Google Ranking Factors 2017

03. Does Content Need External Links in Order to Rank?

With Dixon, Dawn, Stephen and Kirsty.


Dawn Anderson
Director Move It Marketing

It’s got to be discovered. So you need something ,somehow linking to it, somewhere along the line. If it’s brand new content, it’s probably not going to rank immediately for anything, other than if is a massively popular page. Because, as we know, popularity drives crawling as well, so it’s gonna get discovered much more quickly, if it’s got a lot of links, yeah, as an actual individual URL.

Dixon Jones
Majestic Marketing Director & Receptional Founding Director

I think that you can use internal links for discovery, certainly, but an external link is gonna add some new value to the whole website. So, external links into the website, if you are gonna call a website worth 10-something rathers, then new links in increase that value whereas internal links can only spread your worth around the website.

So external links will help to get new content known and discovered but will give that extra citation, that extra authority to that content. So, I think external links to deep pages really do help as long as they are within context.

Kirsty Hulse
SEO Digital Type

I agree but I also think it depends on the size of the site. So, there’s many instances where you might be a really big site with a very powerful domain, and you can put out some new content and that often that can start ranking relatively well, even if it doesn’t have external links in that particular instance. But if you are small and a new site, then you are going to need some kind of external justifications as to why that particular page would rank outside of just the domain weight.

Stephen Kenwright
Director of Search Branded3

I’m not going to pretend that Open Site Explorer has everything, especially not, since I’m sat next to Dixon. They got a very nice SERP overlay on the actual MozBar where you can see how many links are pointing to each individual page that is ranking, how many links are pointing to each domain. And, generally speaking, the number of links to a domain correlates, and the number of links to a specific page doesn’t.

So, you can think about your most commercial, most commercially imperative term, something really competitive, and you could see that half of the middle of this page has one link, two links, three links. Very few comparatively to someone who might be ranking 10th who has thousands. And you don’t necessarily know what’s in people’s disallow files et cetera so, it’s not easy to tell whether that is really a ranking factor or whether that is something that, you are acquiring links, so generally that is improving the authority.

Dixon Jones
I think the correlation that I’ve seen is the number referring domains that links to a website, not the individual pages, which I think you probably said, but didn’t come out saying, but…

Dawn Anderson
And obviously we got the quality issue as well, the quality of the referring domains is going to have an impact.

Stephen Kenwright
Yeah, and I think the people that own or work for the really quality domains, the one’s who are journalists, and write for really big publications, don’t appreciate having their journalistic integrity compromised, when you tell them, ”I’d really like I link to this page, or with this anchor text”, and certainly you know Google, in the past, Matt Cutts has said, the mark of a good link is that it is editorial, and it’s given freely.

Dixon Jones
Yeah, but I’d say that there is a real big “but” here. In that, if you’ve got a link from the BBC, everyone assumes that is absolutely great, but if it’s a link on a orphaned page on the BBC, it’s still a crap link from the BBC.

Dawn Anderson
In the archives.

Dixon Jones
Yeah. So it’s very possible for you to have links on very very powerful pages and they still use generated content, they are still not particularly valuable, so still the page that is linking there is still important.

Dawn Anderson
And it’s also what links to that page as well. The links, the popularity of the actual page or the pages that are linking to you, you know? So it’s kind of a, it’s obviously a chain of effects, isn’t it?

Dixon Jones
And it changes over time. If you got an article, it will start on the homepage of “National” and then ten minutes later it’s not on the homepage of the BBC.

Dawn Anderson
It’s yesterday’s chip paper, in the internetty sense.