Linking Out Will NOT Reduce The Google PageRank of Your Pages

By Daniel Scocco

It is a Google’s world, and as webmasters we live and die by our search rankings, right? One of the factors that both influences search rankings and that most people seem to care about is the Google PageRank. More specifically, we want as much PageRank as possible!

Now aiming to increase the PageRank of your pages is fine, the problem is when misconceptions around the PageRank algorithm affect the way webmasters behave.

One of these misconceptions is to assume that when you link to external websites you will be losing PageRank from the page where the link is placed. I call this the “bucket view” of the PageRank algorithm.

google pagerank leak

That is, people mentally compare web pages to buckets, and backlinks to streams of water. The more streams of water you have, the more water your bucket will have, and thus the higher your PageRank. However, under this analogy external links on your page represent little holes in your bucket, so every external link will leak some water and end up reducing your PageRank. Put 100 external links on your page and all the water will be gone!

This analogy is somewhat logical, but it is NOT how the Google PageRank algorithm works.

The PageRank of a page is only affected by the number and quality of its incoming links, and not by the outgoing ones (you understand this by taking a look at the equation used, but I won’t get into that because it is beyond our purpose here). Obviously if you link to 1,000 sites or to bad neighbors from your page it might get flagged as spammy and be de-indexed, but that has nothing to do with its PageRank, which would remain intact.

If you have an internal page with a PageRank of 5 (keep in mind the real PageRank values are not integers but rather floating points), placing 10 external links on that page would in no way affect its PageRank. The only thing that would happen is that each of those linked pages would receive a link juice of 0.5 (the value of each link is equal to the PageRank of the page where they come from divided by the total number of outgoing links on that page).

Now the reality is a bit more complex and we would need to take into consideration other details to make a complete analysis. For example, you will still lose some PageRank if you link to external websites because if you had not linked there the link equity of that page would flow back to your homepage and be distributed equally across your website. This is the so called PageRank leak, but it is not as significant as most people believe.

Despite these nuances, therefore, the moral of the story remains: linking out is not supposed to directly reduce the PageRank on your pages. In fact there are plenty of pages that contain dozens of links and yet rank in the first positions of Google’s result pages for competitive keywords.

If you ever refrained from linking to an external site because you feared you would lose PageRank (I have been there too), forget that. Linking away to relevant and valuable pages is good for everyone.

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60 Responses to “Linking Out Will NOT Reduce The Google PageRank of Your Pages”

  • Andrew @ webuildyourblog.com

    Daniel,

    I’ve never thought that linking out would impact page rank…but it’s nice to see that it is now clear.

    I do link out to my fav sites from my home page just to let visitors see who I like and follow. A lot of blog owners don’t even do that because they are concerned about losing ‘their’ visitor.

    I look at it as giving a little extra value to the visitor.

    Andrew

  • John Paul

    Nice post, I have always believed this was true, linking out would hurt your PR rank. Nice to see a REAL explanation to why this is not the case.

  • Amit Banerjee

    Absolutely agree with daniel! Earlier i used to think the same. The point is : If you link to quality content, you are actually helping the bots to discover a page related to your topic. Hence the bots will consider you as an authority .

  • Kevin @ Blog Tipz

    Thanks for clearing this up. Many bloggers don’t (including myself) don’t link out enough. If readers want to learn more about what you have written about, they can do so by visiting the links on your site, rather than causing them the hassle of doing additional searches.

  • Pascal

    If you don’t want to give page rank juice to your outgoing links, make it as no follow links. For example,
    case 1:
    in some cases , you might linking to one blog for talking about their bad face…hmm.. you may write a site as scam…in that case you can make it no follow…

    case 2: your post may have 3 outgoing links. Assume 1 small and developing blog and another 2 links to big blogs like mashable, techcrunch… In that case make big blogs links as no follow and offer entire juice to small and developing blog.

    case 3: make all your affiliate links as no follow.
    Google struggles to push your site content in its throat when you have many affiliate links and thinks that your blog is not for information sharing and just to make money. So in that cases make it no follow.

  • Chris

    Great explanation. I always thought of it as providing some extra content as well. Besides that I’m glad to hear this anyways, as I have a lot of outgoing links.

