If you’re building a blog or a website, one of the most important things to focus on is SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
So many different factors go into optimizing your site to rank highly on search engines, but one thing that often doesn’t receive enough attention is external linking.
In this article, we will cover what external linking is, why it’s so important, and the 7 best practices you should be following to make your external links SEO-friendly.
What Is External Linking?
An external link is a hyperlink within a page on your site that leads to a different domain. This is different to internal linking, which involves linking different pages within your site together.
If another domain links to your site, this counts as an external link to your own domain. You linking to another domain also counts as an external link.
Now, on the surface, external linking from your site to another site might not seem like a great idea. After all, it seems like this would take visitors away from your site – which is true.
However, as we will see later, external linking has many optimization benefits for your domain.
Why Use External Linking?
Now you know what external linking is, it’s time to discuss why you should care about it. After all, there are so many different factors involved in SEO, it can feel overwhelming to learn about yet another thing you should be doing.
However, external linking is one of the best ways to optimize your domain for search engines.
External Links Boost SEO
The main reason we’re recommending external linking is that it improves your SEO.
Search engines like Google rank search results according to the quality of the site, and most high-quality domains link out to other domains.
Therefore, if you have external links within your domain, your pages are more likely to appear near the top of the search results.
It Will Make Your Site More Credible
External linking improves your site’s authority.
High-authority sites, again, are typically ranked towards the top of search engine results, so linking to other authoritative domains will improve your chances of being easily found by search engine users.
External Linking Improves User Experiences
No matter how informative your domain is, there will always be some information you don’t have the capacity to include on your own site.
More than that, if somebody else has already covered specific information in a way that you don’t feel you can recreate better, it’s best to link to that site.
Doing so will provide your visitors with an enhanced user experience, allowing them to easily access relevant information without having to search for it.
You Will Build Connections
Building connections with other domains is really important, not only because of the SEO benefits, but because it makes it more likely that other sites will link to your domain. More backlinks will improve your domain’s authority.
Best Practices For External Linking
Stick to Reputable Sources
As we mentioned earlier, your own domain’s authority is only likely to improve as a result of external links if you link to other authoritative domains.
Therefore, you should avoid linking to sites that aren’t reputable or high-quality.
Don’t link to any sites that produce clickbait-type content, and if a site seems unprofessional, avoid it.
You only want the best quality associated with your site because when you link externally, you’re connecting your own domain’s reputation to that of the one you’re linking to.
If you absolutely have to link to a site that you don’t feel is trustworthy for whatever reason, the best thing to do is to make use of a no-follow tag.
This is basically a tag that lets the search engine know that you don’t want your site to be associated with this link.
Only Include Relevant Links
In addition to being high-quality, you will want all of your external links to be relevant to your content.
This seems like it should go without saying, but many people end up trying to pack their site with any and all external links once they learn that doing so can boost SEO.
The problem with this is that irrelevant external links can indicate to search engines that your own site isn’t relevant when it comes to certain searched keywords.
If you’re writing an article about the lifecycle of an earthworm, for example, a link to a reputable scientific domain about annelids would be relevant, whereas a link to a fashion retail outlet probably wouldn’t be.
Before you include an external link simply for the sake of SEO, ask yourself whether it really adds to your users’ experience and is relevant to your content.
Don’t Make Your SEO Strategy Obvious
This leads on from our previous point. If you add too many external links, even if they’re mostly relevant, your readers are likely to realize that their clicks are being used for your benefit.
This can cause readers to feel resentful and frustrated with your site and potentially click away.
So, again, before you include an external link on your website, make sure that it doesn’t seem excessive or manipulative.
SEO may be one of the main motivators behind external links, but your readers don’t need to know that, so don’t make it obvious.
Make Sure Links Open In Different Tabs
If you’ve ever clicked on a link from one website only for it to open in the same tab, taking you away from the page you were initially reading, you’ll already know how annoying this is.
Of course, readers have the option of right-clicking and selecting ‘open in new tab’, but don’t put this responsibility on your reader.
Remember that part of the aim of external linking is to improve user experience, so make things as easy as possible for your readers and set all links to automatically open in a different tab.
Also, if your external links open in different tabs, there’s less of a feeling that a user clicking on a link will be leaving your site, because your domain will remain easily accessible for them to return to.
Don’t Link To Competitors
You should never link to your competitors within your domain. This is a great way to lose readers to your competition.
Be smart about your external links and choose high-authority sites that you’re not in direct competition with.
Think About Your Anchor Text
Try not to be vague with your anchor text. It’s easy to write something along the lines of ‘you can find more information on this subject here,’ including the link on the word ‘here’.
This makes ‘here’ your anchor text.
The problem with that is that ‘here’ is not a helpful word for search engines when determining whether your site is relevant.
Instead, if you are linking to a diagram of earthworm life stages, for example, use the keywords ‘earthworm life stage diagram’ as your anchor text.
This makes it easier for search engines to determine your page’s relevance.
Check For Outdated/Broken Links
Regularly run a link audit to check that none of the external links in your domain are broken or out of date.
Broken or outdated links destroy your domain’s credibility, so it’s worth making sure all your links are functioning correctly on a regular basis.
The best practices outlined in this article will help you to use external links correctly to boost SEO and improve the credibility and user experience of your domain.
Remember to keep external links high-quality, relevant, and necessary. Don’t have links open in the same tab, avoid linking to your competitors, choose your anchor text wisely.
And don’t forget to run a link audit from time to time!
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