Outbound Links and SEO: What, Why & How
All too often, outbound links are either ignored completely, or worse, people worry that they’re bad for SEO. What a lot of people don’t realize is that these outbound links can impact user experience and SEO.
In this post, we’ll take a dive deep into what are outbound links, why we want you to add outbound links to your post, and share tips for outbound linking best practices.
No time to waste, so let’s go!
What are Outbound Links?
Outbound links are links that point from your website to another. Most often, outbound links are provided to verify facts or reference sources.
Outbound Links VS. Inbound Links
Both outbound links and inbound links (backlinks) are called external links. But they are quietly different.
- Backlinks (inbound links), which are links from other websites to yours.
- Outbound links, which are links from your website to someone else’s.
In a word, an outbound link for you is an inbound link for someone else.
Why You Should Use Outbound Links
1. Add Value to Your Content
As you write quality content, you will want to back up your text with supporting resources. Then, your outbound links can point readers to further resources that they can use to learn more about certain concepts.
Google’s John Mueller echoed this, saying that:
Linking to other websites is a great way to provide value to your users. Often, links help users to find out more, to check out your sources and to better understand how your content is relevant to the questions that they have.
2. Increases Relevance
Links also provide important clues about the relevance of a page, and this is extremely helpful for search engines.
Search engine algorithms can learn a lot about your site from who you link to and how. You can think of your links as providing clues to crawlers about the industry you’re in, the problems you’re attempting to solve, the competitors you have, and how relevant a page will be to people searching online.
3. Encourages Backlinks
When you link out to other credible sources on the web, they will be more likely to engage with your site and link to your content.
Do Outbound Links Affect SEO?
YES and NO.
There is a study done by Reboot Online indicated that outbound links do have a positive impact on SEO.
However, John Mueller indicated that outbound links for SEO doesn’t make any sense.
Someone asked a question wanted to know if outbound links affect SEO.
Here is the question:
“Does giving a “do follow” link to a trusted authoritative site, is that good for SEO?”
John Mueller answered:
“I think this is something that people used to do, way in the beginning, where they would create a spammy website and on the bottom they’d have a link to Wikipedia and CNN and then hope that search engines look at that and say like, Oh, this must be a legitimate website.
But… like I said… people did it this way in the beginning and it was a really traditional spam technique, almost.
And I don’t know if this ever actually worked.
So from that point of view I would say no, this doesn’t make any sense.”
Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 31:25 minute mark:
Outbound Link Best Practices
After reading about the importance of outbound links, it is clear that you need to consider them when creating content. Though they may not be able to affect SEO, they help improve user experience.
But what are the best practices that you should be adhering to when linking out from your site to others? Here we summarized 10 tips for using outbound links.
1. Be Natural
First things first, don’t force links into your text. Outbound links should be used to either cite your sources or to allow your readers to navigate to a website that you reference. If you find that you need to force links into your content, then you are likely approaching this in the wrong way.
You can consider to use outbound links when you want to
- back up an assertion or fact;
- reference the origins of data;
- illustrate a point;
- give credit to an article that helped shape your thinking on the topic you’re writing about;
- cite a unique idea that someone else wrote about first.
2. Use rel=”nofollow” (or rel=”sponsored” or rel=”ugc”) Where Necessary
Some website owners will monetize their website by selling text (or banner) advertisements or even accepting payment for sponsored posts.
Google allows you to do so, but you need to use the right attribute.
Mark links that are advertisements or paid placements (commonly called paid links) with the sponsored value.
Mark user-generated content (UGC) links, such as comments and forum posts, with the ugc value.
Use the nofollow value when other values don’t apply, and you’d rather Google not associate your site with, or crawl the linked page from, your site.
3. Open Outbound Links in New Tabs
Obviously outbound links are going to take users away from your site temporarily. To ensure they are only gone temporarily, it’s important that the outbound link opens in a brand new tab.
It’s simple to do. Add target=”_blank” to your link HTML.
4. Avoid Having Too Many Outbound Links
Having some links pointing out is fine, but having too many outbound links can be annoying from the perspective of your readers.
If you’re going to include external links on your pages, you need to make sure that they are helpful and relevant for your readers.
5. Do Periodic Outbound Link Audits
Every day, many websites come and go. If you haven’t been doing external link auditing in a while, you probably have a lot of broken links on your site.
Broken links are bad for your SEO as they leak out authority, but they also offer a horrendous user experience since you’ll be sending your precious traffic to dead pages.
You can use some broken link checker to find them out easily. When you found some broken links on your website, you should fix them.
6. Linking to Quality Sites
If linking to well-respected, influential sites and posts can increase your perceived authority, then linking to low-quality user-generated posts like blogs, comments, forums, and subreddits is going to erode people’s and search engine’s confidence in your work.
And, these are the things you should never link to:
- Spam sites.
- Sites having shallow content.
- Links that redirect or have nested redirection.
You’ve now got a better sense of what outbound links can do for your website. Not only can they add value to your readers, but they can also help search engines better understand your site. However, all of the benefits are based on you do it correctly.
While linking, the main key is relevancy. Include outbound links only when necessary.
Are your links useful to your readers? Do they point to reputable sources? These should be your goals, and achieving them will improve your users’ experience and won’t hurt your optimization efforts.