Google Search proponent John Mueller recently corrected a common misconception about linking to popular sites like Wikipedia while speaking online with the search engine optimization (SEO) community.
Mueller was involved discussion on the r/SEO subreddit, where SEO experts share thoughts and insights on the latest developments in their field.
He explained that linking to sites like Wikipedia would not affect search rankings, dispelling a myth that persisted among SEO practitioners.
The user was asking about a common SEO question: whether linking from a smaller website to a popular, highly trusted site like Wikipedia or CNN could affect the search ranking of the smaller site.
This relates to how links from a website affect search engine optimization (SEO) and ranking. The user wanted to know if search engines viewed a small site as more credible when it linked to well-known, trusted sites.
Mueller’s direct response
In response to this inquiry, John Mueller said, “Nothing happened. Why should that?
He notes that this has been a misconception of SEO professionals for decades.
Mueller also made his point with a humorous example, saying, “Here’s my handbag affiliate site – here’s a link to CNN and Wikipedia, please take me seriously now, k?”
His statement confirms the misconception that linking to high-authority sites is like borrowing their credibility.
The link should be about user value
Mueller stressed the importance of treating links like content.
“Does this link provide additional, unique value to users? Then link normally. Is this link irrelevant to users? Then don’t link to it.”
His comments suggest that its importance and potential value should prompt the user to decide to link to another website rather than trying to manipulate search engine rankings.
Mueller said, “dropping the name out of the dictionary doesn’t fix your misspellings.”
This metaphor sums up his entire point: linking to a popular website does not inherently improve the quality or credibility of your website, any more than consulting a dictionary will not automatically correct spelling errors.
the broader context
This Reddit user’s question brings up a common SEO misconception that has been around for a long time.
Many people mistakenly believe that linking to high authority websites will automatically improve their ranking.
Mueller’s comments remind us that search engines are more interested in delivering value to users through relevant, high-quality content.
The focus should be on linking to sites of real value to users, not just chasing authority or links.
The main point of Mueller’s response is that convenience and usefulness for the user should guide choices about linking.
The decision to link should be based on whether it will improve user experience, not whether there is potential to improve search rankings.
The link should add something meaningful to the content. This can be achieved when the linked content:
- expands at a point
- Provides evidence or additional reading to support the claim
- Explains a complex term or concept
- Directs users to related products, services, or resources
Just like the content on your website, outbound links must serve a purpose and be useful.
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