Linking has been an important part of SEO since SEO was first a thing! Since then, while the principles have stayed the same, the tactics and techniques SEO teams use and the strategies they choose have changed over time alongside the rest of the digital landscape. However, external links have always been a big part of a comprehensive link strategy for SEO, and are one thing that lots of companies actually shy away from, without understanding how important they really are.
So, What is an External Link?
An external or outbound link, also known as an outgoing link, is a link that takes you away from your website. An external connection is described as a link on one of your web pages that leads to a web page on a different website than your own.
As well as external links, you can also use internal links, which are links from one of your site pages to another – the link only points to other pages on your website. You can also get inbound links, which are the opposite of external links – these are links from other websites that point to your site. A mixture of all of these types is the best way to create a full, comprehensive linking strategy.
Why Should You Be External Linking?
When it comes to external linking, lots of companies are a bit hesitant for a few reasons:
- They don’t want to direct people off their site and away from their sales funnel.
- They don’t want to boost the rankings of other sites in their industry, even if they’re not direct competitors.
- They don’t want to confuse the user by linking to external resources.
- They don’t want to link to sites that aren’t highly relevant to their own business or industry.
However, it’s important to consider that most external links, particularly within body content or blog posts, really don’t make much difference at all to the user experience – they tend to just get skimmed over!
You can also use external linking to back up stats and information you use, which presents you as an expert in the eyes of the user. External links also place you within a network of industry-relevant contacts, in the eyes of search engine algorithms.
External Linking to Build Partnerships
Not all of your links need to be directly relevant! If you’re a florist and have a friend who’s a business consultant, you can still link out to their site for a link back to you in return! While the relevancy of your links does have an impact on how much weight search engines give to it, even supposedly “irrelevant” links are still good links, and tell Google that your site is alive, current, relevant and worthy of attention.
External Linking – Best Practices and Things to Keep in Mind
So now you know the why, it’s all about the how! When you’re linking externally, there are a few things that you can keep in mind to make sure you’re getting the biggest benefits from your external links:
- Is your linked page trustworthy? If you’re linking out to pages that are trusted, such as those on government, charity, academic, news or other very well-respected sites, these are recognised as more significant and are a stronger endorsement than low-quality or unpopular pages. If you can link out to these quality links, and get an inbound link back in return, even better!
- Is your linked page popular? While you might think there’s lots of potential n linking to the “hidden gems” online, following the crowd is the way to go when it comes to external linking a lot of the time. When other websites link to a page it becomes more important, more respected and more authoritative, which then means that it’ll have more value for you (and it’s more likely the information on that page is accurate and useful to your users too)
- Make the most of your anchor text! “Anchor text” is the text that your link actually sits on within the content – and it looks a lot like this. Anchor text should maintain the natural flow of your content, without distracting users when they’re looking for information.
Linking externally is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your overall link profile, as it really doesn’t require a huge amount of effort or time, just a bit of thought and consideration. If you’re looking for ways to improve your linking strategy, or just want a pair of eyes on your link profile, give us a shout – we’re always happy to help!