  • Vishal Sanjay

    Really nice post, I new that Linking out wont effect your seo, but linking to bad sites gets you banned. Well if you want more readers, then why would you want to link to bad articles.

  • Travis

    Thanks for clarifying that! I’ve always wondered about how that works.

    Good information!

  • Sam

    Many of us put text link ads on their websites and sometimes those links are refering to bad neighbors or to irrelevant content.
    Does that mean we could get our websites de-indexed with intact pagerank ?? if yes, what is point of haveing a de-indexed website with some pagerank ??

  • BloggerDaily

    Yeah, I assume the link farm is a myth but somehow it’s not too good to create a farm of links on your page (except ‘links’ page).

    The most appropriate way is putting links relevant with what u want to say, ur subject or niche. For me, linking is a way to appreciate the author/webmaster of any content, so lets do it.

    Sharing is caring! =p

  • Young

    Naturally linking out to related web pages maybe won’t reduce the pagerank, which is mainly determined by the incoming links’ quality and quantities.

    But linking to unrelated web pages do affect the pagerank, and paid links are good examples. A few months ago, some websites’ pageranks were turned to zero because of paid links ( such as TLA).

  • izzat aziz

    this false belief that make blogging become more and more kinda seo maniac, I simply hate it and I want to blame google for this.
    bad google bad.

  • Money Knowledge

    Nice to see this post Danial and accepts with this point of view. We can safely promote our new sites with authority sites that we have and we shall be ready to give some link juice to new one’s at the cost of old one,s.

    How about writing one more post on related back links effects your search results ?

  • Gabe | freebloghelp.com

    Great way to clear PR up for folks. You are absolutely correct that outbound links will not directly reduce PR.

    As a general rule, if makes sense to have an external link since it’s relevant, there’s little reason not to do it.

    It’s just terrible when bloggers have a ton of unrelated links. Those will actually hurt them indirectly when Google can’t easily determine which niche the blog actually belongs to.

  • ysfirdaus

    thanks Daniel, I’ll make this article as my next link post…

  • OnlineBlogTips

    This tip is useful, because it calls the blogguers to link to others blogs ands sites, but i noticed that some blogs don’t link because they are don’t making money with that link. Thanks Daniel for sharing it with us.

  • Chad

    Good explanation, totally correct. So many bloggers focus on their pagerank, ads, SEO, etc.. Stuff like this can become an obsession – rather than good content.

  • Dave Doolin | Website In A Weekend

    I view contextually accurate links that help readers as part of my responsibility as a writer for the Web.

    More people should do this.

  • Cathlyn Driscoll

    There are many who are new to marketing online and may have just missed some of this info- so it’s great to get a reminder about the basics now and again. Perhaps its the fear of making a ‘newbie’ mistake that makes some marketers nervous about linking to other content. Good reminders also here about adding the ‘no follow’ to links!

  • Jason Lancaster

    Not only is linking out “not bad” for your blog, it’s actually ESSENTIAL for your blog. Google and Bing like websites that serve as a resource…linking out is what good sites do. If your blog isn’t linking out, your search engine rankings are lower than they could be.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Young, linking to unrelated sites or even to paid sites will not directly affect your PageRank. Google might tweak your nominal PageRank (i.e., the one on the toolbar), but the real one will not be affected.

  • Jason Lancaster

    Provided the links are related of course…

  • Jaan Kanellis

    Eric Enge had a nice related blog post on this topic:

    http://www.stonetemple.com/blog/?p=491

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Sam, it isa hard to get a whole website de-indexed due to paid links. Usually Google just removes your nominal PR in this case.

    If you link to bad neighbors, especially to sites containing malware, though, the risk is higher.

    In this case the PageRank of the page that was de-indexed would also vanish, but in a sense it stays there as long as the links remain. Should you get the page re-indexed it will acquire its PageRank back, that is what I meant by saying PageRank remains intact.

  • Ray

    I short, it is good to link to good authority sites, and avoid bad sites.

