Why Blogging Works – Outbound Links

outboundlinksWhether you’re promoting yourself, your product, your service, or your business, everyone tells you that you need to start a blog. A lot of places will tell you how to do it. But very few will tell you why blogging works. Understanding why will help you get more out of your blog.

Outbound links are a major reason – perhaps the major reason – why blogs work. To understand why this is so important, we need to understand how modern search engines work. Thankfully, I’m a computer scientist so I can help you with that. But don’t worry, I’m going to leave out the math and the hard stuff.

Google began as a research project by its two co-founders into a new technique to make internet searches better. They created a system called “PageRank.” The extremely simplified version is this: every time one page on the internet links to another, that link counts a “vote.” The more votes a page has, the higher its PageRank is. When searching for keywords, the algorithm first finds pages that match those words. Then it checks the PageRank of each page, and the page with the higher PageRank wins. But they got a little smarter than that, even, and added a few layers to it. They manage it by individual keywords. Say your page is about cars. Another page links to you, and includes the word “cars” in the link. If somebody comes along later and is searching for cars, that counts as an extra vote, because they used that keyword to link to you. And if their page is about cars – and ranks well for cars – then that vote counts even more.

Remember, this is a vastly simplified explanation. But the short version is this: links are good. Links that use specific, relevant keywords are better. Links from a “reputable” site are even better.

Google has really updated its algorithms over the years – it’s come a long way since its founding! It now accounts for all kinds of other factors, and their process of determining all of this has gotten far more complex as well. For example, links from known spam sites now count¬†against you. But at the core, this statement is still true: links from a reputable source that use relevant are really good.

Why does blogging help you so much with links? First, it’s pretty easy to get links to your blog. Google recognizes 4,862 links pointing to this blog. Now, I did spend a pretty good amount of time building those links. Back in the day when Google still measured such things, this site had a PageRank of 4 (out of 10). That’s not too shabby.


The upshot is that this small blog alone has enough power from the links that I’ve built up that I can link to other sites and actually have a small but noticeable impact on how they rank in search results. It’s not enough to put a site up to number one, but it’s enough to take a site that’s not even ranking and get it on the radar. Right now the effect is very small. But give me two more years of working this blog, and it’ll will be significant.

Why is this important? Because you want to use that power to promote your brands, by linking back to yourself. But be careful – if you overdo it, Google will decide you’re spamming them and it will really hurt your site. One of the easiest things to do though is also highly effective: put links to your businesses, products, or services in the sidebar of your blog. Look over to the right and you’ll see links to my dojo, my publishing company, and my wife’s videography business. [Notice how I linked those using keywords instead of just straight text? And how I slipped them in and made them a natural part of the post?]Also notice that I have links to a few of my friends and to several of my most recently published works.

The nice thing about the sidebar links is that they’ll show up on every page of your blog.Google currently recognizes 225 pages on this blog, so anything I put on the sidebar automatically gets 225 “votes.” In a year, this blog will have at least twice that much content, and its power will be even bigger. It will also have hundreds, if not thousands, more incoming links – which means that its own reputation will also be far higher.

Intelligent link selection is just one of the techniques I’ve used to help my dojo completely dominate the search engine results for most martial arts related searches local to Madison, Alabama. I’m still building the web presence of my publishing company – and it’s a little harder to do on a national scale than a local scale – but it’s coming.

Before we go, here are my tips for using links in your blog:

  • All of your businesses should be linked in the sidebar of your blog so that they show up on every page. Simple links are fine – you’re not actually hugely worried about people clicking them. These are for search engines.
  • If you sell products or services, the two or three that are currently your biggest priority should have prominent, visual links (such as book covers, like I’ve done). These are partly for search engines. But you also want people to actually see and click these, so use the space.
  • Use that sidebar space to link to friends and supporters – but be very judicious about who you link to.
  • Inside your blog posts, be cautious about over-linking back to yourself. But if it fits the content of the post, don’t be afraid to do it – and make sure you use good keywords in and around the link text itself.
  • Don’t be afraid to link back to other bloggers and news sources that you’re referencing. In the old days (circa 2005) this was common, and just considered “good manners.” Too many bloggers have gotten away from it, thinking that they can keep the traffic and the credit to themselves. This is short sighted (more on this in a future post).

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