What Is External Link, And How Does It Improve SEO?
A link that is there on your website and then goes to any other website is an external or outbound link. You could place these links in:
- Images, text, or buttons
- Marked as dofollow or nofollow, where the latter means telling the search engines not to consider the connection.
- Displayed or hidden from the visitors
<a> is an HTML tag specially created for the hyperlinks. Href is an attribute that specifies the destination of the link, while ‘recent post’ means the anchor text, which tells the readers what they can open if they click on the link. Rest of the attributes will be described later on.
Let us first find out how external linking helps in SEO. You must learn how you can boost the website’s rankings using these outbound links and what you must avoid making sure there is no damage.
Importance Of External Links In Search Engine Optimization
It is evident that the external links boost a user’s experience. They help by including the relevant links so that the readers can easily explore the materials they find interesting and also learn about the facts that you have shared.
These outbound links also help build your reputation: for example, if you include statistical data, website visitors might consider you credible and check the information you shared.
But how different is the search engines’ opinion of your website and external links that you use? By linking out to other sites, you can:
Boost your reach and initiate link-building relationships: By linking out to other websites, you get a chance to get in touch with them and develop link-building relations with them. For example, if you have written a blog post on the top productivity apps, you can add their links to your blog. Then you can contact the site owners and ask them to mention your articles in the social media and newsletters. Or, if a website represents any such app, you could get in touch with a media source that you find helpful, and they could do product promotion for you.
Enhances Value Of Your Website: Apart from the other things, the search engines also see what other websites are linked to you and what other sources you are linking out to. That is how the search engines understand the authority of any website. The more trust they develop in your content, the better is your ranking.
Improve Your Rankings: Though there is no particular correlation between getting high ranking and external links, the latter is still mentioned as one of the top-ranking factors.
Are All Outbound Links Good For Your SEO?
You can get good results from outbound links only if you do it properly. It is crucial that you check what you are adding to your content and see the websites that you are linking to.
So, when does an outbound link cause you harm rather than benefit?
When you link out to spammy sites. Websites that are full of links and ads are not considered user-friendly. Therefore Google and other search engines tend to mistrust such websites.
When there are too many links. If any webpage is full of links, it is not of any use to the readers and therefore does not help your SEO effort too.
When you’re involved in excessive link exchange. Earlier, backlink networks used to help websites to become high authority websites irrespective of the quality of the content and its structure. But Google brought their Panda update in 2011, post which these mutual linking schemes stopped existing. Immediate linking is considered harmful, and therefore, you should not add any links just to cross-link.
What Are Good External Links?
There are just two principles that could make outbound links effective. The first one is that the source should be credible and the second is that it should be related to the page’s content where you put your link in. Now, let us have a look at these two principles.
Credibility And Trust: How will you know that the website you are visiting is spammy, or trustworthy besides by evaluating and visiting it? You will have to check on the following parameters:
Domain authority: There can be multiple metrics that help you in evaluating the domain quality. But the metric could be easily altered, so do not just rely on the same without thinking of other factors.
Domain history: You could go to Wayback Machine and have a look at the domain’s archive. It will show its beginning days and consistency from that time.
Website security. See that a source that you are going to quote and does not face any security issues.
Anchor texts. See what the anchor text is being used by the sources that link to the website that you were interested in using. If you see that the anchor texts mentioned are too spammy or have keywords or brand names forced in them, you must not use them.
Keywords a website ranks for. You must review what are the search queries the website is shown for.
The balance between referring and linked domains. If you check the Competitive Analysis tool, you will see the number of referring domains present. You can check the number of linked domains. If you see that there is an imbalance between the two, it implies a low-quality source.
Quality of backlinks. Go through the highest-ranking website’s backlinks and see if there are any links from spammy sources.
Geographical distribution of traffic. You can learn which users from any particular locations account for the traffic coming to the website. There are tools like Similar Web that will help you to do so.
Top-performing pages. Now, get to know a particular website by seeing the pages that get it the most traffic. Once you have learned all about its credibility, check out the page you want to refer to.
Quality of the content. This factor you can work on naturally as you already know what you need in your content. Ensure that this page conveys what you want to show and also follows Google’s YMYL and EAT criteria.
Page’s traffic and keywords. Check the traffic that the page is getting and how relevant are the keywords that it is ranking for.
Actual presence in the search results. Enter a keyword in the search box and see if the page is being analyzed accurately by the search engines.
When you create content, you can build a massive base of trustable sources. Still, there is no harm in rechecking and not getting associated with a website that is not worthy.
How Different Topics Are Connected To Each Other
To help the searchers, the search engines have understood how all the topics are related to each other, and can even identify irrelevant content that it could be linked to. This means that when adding an external link to a statement, you must use a source that holds relevance to your content. Even the anchor texts you use should be relevant and help the readers understand what they are going to find if they click on that. We will talk about the best anchor text practices later on.
Best Practices Of External Linking
We have told you what outgoing links are and their importance. Now, we will let you know of the various stages of the linking process, thus clearly explaining what practices you should follow and which mistakes you ought to avoid.
How To Search For External Source
If you are talking about a well-researched article, then the search for the external links should not be a problem as they may be naturally added. For example, if you are writing about software development costs, you can link to salary statistics. Therefore, it is not just about finding sources you could link out to but about seeing that they are trustworthy and relevant too.
On the flip side, if you have written about something that you did not consult with any other source, you might find it challenging to get any links. If that is the case, you should explore your niche and do research. Find out any pages that may have valuable information for the readers. But remember, you have to add it naturally. Just do not add any outbound links just for the sake of doing it.
If you are still in the planning stage, you could look for any potential topic ideas and find websites to link to using Google’s related operator. Just type yousite.com and search for the pages that are related to your webpage or domain.
Another thing you could do to see if you are linking to a source with high DA is to check social media shares. Many online tools will help you check the total number of shares that a URL has got across multiple social media channels. This shows how popular that particular external source is.
Should You Link To Your Competitors?
You may think that it is bad to link to your competitors. However, that is not true but consider it only if the readers will benefit from it. Check your niche and see which topics you can cover so that you can understand what your competitors are saying, how they are structuring the content, and the keywords they are using.
If your competitor has content similar to yours, you should not cite but write something better on it. Do more research and consult all the sources to give the readers new and better insights. But if you see a competitor’s article has some study or survey, you may reference it so that your readers get all the information they want.
How Many Outbound Links Are Too Many?
When we talk of linking, there is a rising question of quantity and balance. In simple terms, it is like asking ‘how many external links are too many.’ However, there is no formula on that because here, the importance should be placed on how naturally these links are inserted and if they add any value for the readers.
Adding 50+ links to a post is not workable. You should add only as many links as the user can grasp while they go through that page. The niche you are working on also decides the intensity of links. For example, instead of filling a product review post with multiple links, it makes sense if you add these sources to a research-based article on technology.
Go through the content and analyze it from the user’s viewpoint. Suppose your external links distract the readers or force them to move away from the website, then that it is not correct. However, if the placement appears natural, you do not have anything to worry about.