One of the foundational principles behind is that outbound links to quality content are good not only for the site being linked to, but also for the site doing the linking. SEO experts have been teaching this for a while, but even many experts are still reluctant to link out for fear of losing PageRank.

A few days ago, Google’s Matt Cutts posted an article to his blog about “PageRank sculpting“, or focusing a site’s PageRank on the pages you want optimized the most. The end of his article is a series of questions and answers, one of which vindicates LinContEx’s practice of encouraging members to put links on their content pages:

Q: Okay, but doesn’t this encourage me to link out less? Should I turn off comments on my blog?
A: I wouldn’t recommend closing comments in an attempt to “hoard” your PageRank. In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.

Clearly, Matt isn’t saying that any old outbound link is going to boost you in the search results. But if, as I’ve encouraged, you choose your link & content exchange partners based on relevance to your site’s content and quality of their content, then according to Matt, Google’s going to reward you. His comment at worst implies that the “reward” for good outbound links will be greater than “price” of any loss of raw PageRank points.

It makes sense really. Google wants to send their users to the pages that they’ll get the most value out of. If they don’t, their users might switch to another search engine. Which will a user get more value out of: a page that has to stand entirely alone on the merits of the content it contains, or a page that contains great content and links to other high-quality content on the same topic?

Google pours a lot of time and money into tweaking their algorithms to provide the best possible search results. So it only makes sense that, especially in the long run, you’re going to rank highest if you do things that provide the most value possible to users.

If you’re fixated on the idea that PageRank is an almighty force that you must accumulate at all costs, you’re not going to build the kinds of webpages that Google wants to link to. Instead, you’re going to be fighting an eternal uphill battle against their engineers as you try all sorts of unnatural things to put lipstick on your piggish webpages.

On the other hand, if you focus on providing as much value as possible to your website’s human visitors, then the better Google gets at recognizing valuable webpages, the higher you’ll rank.

Looking over the feeds that have been submitted to LinContEx, there are more than a few that I would not recommend exchanging with. That’s to be expected — any time an SEO system is created, it’s going to attract people who put more effort into gaming the system than providing value. That’s why I made it super easy to vote bad feeds down — all you have to do is click that little frowny face.

The quality content that should be naturally attracting inbound links will rise to the top and get more links. The junk that doesn’t deserve to be seen will fall to the bottom, out of sight.

Linking to the high quality content will add value to your webpages. And that — adding value — is the best SEO strategy.