What Are External Website Links and Why Are They Important to an SEO Strategy?

SEO Best Practices and Marketing

When it comes to SEO and search engine marketing in general, there are a number of metrics website administrators and owners need to be aware of. We’ve covered a few SEO topics before, but questions always seem to arise when it comes to external links.

What are External Links

To put it in as simple a definition as possible, external links are a hyperlinks that point to any domain outside of the current domain on which the content exists. The link itself is known as the target and the site being linked to is called the source.

Major search engines use many metrics to determine the value of external links, including the trustworthiness of the linking domain, the popularity of the linking page, the relevance of the content between the source page and the target page, and the anchor text used in the link.

There are two kinds of outbound links: nofollow and dofollow. Dofollow links pass on ranking power from your website to the target page, while nofollow links do not. In other words, nofollow links tell search engines not to follow links.

Why Should I Care About External Links?

It’s very important to note that external links have a greater impact on search engine rankings than internal links because they are valued by search engines as external votes of confidence or popularity in a web page. The volume and quality of external Links to a website is an important source of ranking power.

Sites with zero outbound links are dead ends, and they people typically don’t like dead ends. This can make your website appear to be unhelpful and inferior, which can negatively impact your rankings in search results.

Things to Consider to Ensure Quality External Links are Used

According to inbound marketing specialists at Moz, the following metrics should be considered with external links to ensure your website’s popularity puts it on consumers first search page:

  • The trustworthiness of the linking domain.
  • The popularity of the linking page.
  • The relevancy of the content between the source page and the target page.
  • The anchor text used in the link.
  • The number of links to the same page on the source page.
  • The number of root domains that link to the target page.
  • The number of variations that are used as anchor text to links to the target page.
  • The ownership relationship between the source and target domains.

You want to avoid linking to websites that appear “spammy”. If you link out to spammy sites, it will reflect negatively on your own website. The minute someone clicks on a link to a spam site, they will remember that you sent them there, and they will likely associate your website with the spam content. You can be penalized in Google and Bing for linking to such sites. Additionally, be careful with guest blogging as some types of guest blogging — particularly if you’re being paid or are paying for links on another website — can also lead to a negative hit in your overall rankings.

Remember the Old Mantra: Quality over Quantity

When you’re considering linking to external sources for your content, remember that quality links will trump the quantity of external links every time. Follow the best practices listed above and you should have fewer issues in appearing higher on the SEO scale. Link to reputable sources that are going to make your content more relevant, and use proper anchor text to point your visitors in the right direction.