Who you link to matters! A great deal can be said about your site by observing the company you keep. Linking by affinity can augment or impede search engine positioning.
Although search engines are essentially transparent in their functions, your site however is not. In addition to who links to you, were you aware that forward-linking / up-linking or (linking to sites with more authority) has an impact on where and how you rank in search engines?
If you master the right balance of inbound to outbound and internal to external links on each page, search engines can bring you hordes of traffic as a result.
Links determine the relevance profile for your site, it can tell search engines (like a referral) the gist of your topic, cross-reference information from numerous pages to determine topical relevance (what your site is really about) or let the algorithm know what others (sites that link to you) think about you.
This information essentially is what distinguishes your site and each page in search engines. For example, a site with 1000 links that has 40 % of those links (400 links) pointing at the homepage and the remainder of the links 60% or (600 links) spread throughout the rest of the key pages of the site using deep links will rank differently than a site with 1000 links to the homepage alone.
Likewise, many pages that have a heavy link concentration of anchor text the home page for the target terms, makes it easier to rank with individual pages for those phrases.
For example, most high ranking pages only have 6-12 inbound links (depending on the industry). For more competitive terms, it may require thousands of links to the homepage and hundreds of links to the target page.
The point is that links either back links (from other sites) or forward links (to other sites), internal links (within your site) can shape the way your content ranks as a cohesive unit.
It’s not just about backlinks every link matters
Forward-linking to a more resourceful page sends a clear message that your site is not afraid of being useful to the end user. You are stating in fact, that just in case you do not find what you are looking for on our site, here is a great resource as well. What a great marketing strategy for developing long-term internet brand loyalty.
Regardless if we like it or not, during the information foraging (berry picking) phenomenon that transpires when people search, pages serve as either landing pages (until they find what they want and are fulfilled) or spring-boards (to bounce) to find better content.
The typical surfer, if dissatisfied with their search will (a) abort the page, open another tab or return to a search engine (or another trusted site) to find related content to fulfill the original intention.
By up-linking to useful resources (like Wikipedia, articles on the subject matter, a page already ranking for that phrase in search engines) your content can acquire more authority for your site.
Authority websites have tremendous ranking potential. By simply mentioning a topic (in an article or post) literally catapults it to the top 10 search engine result pages for a number of phrases. Based on the strength of the site and its internal links, the results can hover for months if unchallenged by competition.
Who you link to or who links to you creates an affinity that directly seques into how your site ranks. One of the prime directives in search engines is their transparency. The function of a search engine is simply to provide the most relevant results. With this in mind, forward link when relevant and in return your pages can rise to the occasion as a result of affinity as your relevance score gets an A+ for creating a valuable user experience.
Usually, sending traffic away from your site is the last thing you want to do, but if your site becomes a great resource in the process, the repeat traffic you gain (from a satisfied user) more than compensates for the traffic you lose while developing authority for your site.