  • Blog Tips

    Thanks for this clarification, now im sure more blogger will now try to link out to sites related to their blogs

  • icantinternet

    It’s a good thing that people start clearing up this misconception. Alot of people refrain from putting links on their website just to keep their PR safe. Not necessary… On the contrary, the more outbound links you have, the higher the chances are these will link back to your page, and thus increase your PR…

  • Harrison

    Yours is the first opinion I have read that says linking out doesn’t reduce page rank but I don’t believe it without proof. Otherwise, why would the major search engines use the “nofollow” tag?

  • Jason Lancaster

    Harrison – nofollow was originally intended to fight blog comment spam. Specifically, it’s a way to say “I’m just linking to this person casually – I can not vouch for the quality of the web site.” Matt Cutts (a Google employee) is the unofficial voice of Google on SEO – here’s his original blog post about nofollow from way back in 2006.

    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/quick-comment-on-nofollow/

    An unintended consequence of the nofollow tag was page rank sculpting. About 18 months ago, Google “fixed” their algo so that sculpting was no longer effective.

    While some claim sculpting is beneficial, once again Google’s Matt Cutts explains that page rank sculpting via nofollow is a fool’s errand.

    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/pagerank-sculpting/

    That’s as much “proof” as you’re going to get in the world of SEO…straight from the Google’s mouth! 🙂

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Harisson, “nofollow” tag was not created to help webmasters “save” PageRank, but rather to let them link to sites and pages they can’t vouch for the content.

    You can read more about it here: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=96569

  • BWI

    I like your cup. Maybe a more accurate picture would be a hub. I always like to imagine the web as a giant heat map. Links in and out, generate heat. Is your site hot or not?

  • Harrison

    I appreciate your response but this makes me think maybe you are not correct about linking:

    “This means that Google does not transfer PageRank or anchor text across these links.”

    This came from the link you used.

    This is where I’m coming from:

    http://www.inverudio.com/programs/WordPressBlog/NofollowReciprocity.php

  • Harrison

    Sorry for the second posting. Perhaps you are correct, I have heard it both ways… maybe Google changed their policy. However the No Follow plugin does not increase the page rank of larger sites, making them bigger and thus making the little guys smaller.

    Do you use No Follow links?

  • Jason Lancaster

    Harrison I re-read your comments and you are technically correct in that more links = a dilution of page rank, i.e. 5 links on a page result in that page’s rank being split 5 ways. 10 links split the rank 10 ways, etc. However, the “nofollow” tag has nothing to do with that split (as of 18 months ago). When a link is nofollowed, Google simply evaporates the rank that would have been passed. Here are some real world numbers:

    Page Rank = 5
    Number of links on page = 10
    Page rank “lost” to each link = 5/10 = 0.5 (regardless of nofollow)

    The big picture here is that nofollow isn’t all that critical. In fact, I’ve found instances were Google credits nofollow links and ignores follows. What’s most important is link relevance and the quality of the sites connected by the link. Nofollow is only a guide (one which Google commonly ignores). I wrote an blog post about this on YouMoz:

    http://www.seomoz.org/ugc/the-nofollow-tag-is-a-lot-like-a-drunken-boss

  • Steve

    Thanks for the clarification. The whole page ranking algorithm seems like a mystery to most. I have three sites that once had 3-4 PGs and now have 0 and do not know how to revive them.

  • Phaoloo

    Some say that linking to good sites in your niche may improve the ranking. All bloggers love backlinks, by linking we can even make friends with them and they may help us spread our content throughout the net.

  • crazy blogger

    many bloggers are saying that linking pages will decrease pagerank.

  • GoBusiness101

    Your point of view is very good. This reminds the web developers to continue building external links.

    Congrats! Good job!

  • Roschelle

    Thanks for posting this. I think so many bloggers have major misconceptions about SEO, linking, dofollow as opposed to nofollow, etc. The list is endless. Great articles like this communicating good information are much needed.

  • mathan

    Daniel,

    The way explained with picture great.
    you gave a great example.

  • Keith Davis

    Hi Daniel
    I’ve heard people argue both ways… will lose pagerank / won’t lose pagerank, nice to get your take on the black hole that is the Google algo. Perhaps we could get a comment from Matt Cutts LOL

    If the leaking bucket analogy is incorrect (great visual image) what could you use for the correct analogy?

