Adding relevant external links to your content can be more than just a good measure for readers.
External links are attributed to increased content authority and higher search engine rankings.
If you’re using the content for link building purposes, then outbound links become even more important.
Surrounding your backlink with relevant authority links has staggeringly positive effects on search engine rankings. Many case studies have illustrated this and it has been further reinforced by publications from Moz, SEJ, SML, and others.
Google’s decision to leverage external links as a prominent rank factor isn’t surprising. Linking a reader to outbound sources shows confidence in your content and trust that the user will return. It also gives the reader access to new, insightful content with relevance and value.
After all, a significant portion of Google’s algorithm is based on backlinks. Rewarding sites for participating and sharing the love makes perfect sense.
Here’s a quick reference to help you estimate acceptable numbers of external links in your content. It’s about 1 external link for every 100 words of content.
While these are rough estimates and you could certainly use more/less external links in your content, these are averages based on the many case studies that have demonstrated strong results with these numbers.
If you also have internal links in your content, you might want to consider a slightly lower number of outbound links than represented above. Too many links on the page can distract from the content.
What’s most important to take from this is that outbound links aren’t to be removed or avoided in your content, they should be embraced.
Here’s some of the reasons why outbound links are so powerful…
Links to trusted authority sites help verify your authenticity
When you link-out to a trusted authority site, search engines see this as a sign of authenticity. You’re less likely to be a “bad player” or untrustworthy source if you’re linking to known authoritative sites.
Websites with low-quality content simply don’t link-out very often. They rarely have authority outbound links and generally have no outbound links at all.
Low-quality content involves little to no research, it doesn’t include citations, and it will never provide credit where credit is due. Search engines recognize this and have built a rank factor in their algorithm that detects these bad players – the valuation of external links.
By simply linking out to relevant authority sites, you verify your authenticity and show that you can be trusted on the internet. You’re willing to support other sites for the greater good and that can be an indication that you’re worth Google’s trust as a search engine listing.
There’s no reason to be scared of external links
We all know that backlinks increase your search engine rankings. However, that doesn’t mean by including external links in your content the authority will be drained from your site and passed to the sites you link to. This was once partially true with Google’s old page ranking metric – PageRank, but it appears to be quite the opposite today.
External links will never harm your reputation or damage your search engine rankings. That is unless you’re linking to malware or other blacklisted websites. They also won’t cost you Domain Authority or Page Authority. External links are completely safe and by linking out to authority sites, you will likely increase your search engine rankings and boost your own authority. As long as you know the page you’re linking to provides good content that’s helpful to your audience, there’s no reason not to drop the link.
Concerns over external links have existed since the beginning of SEO. However, they are mostly unfounded and have been proven untrue by countless case studies. External links carry positive correlations with rankings and trust – not negative.
Links send trackable traffic
You can use links to let other sites know that you exist. It’s the old – I scratch your back, you scratch mine.
When you link-out to reputable sources, any traffic those links send is trackable. Should the receiving site check their Analytics, your domain will show as the referrer.
No matter how you look at it, this is a good thing. More and more sites will begin to notice you. The more you use external links in your content, the more recognition you receive.
This also incentivizes other sites to link back to you. If you’re willing to suggest one of their resources to your readers, they are probably willing to suggest one of your resources to their own readers.
Participating in the web’s natural linking environment contributes to making the web a better place. It encourages the sharing is caring philosophy that’s so important to search engine optimization.
Your content becomes increasingly valuable with links
Nobody has the answer to everything and no one site can produce the best content on every given subject. External links add value to your content by showing that you understand there are other resources out there that benefit your readers. Search engines admire this and reward it.
Leverage the internet, that’s what it’s there for. If another site has published something worth linking to, by all means, link to it! This is what makes the web as powerful as it is. Links are the bread and butter of everything we do online. It’s what enables information to be spread so quickly.
When you add great links to your content, you’re providing a more valuable experience to your readers. Integrating your brand with existing sites that are doing things right with their own content, is a healthy approach to producing something of meaning.
Link to resources and websites your users will love. By following this advice, you can never go wrong. Your external links will always offer something useful to your audience.
Search engines likely reward external links algorithmically
This has been implied throughout the article but in case you weren’t following, search engines are likely to algorithmically reward your website for its external links.
There’s no way to 100% know that Google has hard-coded an outbound link incentive into their algorithm but based on every case study we’ve found, it’s pretty likely.
One way we know this is because huge numbers of low-quality outbound links will hurt a page. It’s a key indicator of spam. When you link-out to bad players, you can’t be trusted.
Great sites link to other great sites. Bad sites link to other webspam and junk.
There are lots of good reasons for external links that aren’t listed here. Feel free to share some of your own thoughts for an open discussion.
I think it’s important that more businesses recognize the benefits of external links. Some websites avoid them altogether, going as far as removing them from their content. This is a practice that must come to an end.
At the very most, nofollow tagging an outbound link is a possibility. However, it should be used as a last resort for times when the external site is untrusted. Nofollow tags represent sheer distrust in the page you’re linking to. It tells search engines that you don’t vouch for the site’s content or want the link acknowledged. This defeats the purpose of providing the link, as your outbound links should be sites that you have verified and found to be credible.
Since external links can be used to increase authority and search engine rankings, there’s little reason not to contribute to the web and use them as a way to add value to your content.