We have always mentioned that relevance plays a critical role in outbound linking. But if you want to get the maximum returns out of the external links, you should think about this issue of relevance and follow specific essential rules. Firstly, there are clear purposes that the links must serve. Supposing a source you have linked does not have anything interesting to offer to the customer, you must not link to it.
You may use the outbound link to:
- Provide a backup to any facts you have written
- Quote someone
- Give credit to the sources you have used or referred to
Where You Can’t Put An Outbound Link?
There are certain portions of your web pages where you cannot insert an external link naturally.
- Any navigational element: These help the users to move around the website and provide a convenient user experience. So, it is not advisable that you navigate your readers to an external source through this one. Site navigation is one place where you have to pay attention to internal linking.
- Elements are hidden from users: If you hide a link or any portion of the link text, it may be treated as a deception by the search engines.
- Headings and first sentences: Inserting a link in the heading of the article or beginning your paragraph with a link is again not very user-friendly.
- Landing pages: When you try to sell a product or service, you do not want anything that keeps the visitors away from the products you have to sell. Hence here, if you’re going to link, you can connect to a rating platform like Clutch, which shows a profile with the reviews.
How To Write And Mark Anchor Text
Anchor text, in simple words, is how you can describe any external link, and it has to fit into the article’s content. The anchor text has to be clear and related to what is written on the page that you are linking to. The best way to do is to:
Be clear and use descriptive language. You will have to clearly explain what the page you are linking to actually features.
The example we have mentioned below shows a natural way of backing any source:
Example of clear anchor text
The example here is slightly unclear about what awaits the users who actually follow the link. If you are linking to the study, you must add the “study” word in your anchor text.
Optimizing the length. As for the number of links, there is no method to decide the length of the anchor text. But you must keep it visually easy to understand and non-disruptive to enhance user experience. If you still feel you have to add the whole phrase in your anchor text and it will look natural, you may do it like the example we have shared:
In case you are using the keyword in your anchor text, you must avoid keyword stuffing. Use one long-tail keyword and describe the link.
Making anchor texts stand out. Always try to make your links visually appealing. Apart from the default blue color and underlining, websites attempt linking in multiple ways. If this linking style looks quite similar to the look of your site, you can use any other color that contrasts with it.
But, do not use this link color for text that is not linked, and if you are underlining the texts, do not underline any other text. However, blue is very common for links; hence do not use it for non-link text even if you are making the links in some other color. The mentioned rules would guide you in helping make everything clear to the visitors.
Being consistent. Above all, you must remain consistent in link behavior and its appearance. If you are underlining the external links, do that everywhere, and if you have kept short anchor texts, do not just introduce long ones.
The Myth About Opening Links In New Tabs
Most of the guides that you see on external linking would ask you to make them visible in a new tab only. It is normal as then the users won’t leave your page while going through it. But, it is not that simple. But some designers and SEO and marketing guys say that it is not wise to change the default link behavior.
If we talk of accessibility, you opening a new tab could hamper the user experience more so if you are talking about considering the mobile users. Moreover, it is not safe as the target=”_blank” attribute that leads you to open your links in a new tab could impact the site’s performance adversely.
But if you decide to add the attribute to all the external links that you use, try and follow all the guidelines to avoid any security breaches. Just add rel=”noopener” or rel=”noreferrer” to your external link code. However, if you use rel=”noreferrer” but do not add any additional referral rags, you might not get referral traffic from that link in Google Analytics. Some of the experts suggest that you must warn the users that the link will open in a new tab. This you can do by indicating this inside of the anchor text mentioned.
Attribute Values Of Outbound Links Explained: Nofollow, Sponsored, UGC
In the HTML code, the rel attribute signifies a relation between one page that has the link and the other page that it is linking to. Usually, there are different values of this rel attribute, but we will talk about those that help the search engine understand what the link consists of. You must know the difference between dofollow and nofollow links, but there are some other attribute values that you can use for marking any external links of a particular type.
Is Nofollow Appropriate?
The nofollow value tells the search engine robots not to go to the link, while the dofollow tells them to follow the link.
A common perception is that all the external links must be attributed as nofollow so that the link equity is not harmed. There will be many guides that recommend the usage of nofollow for outgoing links in order to get the best SEO results.