  • Young

    I run Backlinks on one of my blog, which toolbar page rank has been always kept 3, nothing changed for nearly one year, and I think it won’t be changed until I remove the paid links.

  • Hesham @FamousBloggers

    Very nice post, it clears some points for me, but actually i think that I lost my PageRank when I was posting weekly posts with so many external links, most of them was not relevant to my blog! Thanks a lot

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Keith, it is tough to make a simply analogy that will depict the PageRank algo correctly.

    If you want to truly understand how it works you need to delve into some maths.

    We have a complete lesson dedicated to the PageRank algorithm in the Online Profits course.

  • John Samuel

    This is the first time I read such a view. Thanks for the post

  • Teen Blogger

    Thanks for clearing this issue.

    I always heard people say that’linking out will reduce PR’, but the matter is clear now and if doesn’t really reduce PR.

    Anyway this means having a blogroll and recommended sites in the side bar will not reduce PR, right? As long as these sites I’m linking too are not spammy?

  • ShueQry

    Owh, my friends here keep telling me linking out will reduce PR number..well, all i can say, i was so relieved by this post, thanks a lot for your kind advice.

    -ShueQry-

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Teen Blogger, yes and no. The links will not directly reduce the PageRank of your homepage, but indirectly they might, as I explained in the post above.

    Overall, though, if adding those links will be useful for your readers then do it, cause Google supports that.

  • Bob Keen

    It’s safe to assume that it has changed over the years – although we’ll never be certain.

    One thing is certain, however. Based on the original patent, outlinks did indeed erode your PageRank. It wasn’t simply a rumor.

    Best,
    Bob

  • Business Opportunities Seeker

    I always believe that linking will reduce my PageRank. But thanks with this post explanation, I change my mind. I will overhaul my site and start linking to other sites that I think are also relevant and valuable to my 300+ visitors everyday.

  • Joey

    It’s an interesting debate. I have seemed a site with no external link achieving top search result for three keywords. Perhaps we should just built such website as much as possible?

  • James Deck

    Thanks Daniel, great post. I especially like the “bucket diagram.”

    One point for clarification, however. Given that:

    “The value of each link is equal to the PageRank of the page where they come from divided by the total number of outgoing links on that page”

    Should bloggers bear this in mind when deciding how frequently and who to link to?

    For example, some blogs will link to every single company mentioned, to Wiki, etc. etc. whereas other blogs will only link to two or three companies, obviously to encourage traffic to those blessed few links.

    These people are also distributing their PageRank influence differently, no?

  • Isaac | GoBlogger

    I remembered reading something like “A webmaster cannot control other people who link to him, but he can control where he links to. That’s how Google judge you, by where you link. You link to bad sites, you bad.” I forgot where I read it.

    What do you think about it?

  • scheng1

    I have never believed that linking out can hurt the pagerank, unless the purpose of linking out is for affiliate marketing purpose. In that case, putting a nofollow tag solves the problem.

  • dean343

    can someone clear this up for me then beacause my understandiing is the reason reciprical links carry less weight is that by linking back you are passing back some of the page rank gained?

  • The iPad Guy

    Thank you for making this simple and easy to understand, so many articles on the net are so complicated that i think alot are more interested in showing off what they know rather than getting their point across to the audience they are trying to help.

    Well done and thanks agin

  • BestWicklessCandles

    Thanks for clearing that up. You bucket was a great analogy. Much easier to understand.

  • Bailey Smith

    Naturally linking out to related web pages maybe won’t reduce the pagerank, which is mainly determined by the incoming links’ quality and quantities.

  • mold

    I know gopogle says not to have 100 out bound links. I think anything over 50 is not helping a site. I would try to link out to sites that are related to topic also.

  • Pete

    Hmm.. Couple of days ago I wrote a looong how-to tutorial article and I linked to various related blogs, articles and websites (I think there’s total of 99 outbound links, but all are related to subject) just because I wan’t the article to be as useful as possible for the readers.

    I’ve set them all to no-follow just in case, but what I’m worried about is that – as 99 outbound links is a lot – will this affect the search engine rankings this article of mine will be getting in the near future?

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