithm on the idea that some sites featured hand-curated pages that linked to authoritative sites. These sites that linked out to quality sites are called “hubs” and they were assigned a hub score.

The second idea behind HITS is that high quality sites accumulated links from hub pages. These pages are called, authorities. Authoritative sites were assigned an authority score.

This idea of a hub score and an authority score caught the attention of the SEO community which subsequently adopted the concepts of authority and hub scores as SEO best practices.

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But here’s an important fact that has largely gone unconsidered: Google never used the HITS algorithm.

But the concept of hubs and authority sites nevertheless became integrated into the practice of SEO on the premise that maybe Google probably did use it or will use them in the algorithm.

Successful Site in 12 Months with Google Alone

In 2002 Brett Tabke (@btabke) published an article whose recommendations became the foundation of modern SEO.

This nearly 20 year old article was called:

Successful Site in 12 Months with Google Alone: 26 Steps to 15k a Day – A Modern Guide to Content Marketing

The idea that it’s good to link to another site is one of the SEO best practices that Brett Tabke recommended in 2002.

Brett wrote:

“G) Outbound Links:
From every page, link to one or two high ranking sites under that particular keyword. Use your keyword in the link text (this is ultra important for the future).

The reason I call Brett Tabke a father of modern SEO is because almost all the recommendations in that 2002 article became the standard for how to practice SEO.”

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Many of the SEO practices from 2002, like linking out to an authoritative site, still continue to be regarded as useful by the SEO community, even though there has never been confirmation from Google that linking to an authoritative site is good for SEO.

Are Links to Authoritative Sites Good for SEO?

Here we are are 19 years later and linking out to authoritative sites is still a thing.

The person asking the question wanted to know if  outbound links are still a thing.

Here is the question:

“Does giving a “do follow” link to a trusted authoritative site, is that good for SEO?”

John Mueller answered by first giving some background information about the practice of linking out.

I have a longer history in the search community than John Mueller, so my account of how this practice started is based on actually being there “way in the beginning.

Nevertheless, Mueller’s version is pretty much on target.

Outbound Links for SEO Doesn’t Make Any Sense

John Mueller answered:

“I think this is something that people used to do, way in the beginning, where they would create a spammy website and on the bottom they’d have a link to Wikipedia and CNN and then hope that search engines look at that and say like, Oh, this must be a legitimate website.

But… like I said… people did it this way in the beginning and it was a really traditional spam technique, almost.

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And I don’t know if this ever actually worked.

So from that point of view I would say no, this doesn’t make any sense.”

Linking Out Can Be a Good Practice

John Mueller next reaffirmed the usefulness of outbound links as a good practice in the case where the content references some other web page.

Mueller observed:

“Obviously, if you have good content within your website and part of that references existing other content then kind of that whole structure that makes a little bit more sense and means that your website overall is a good thing.

But just having a link to some authoritative page, that doesn’t change anything from our point of view.”

Outbound Links Don’t Change Anything for Google

John Mueller is clear that from an algorithmic point of view, outbound links don’t do anything for Google.

Every person who insists that it’s a good SEO practice to link out to an authoritative site who I asked for a citation cannot say why it’s a good practice.

Every person I’ve asked has struggled to find an statement from Google or a patent or a research paper that definitively nails that this is something that is good for SEO.

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The reason they struggle is because there is no confirmation from Google that this is something that is good for SEO.

John Mueller’s statement is proof that there is no basis to the idea that linking to “authority sites” is good for SEO.

It’s a good user experience practice, though.

Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 31:25 minute mark:

Searchenginejournal.com

NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

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