Does Link:Content Ratio Really Count in SEO?

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SEO, SEO, SEO! It’s everywhere. Everyone’s talking about it (and everyone claims to be doing something about it). You don’t need to hire an SEO expert to push through the ranks of Google search. However, when it comes to content promotion, SEO can be huge. In fact, Onboardly’s number one source of traffic is search (and it’s 100% organic).

All you SEO guru, ninja, rockstars move aside! To reap the basic rewards of search engine algorithms, all you need are some strategic links, some well-placed keywords and some WordPress plugins (we recommend Yoast)! Check out Neil Patel’s awesome SEO audit resource. It’s really easy (we promise) and really effective.

Linking is probably one of the most popular elements of a basic SEO strategy. Managing inbound and outbound links is just smart. But outbound linking is also hotly debated, especially when it comes to the ideal link:content ratio. About.com, for example, will tell you not to use more than 1 link per 125 words. But is that right? And how much of an impact can link:content ratio have on your SEO efforts?

What is link:content ratio?

The link:content ratio is how many links you should have per x words of content. So, let’s say you’re writing KISSmetrics’ Ultimate Guide to Startup Marketing. It’s a 5,000+ word article. How many links can you include in a 5,000+ word article if you’re trying to play to Google’s algorithm?

It’s a balancing act. Linking builds credibility and authority with Google, as long as you don’t go overboard. Too many links in your 5,000+ words and Google could start to take away from that credibility and authority.

What’s the right ratio?

So, is About.com right? Is 1 link per 125 words the magic ratio? Actually, Matt Cutts has said multiple times that the ideal is simply to “keep the number of links to under 100” per page. Even then, it isn’t as much of a “hard limit” as it is a guideline.

To quote Cutts…

“100 links to a page is just a suggestion… There are pages out there with more than 100 links, and it isn’t an issue. If your page is sufficiently authoritative, Google is going to be interested.”

So, it turns out, there isn’t a magic ratio. It depends on your existing authority, the authority of the pages you’re linking to, etc. If you want to play it super safe, stick to under 100. But if you go over 100 links, it doesn’t mean you’ll be instantly blacklisted from Google’s search results.

Should you even care?

So, if it’s just a guideline, should you even care about your link:content ratio? Yes, definitely. At the end of the day, the more links you have on a page, the more you diminish your PageRank. PageRank can get pretty complicated (you might actually need to be an SEO guru, ninja, rockstar for that). But, put simply, more links means less PageRank per link (read: bad news).

You should definitely care about link:content ratio, but not in the sense that most people think. Counting words and links too carefully isn’t beneficial for anyone. There are no hard and fast rules. Instead, focus on creating great content and linking to quality industry authorities. Link when you need to, but don’t force it.

Conclusion

Step One: Write great content. Step Two: Link to authoritative sources. Step Three: Make sure you haven’t gone link crazy. Think of links the way you think of blog ads. They’re good for your website and normally don’t bother anyone – unless your blog starts looking like a GeoCities site. The truth is that being aware of your linking habits already puts you ahead of a lot of content creators.

Shanelle Mullin - March 21st, 2013 / 1 Comment

One Response to “Does Link:Content Ratio Really Count in SEO?”

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