Links are very important for your site, even when you’re not looking at a site like an SEO would. One of the hot topics among SEO’s is whether links can hurt you as well. I’ve collected some recent threads at forums and some answers from the guys who are “in the know”, like Adam Lasnik from Google.
Outbound links from your site should not hurt your site, as long as they’re not linking into a pattern, according to Adam Lasnik in this WebMasterWorld thread:
“It’s unlikely that your outbound linking is causing your pages to be listed in the supplemental, rather than main index. Also, be assured that we’re not looking to penalize folks for a “bad” link here and there. Rather, our algorithms are tuned to look for patterns of “egregious” linking behavior… both on individual sites and in the aggregate.”
It has been suggested many times that linking to authorative content might do you good. While this, as far as I know, has never been proved, it’s something that happens automatically if you’re writing good content. In each area you’d write about, there probably are some authorities, to whom you’d link to either agree or disagree with what they’re saying, or for people to look at their info. Just link to the sites which you think are good, your readers will like you for it.
Now this is a real problem. If outbound links could hurt you, that is something you could control: those links are in your content, you could simply remove them. However, if inbound links can hurt you, your competitor could try to get you of the search engine by adding links to your site in so-called “bad neighborhoods”: sites which have been banned for spamming or otherwise lowly rated sites.
This has never been proven either, but the Google webmaster guidelines have a very weird line about this:
“There’s almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. If you’re concerned about another site linking to yours, we suggest contacting the webmaster of the site in question.”
As this WebMasterWorld thread suggests, that could mean that an incoming link to your site could hurt your rankings. People in that thread are reporting that they lost their rankings for specific keywords, and found out that “empty” blogs were linking to their pages, with those specific keywords as the anchor text. Somehow they got penalized for that and lost their rankings. Now I haven’t tried this myself, and i think it’s very unethical, but people will do it if it works… I hope Google will some offer some clarification on this, as people might get nervous.
[tags]link building, seo, google[/tags]