Linking Out Will NOT Reduce The Google PageRank of Your Pages

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”

  • 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:

  • 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! 🙂

  • 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?

  • 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…

  • Blog Tips

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

  • Ray

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

  • 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.

  • Jaan Kanellis

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

  • Jason Lancaster

    Provided the links are related of course…

  • 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

    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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • ysfirdaus

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

  • 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.

  • 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 ?

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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

  • 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 ??

  • Travis

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

    Good information!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 .

  • 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.

  • 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

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