But it is not wise to make all the links as nofollow. Google had introduced the attribute value in 2005 to tackle spam and too much link exchange. Companies would agree to have links coming to their sites, and even users would leave comments with multiple links.
This resulted in miscalculated rankings, and that is when nofollow was introduced. Soon Wikipedia moved to nofollow, and many other big sites too were deciding to change their perception towards these outbound links.
As the indexation rules developed, Google introduced new rel attribute values with links to the sources you do not want to credit. In 2019 another set of values was created for sponsored or user-generated links. Also, due to too many nofollow linked Google modified its rules and made nofollow not a compulsion but practice from March 2020 just to assist in easy crawling and indexing.
When you introduce external links naturally, it implies that you trust them and have used them before. Then it is not correct to use nofollow. Patrick Stox says that “If you can’t trust the people adding links to their articles, they shouldn’t be writing for you in the first place.” To sum it, Bobby Holland says that nofollowing of the outbound links is like “the equivalent of not adding any outbound links to your content.”
UGC And Sponsored Links
Keeping all this in mind, when do you think is right to nofollow a link? As we have written before, there are different rel attribute values, especially for sponsored and user-generated content. Both of them stop the search engines from following that link, but it is necessary that you use them specifically instead of opting for nofollow.
UGC is especially for comments and forum posts.
You may use it for the links that you drop as comments on the site informing Google that you do have no option but to endorse the sources.
Sponsored should go with partner links: If it is a paid link and you do not mark it as a sponsored link, Google may penalize you.
It is critical that you use these attribute values and not just focus on nofollow, as by doing this, you can tell Google about the website’s connection to the linked content.
Monitoring And Fixing External Links
Suppose you have put all your efforts into creating great content and even linked to the best sources. But you must remember that work with the links never ends. It is best that you track those links which break with time and mend them.
You could use Google Analytics tracking scripts to keep an eye on how much traffic you are sending to the websites that you linked to. You can then use this information to gain trust and establish a strong relationship with other sites. This leads to more opportunities to get backlinks and guest post opportunities. Create triggers in the Google Tag manager and track these outgoing links and check which links your readers are opening.
It is also necessary to keep checking if all the outbound links on the website are functioning correctly. A broken link harms the user experience and the site’s rankings as well. Suppose the crawlers see too many 404 errors the website’s authority reduces in the search engines contexts. If you see any broken external links, you could contact the sources you have referenced and update the old links or just remove them.
By linking to other websites, you help the search engines connect with crucial sources and provide exciting content to the readers. An essential thing about external linking is that you should not add anything that looks forcefully placed into the content.
The trick is to use only relevant and valuable in a natural way. If you do everything correctly, the outbound links could enhance the user experience and search engine rankings, thus making the website reputable and authoritative.
Let us now sum up the significant principles of outbound linking
- The first thing you should look for when linking to any source is to see how suitable it is to your content and whether it will help the audience.
- To find out the credibility of an external source, check out domains, traffic, and backlink parameters.
- Make your external links clearly distinguishable and add descriptive anchor texts.
- Use suitable attribute values for different link types, and don’t use nofollow.
So what has been your experience with outbound linking? If you have learned something about linking to these websites and it is different from what we have mentioned, do share in the comments section.
Outbound Link: Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Internal Linking vs. External Linking?
In simple terms, internal linking is when a website links to the other URLs on a similar site, whereas external linking is usually when the site is linked to URLs on different sites. Therefore internal links are when you link to the same website, and external links point to the web pages of other websites.
What Are External Equity Links?
The external equity links are the external links that pass all the SEO signals like PageRank and anchor text which Google employs to rank the webpages. Mostly these are links that do not have a “nofollow” attribute. Apart from that, Google treats nofollow links as hints so any external link could pass the equity.
How Do I Find External Links To My Website?
In order to find external links to the website, you will require an SEO tool like Google search console or Moz’s Link Explorer. The indexes show prominent backlinks to the site and information like the anchor text that has been used.
Is It Illegal To Link To A Website Without Permission?
Mostly you do not need any permission to link to another website. There are some legal cases and requirements in a few parts of the world, but mostly all webmasters freely link to whatever they want to link to.