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”

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • BestWicklessCandles

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

  • 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

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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-

  • 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?

  • John Samuel

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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • mathan

    Daniel,

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

  • 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.

  • GoBusiness101

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

    Congrats! Good job!

  • crazy blogger

    many bloggers are saying that linking pages will decrease pagerank.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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?

  • 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

  • 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?

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