The Future of Outbound Links

by Robin Gupta on May 30, 2012

Outbound Links

The web is constantly re-inventing itself and now maybe it’s time that the humble hyperlink came under scrutiny. How will the links on your site change in the next few years, and what does this mean for Google and the wider web?

Webmasters and bloggers spend an awful lot of time worrying about their inbound links and generally work very hard to ensure that they have as many links coming into their site as possible.

However while inbound links are certainly important, it’s important not to forget the other kinds of links on your site – outbound ones.

Thought they didn’t matter? Outbound links are not only crucial for you to decide when and how people leave your site – they’re also crucial for indexing the web, and a potentially lucrative source of income. So the question is – could you be doing more with your outbound links? And what might the future have in store for them?

In-Text Advertising

Many sites have taken it upon themselves then to employ methods that utilize outbound links more effectively as a way to monetize sites. These include services such as Kontera that actually insert advertisers’ links into the content of websites and blogs in the form of hyperlinks.

So if you wrote ‘The other day I went shopping and bought a sponge’ you might find the word shopping gets turned into a hyperlink linking to a big shopping center somewhere, and the word ‘sponge’ turns into a link to a sponge company (I’m sure exclusively sponge orientated companies do exist…). You then get paid per-click just like AdSense but without the potentially intrusive ads.

VigLink provides something similar but different linking instead to affiliate schemes allowing you to sell from your site and potentially make more profit. At the same time VigLink offers smarter linking too by assessing various cookies and other information on the users’ computer – thereby enabling the most relevant links to appear – so if someone happens to live in Bournemouth, England, then the shopping center link would be to one in Bournemouth. It’s a fairly smart tool and one that essentially makes creating affiliate links a bit easier and hopefully more effective.

Better Linking

But Kontera and VigLink aren’t the only ways we can improve the effectiveness of our links; if we opt simply to learn from them and emulate some of their better ideas, we can implement ‘smarter’ hyperlinks ourselves.

For instance, if you have decided you want to implement affiliate links into your site then what’s to stop you just using a ‘search and replace’ tool in Dreamweaver or Super Notepad in order to search the word ‘bodybuilding’ and replace it with ‘<link to your affiliate scheme>bodybuilding</a>’? If you want to get smarter still, then what’s to stop you from writing a PHP program to do this?

And what’s to stop you from including your own PHP and Java code in your web design, so that you choose whether or not to show links based on the cookies and stats of the user? If your whole site was in PHP (so your HTML was in ‘echo’) you could have things like ‘IF Cookie beenherebefore = 0 then echo ‘<a href = a relevant page on your site>Hey this is your first visit – click here to learn more about the website!</a>’. You could even try to find out the cookies some other programs leave (like various websites and even Kontera/Infolinks themselves) and then use this to learn what your visitors’ preferences are.

And of course you can use this to create your own affiliate links too, and to make sure that the adverts on your site are tailored for the person visiting. There are many ways you can make your hyperlinks smarter – so apply some thought to it.

What Does This Mean for Google?

Whether you adopt these smarter links or not, there is clearly a trend and a desire to improve the way they work. But the question is, how will sites like Google then cope?

If every site has text links that are pointing to affiliates then of course this is going to give those pages false authority in the eyes of Google. That’s easy enough for Google to fix, and it would be easy for Google to de-index those sites.

But if all links started to become ‘smarter’ and to alter depending on factors like cookies, then this would eventually make it difficult for spiders and bots to ‘read’ them and they might not even show up at all. This would result in Google needing to make some serious changes in order to adapt, and at least temporarily it could lead to some interesting results on the SERPs.

For all that Google forces change among webmasters and designers, sometimes it’s the other way around and this might be just one example…

Image Credit: Eminent SEO

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Article by Robin Gupta

Hi, I am Robin Gupta. I write about internet, technology, link building and SEO. I have been in the industry for more than a decade and I run a fast growing website promotion company.

Robin has written 1 awesome articles for this blog.

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{ 14 comments }

DynnaLou May 30, 2012 at 9:09 pm

This is actually not the first time I have heard about outbound links but I am sure a lot of people will benefit from this information stated about it..

Jasmine May 30, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Yupe, outbound links are as important as incoming links. I myself is very selective in such links on my website, as you can evidently see very few of them on my site.

Robin Gupta June 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm

@Jasmine: It’s good to be selective about your outbound links but don’t hesitate to link to good resources. People not linking freely to each other is one of the worst things that as happened because of Google’s pagerank algorithm.

Lee May 31, 2012 at 4:40 am

Fantastic post, I have never actually looked at out-bound links in such a way, I do link out to a lot of other sites If i find something worthy enough to do so and i have no problem with that. However as a personal opinion i hate it when sites use in-text ads because it makes it so hard to read their post and so distracting.

Robin Gupta June 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm

@Lee: Google’s biggest win over other advertising networks of that time was their ability to show ‘text ads’. Others like Kontera and VigLink are the next generation, though they don’t operate a search engine so don’t get that much coverage ;)

I think the pop-up on hover part can be irritating but overall I think in-text ads are good unless the webmasters wants 10-15 ads on a single page. I limit them to one or two.

Dev Digital May 31, 2012 at 4:46 am

Nice post, even I have read so many articles and posts on link building but this one inspires me to share on my Facebook page at :
http://www.facebook.com/DevDigital

fred May 31, 2012 at 7:18 am

Link building is essential in marketing world. And it’s good to become choosy of what strategy are we gonna make. The key is you acquired knowledge followed by implementation.

Jonathan Cohen May 31, 2012 at 10:47 am

Hi Robin,

This is Jonathan from Kontera I just wanted to quickly clarify that Google automatically recognizes that Kontera is an ad network, and they don’t count the links in the Kontera ad layer towards your SEO one way or the other. Similar to with AdSense, Kontera has zero effect on search rankings.

Thanks,

- Jonathan Cohen
Kontera Community Manager

Robin Gupta June 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm

@Jonathan: You are right, I should have mentioned that. What I am concerned about is if ‘smart outbound links’ become the norm, more and more webmasters would like to have the intelligence of rendering the right links on their server instead of using a third party javascript to decide the right links.

In that case Google’s bot from different IPs will see different links.

Thanks for clarification about Kontera links not affecting SEO. I don’t think they should, even though Google now claims to index javascript and a little bit of Javascript links.

Hermanth Edwin May 31, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Outbound links are very critical especially for blogs that are aimed at making money, but certain rules that are being introduced may be a threat to this. People may be forced to start looking for other means to redirect traffic to their sites in future.

Jessica June 1, 2012 at 12:46 am

You are absolutely right and your points are worthy after google penguin update all SEOs are trying hard to make their SEO campaign spam free, relevant as well as ethical. In this scenario your post is very important and effective to understand the technicalities of outbound links.

Martin Jackson June 2, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Google became more strict about the quality, so while choosing links the quality effects more from now! Penguin chooses quality more than vlume!

IQUEST IT Recruitment June 3, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Good point. While online marketers frequently discuss the importance of gaining incoming links, many fail to note the value of using outbound links. Why would you want to direct your viewers to other websites? It may seem counterintuitive, but outgoing links are a great way to earn the trust of your readers, improve the user experience, and inspire other Webmasters to link back to your site.

Nanvy @ CRM Software Solutions June 7, 2012 at 5:21 am

Iquest is quite right here. There is a huge value of gaining inlinks and people are aware of only getting incoming links for the site. They don’t want to go that way for which they don’t have any idea.

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