When it comes to SEO, websites often focus on building inbound links. Whether it happens through guest posting opportunities or naturally, you want authoritative websites to refer back to your website so that Google can tell you are putting out quality information and content. For this reason, more and more companies have developed an SEO strategy that puts a focus on building inbound links. It’s no secret that worrying about inbound links is time consuming, but this leaves one question that isn’t much discussed: What about the links going out?

Why External Links Do Matter to Google

Most will agree that linking out to other relevant articles is a great way to improve an article. This gives you credibility and offers extra resources for your readers; however not many think about how Google will see these links. The moral of the story: Google does care about where your external links go.

You never mean to link to something poor, but it can happen for a few reasons:

  • A link could become broken without you realizing it.
  • A website could be sold and the direction of your link could be changed to something poor or irrelevant.
  • You may have linked to copied content while thinking it was original.
  • The site or content may be penalized for a variety of reasons even after you’ve linked back to a particular article. This causes your link to be flagged as poor quality.

This news comes to us from Bill Slawski who explained that Google has a patent on determining reachability. This patent was just granted a few days ago, so if you haven’t heard of it—don’t sweat it. There is still plenty of time to figure out how the Google reachability score works and what you can do to make sure you’re staying in the lines.

How the Google Reachability Score Works

The first thing to understand is that when Google comes out with a new algorithm or a new way to determine the quality of a site, it will likely affect your search engine results page (SERP) ranking—what you work so hard to achieve. In this case, Google is concerned with not only the quality and relevancy of your external links, but whether or not that site you’re linking to has a high reachability.

Reachability refers to user interaction and engagement on a particular website. This is calculated with two different things in mind:

  • Secondary Resource – Google will look at secondary resources that you can find through the primary resource. In other words, Google goes to the link you’ve used and then looks at the different resources that are available on that particular page.
  • Prior User Interaction – Google will create a score for the primary resource based on the user interactions on the secondary resources.

What This Means for Your Website (And the Argument Against Reachability)

As with most Google announcements, many are puzzled as to what this will mean for small businesses. Does this mean we should all only link to major sites like YouTube and CNN? What if you find a great article that isn’t yet earning a lot of engagement?

In the end, this is just one small component of a very large Google algorithm. If you see a great article and want to link to it, do so and know that you’re improving your article for readers. In the end, optimization is really about the readers, and if that’s a great article and a great site Google will eventually give it the credit it deserves. One piece of advice—continually check your outbound links to make sure nothing has been broken or changed.