Let me begin by saying anytime you have the opportunity to reference Pauley Shore you should. Pauley nearly made a career out of one simple catchphrase. "No weasing the juice!" As writers we are looking for a different type of juice than he was, and in order to keep your online portfolio earning you have to wease the juice, the link juice that is.
What is link juice? Aside from the quality of your work it is just about the most important thing you have to get your work to the top of google, yahoo, and the myriad of search engines floating around in the vast emptiness of cyberspace. Link juice is no specific formula per se, but it has certain characteristics making it up that need to examined and then employed. What we're going to look at today is what type of links are out there, how they help you, and how they can hurt you as well. Not all linking is good.
Give some of this a second to sink in, at points it will have to skip around in order to get everything in without turning into a pdf you need to read a chapter at a time. This is the crash course!
First we have internal links. An example of an internal link would be if I placed a link right here that led to another post on this blog. On it's own that doesn't do a heck of a lot for search engine rankings. If however 4 or 5 posts link back to that same post from within this larger blog, that raises the relevance of that post. Spiders notice that sort of thing and take note. Suddenly they identify that as a valuable page. The trick is that each of those links back has to actually be relevant. You can't just throw links out there for the sake of it and expect to hit pay dirt.
Next we have external incoming links, and these come in two flavors: Reciprocating and non reciprocating. A reciprocating link is good, it carries value if you share related information. A non-reciprocating link that just leads to your work and does not travel back to the referring source is even better. That is the gold standard of links. That tells the search engines that what you have on the page is of such value, other people are sourcing it without "compensation."
Finally there are outgoing links. Some people say these carry zero value except to the site you have linked to, but again...people are just wrong! Those web spiders are hungry critters and they love crawling around in your articles and checking out what you have linked to. When you link relevant hub pages they go into an orgiastic feasting mode! Okay not really, but they do nibble and although this isn't the best way to fill your glass with link juice it sure is a nice easy way to top it off.
Since we aren't going to get into begging people for external links, or raising your blogs search value by 1 position over several months, let's look at what we can control immediately, outgoing links in our articles.
If you spend some time strolling around blogs and paid to write sites you'll notice something right away -- People love cramming outgoing links into their articles. Some people have a link for nearly every line it seems like sometimes. Most of the time their general idea is the more links the better. In honesty the opposite is the truth, it isn't quantity, it's all about the quality.
Rather than trash someone by linking an example of this type of article, let me give you an idea of bad linking. You happen upon an article and suddenly see maybe 6 or 7 links on the first page. Curiosity gets the best of many of us so we click just to see what it's all about. Where do they links go? They go to wikipedia, maybe an affiliate link or two, some blog that nobody has ever heard of which is marginally related to the topic. You get the idea.
Why is that bad though? If it helps inform the reader isn't that a good thing? Isn't that our true aim? Here's the thing, yes and no. Yes it's nice to give the reader more information, no it isn't good to go overboard with it. For one thing, too many links looks like crap. A second thing is the more links you place the higher the odds are someone will abandon your article/post for what one of those links has to offer. Finally it looks lazy. It's like saying "There is plenty of info out there you should know about, but I don't care enough to give it to you- get it yourself."
A well placed outgoing link has specific characteristics as does a bad one.
1. The link is going somewhere that is definitely related to the article being written. If you write an article about Shania Twain for example and link "Music Video" and it goes to a video of hers on youtube, that is good.
2. The link goes to a site that already has a good strong search page ranking. Again, youtube, facebook, myspace, flickr, twitter --all potentially good stuff.
3. It is not a pay per click or affiliate link. The spiders hate this and throw up when they nibble them. These links actually knock you down in the search rankings. The more of them you have the worse it is, and anything that links to you takes a hit as well. These are bad juju all around. (The only exception is if you personally host the affiliate software, then those will help your popularity, but let's be honest, are you really willing to slave your computer to a corporation?)
4. Anything that goes to a link exchange or farm is bad. These tank your rankings in a heartbeat.
Again, external links aren't going to make a night and day difference, they are the sprinkles on top of the sundae when they are good. When they are bad, it's like dropping your sundae on the ground before you had your first bite. Realize not all sites that have strong page rank have equal juice, wikipedia is for the most part considered a joke by the spiders, they actually pee a little when they see you link to it because they laugh so hard.
So what do we need to know about linking if you were going to give this a whirl on your blog or a paid to write site right now? We know more is worse for one thing. Too many links give the spiders a bellyache and they leave. A good rule of thumb is that in a 600 word article 3 outgoing links is more than enough. Anything beyond that is really beating a dead horse. The only reason you will even see people actually ask for more is that for a week or so link spamming can provide something like a sugar rush with an ugly crash.
The reputation of the source you are linking to does matter! Wikipedia or any site that has a reputation for crap no matter how high they appear will rain on your parade. Search engines do assign "adjusted page values" for sites that have high hits but really bad content. When you willingly place an outgoing link to someone, you have just linked yourself to them forever. Even if you edit it out later, it is still living on in cache land. You can find yourself appearing on search results as "related to _____"
The perfect example is this:
You are writing an article on racist online organizations. You provide a link to one of those sites to highlight your point. You may think that innocent link to highlight an example of a hate organization is okay, and your readers will understand what you are doing. The spiders that regurgitate their findings to search engine monster will not. They just see it as a related link and suddenly you show up on searches related to that specific organization, and further down to the ones they are related to as well. It's kinda like that thing about how when you sleep with someone you are sleeping with everyone they ever slept with too. That may not always be desirable.
In loose terms, it takes 3 good outgoing links to equal the value of 1 good incoming reciprocating link. It in turns takes 3 good reciprocating links to equal one good non-reciprocating incoming link. That means at it's best, 1 good outgoing link carries the value of 1/3 of a good non-reciprocating incoming link. 1 good outgoing link is therefore no more valuable than 1/9 of a good non-reciprocating incoming link.
So what does that math mean to you toady? Well....If your article is #100 on google right now, adding a good outgoing link might move you to #96 in about a week to ten days ASSUMING nothing else in the top 100 changes a single bit. The farther down the rankings you are the more it can POTENTIALLY help. If you're at #10 already, it will likely do next to nothing for you. If that seems worth it to you, knock yourself out. If not it's understandable. Outgoing links help the most when they are in your ORIGINAL posting, adding them after the fact carries less weight.
Just remember this, no matter how good your links are, if the work they go to or come from stinks they mean nothing. Anyone can get a jump start for a few hours or even a day before fading to oblivion. Strong work with strong links and good SMO equals good SEO. It all goes hand in hand. The links we associate to are like our friends, people and search engines judge us by the company we keep.
Buy a Pauley Shore movie, the dude can use the money.