11 April 2007

Google statement: links to other websites can hurt your rankings

Linking to other sites can be an important element in search engine optimization, but some links are more desirable than others. Here is a useful explanation of some of the areas to watch.
Official Google statement: Can links to other web sites hurt your rankings? The effect of bad neighborhood links on your web site rankings.

Linking to other web sites can hurt your rankings if you link to the wrong web sites. Links to web spammers or 'bad neighborhoods' on the web can have a negative effect on your rankings on Google and other search engines. A Google official has recently commented on bad links and how they affect your web site rankings on Google.

What are bad neighborhood links?
It seems that Google doesn't like the following type of web sites:
- free for all links pages (FFA)
- link farms (automated linking schemes with lots of unrelated links)
- known web spammers
Linking to that type of site can have a negative effect on your Google page rankings.

Is there an official Google statement about bad neighborhood links? In a discussion in a webmaster forum, Google's Adam Lasnik has recently clarified what Google looks for in regards to bad neighborhood penalties:

1. There is no relation between outbound links and Google's supplemental index.
'It’s unlikely that your outbound linking is causing your pages to be listed in the supplemental, rather than main index.'
2. Google looks for bad neighborhood linking patterns
'Also be assured that we’re not looking to penalize folks for a 'bad' link here and there. Rather, our algorithms are tuned to look for patterns of 'egregious' linking behavior… both on individual sites and in the aggregate."
3. You should check the links on your web site
"It's certainly in your users' interest that you regularly audit outgoing links on your site (especially prominent ones) to ensure that you're not losing folks' trust by sending them to inappropriate places or 404 pages.

Sure, it's great to keep Google happy, but it's usually more important (long term) to have your users be return visitors. From Free SEO News

What does this mean to your web site? Google looks for linking patterns. That means that it probably won't hurt your site if you link to a bad web site by mistake. Look for good related web sites with which you can exchange links.

Many links to 404 error pages might cause ranking problems. For that reason, it's a good idea to check the links on your web site every now and then. It is surprisingly easy for incorrect links to go unnoticed. Using Google's webmaster central is a good way to check. It will list URLs not found, URLs not followed, URLs restricted by robots.txt, URLs timed out and Unreachable URLs.
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