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How Hyperlink Overload Can Kill A Website

On Friday, February 13, Google Webmaster Trends analyst John Mueller said link building can hurt your website. Websites seeking SEO have often built a network of interlocking hyperlinks that are now overloading and killing pages. Content uses anchor texts to cite sources and hopefully get increased traffic through references, but overloading may be a bad thing. Some say 500 links is too many while others say 100 links is the limit. This ongoing debate has just received an authoritative word from Google’s John Mueller.

The Ghost of Google Past

In 2009, the head of Google’s Webspam team, Matt Cutts, PhD, said that 200 hyperlinks on a blog post was a bit much, though doable. Google recommended keeping links to fewer than 100. Cutts explained that the original reason for this recommendation is that Google used to index only 100 kilobytes of a page. Keeping a page under that limit required limiting links so Google could successfully index the entire page.

By 2009, Google was indexing more than 100 kilobytes of a page but still recommended staying under 100 links to not overwhelm users and give them a bad experience. Cutts did say that Google does not automatically consider your page spam if you break this limit, but users might treat you as spam. Of course, exceeding the 100 limit extraordinarily will likely cause HyperlinkGoogle to truncate your indexed page.

In 2013, Cutts was still telling people that 100 links per page was not a Google algorithm limit but still a recommendation. He said that your PageRank is divided by the number of links on your page. That means if your page links to three others, your PageRank is split by three.

Google Today

Last Friday, Mueller said that he tries to avoid link building. Although links are part of the Google algorithm, they can do more harm than good in many cases. Instead of relying on links, the best tactic is to strive for content, “so that you are really sure that your content kind of stands on its own, and makes it possible for other people of course to link to your content,” says Mueller.

The alternative is to develop rich content. Instead of providing an arrow that points elsewhere, be dense in content that users covet so others will point to you. Google will pick up your content without overloading hyperlinks as long as you have rich content that people are looking for. Mueller says links are overused, and “we use lots and lots of other factors as well. So only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your website than it actually helps.”

Of course, you still want to provide links from your homepage to your content. Instead of overloading, Mueller recommends providing a widget that makes it easy to copy and paste URLs. Also, keeping your URLs simple helps people share your content and link to your site.

What Do I Do Now?

Google has not yet given a clear updated statement about the number of ideal links. It is safe to say that over 100 links on a single page is breaking the bank. With Matt Cutt’s input that your PageRank is divided by the number of links, keep in mind that every link you add cuts your PageRank to a fraction of what it was. That being said, links still have their value for SEO purposes. Before linking, consider the pros and cons of internal links and external links or contact us at SteerPoint Marketing for help.