This is a follow-up to a post we published a couple years ago entitled entitled “Should you trade links?“. We received an excellent question regarding that post about if and how PageRank can be lost from posting links to other sites within yours.
There is some confusion on this topic because when we put an unrestricted outgoing link to a page on another domain, the PageRank of our webpage does not decrease directly. However, the overall PageRank of our website is reduced due to how the flow of PageRank within our entire website works. For those of you not familiar with PageRank, it’s a sort of authority rating assigned by Google to a particular webpage. It’s a ranking based on the number of links to your webpage and the quality and relevancy of the webpage that are linking to your page. Google uses PageRank when determining how high to display your webpage in the search engine results page (SERP) for a keyword search relevant to your page.
When outgoing links are posted on a webpage that has been assigned PageRank by Google, Google will consider the total PageRank of the referring page, and distribute some of that same value to the outgoing links. So if you have a webpage that has PageRank and you have ten links from that page going to other pages in your site, then the PageRank is flowing all back to your site. If however you add links to external sites then Google will now take some of that PageRank that was being fed back to your site and assign it to those external pages, thus reducing the overall amount of PageRank for your site. The PageRank of your webpage sending external links does not decrease directly, however if you add in links from other sites on your page now you’re not sending as much PageRank back to pages within your own site, it’s a net PageRank loss for your site.
This doesn’t mean that you should never have unrestricted outgoing links to other sites, it just means that when you do be aware that it’s costing you something in terms of overall website PageRank so you want to make sure you understand there is a cost and you need to make sure that you’re making a good investment with your PageRank currency. There are good reasons to provide unrestricted outgoing links to other sites when they are high-authority sites and provide relevant and valuable resources that will benefit the users of your site. It’s good to make friends with such sites and sometimes those high-authority sites will notice the favor you’ve done them. The real key in deciding when and to whom you provide external links is be evaluating the value of those external links from the perspective of your site’s users.
For more insight into this topic please see our post “Should you trade links?“.