Are you wondering how to get more SEO value from external links on your website? If so, you’re in the right place! Learn more about the external link factor and how it impacts your site.
External links are one of many factors Google looks at when determining how and when to rank your website. Simply put, external links are hyperlinks on your site that lead to another website. The primary goal of these types of links is to add context for your readers.
These "external connections," also known as backlinks, are evaluated for quantity, quality, and relevance in light of how they affect your page's ranking.
If someone wants to learn about a specific topic mentioned in your blog post, they can follow the hyperlink and learn more. Because search engines view external links as independent endorsements of a website, they have a bigger influence on search engine rankings than internal links.
Blog posts, landing pages, and product pages can all benefit from strategic link placement. For additional context, 72% of marketers say content marketing is the number one way they optimize for search engines,
The thing is, not all links are created equal. If you want to see the benefits of this strategy, there are several factors worth examining before adding an external link to your site.
Today, we will look at 5 important factors you should check before adding external links for SEO. I’ll also show you several of the top benefits that come with adding external links to your business website.
Let’s get started!
External link SEO factors to keep in mind
1. Domain authority
One of the first things you should check is the domain authority (DA) of the page you want to link to the site. DA is a system designed by Moz. The number shows the likeliness of a website appearing in the research results for specific words and phrases.
A high DA means that Google trusts the website and is more likely to see value in its content. For example, if there are two pages, one with a DA of 45 and one with a DA of 80, the second page will always win in the search results.
When you link to pages with a high DA, it can improve your reputation with Google because you’re directing your readers to valuable content. In turn, Google will see you as a reputable contributor and may decide to move your site through the search engine result pages (SERPs). You can use Moz’s free tool to check websites before linking to them on your blog.
Keep these numbers in mind when choosing external links if you want to improve your search position.
2. Publication date
Next, you should make sure the post you’re linking to was published recently or, at the very least, was updated in the last year. In the digital age, facts change fast. If you link to old or outdated information, you could get penalized by Google and your readers.
I try to avoid using resources that are over two years old unless Google holds them in high regard via the search results. If you find something older, look for an updated statistic or data point you can use in your post.
Google examines several factors when determining the relevance and accuracy of external links, and the publication date is one of these factors. If you include external links to resources from 2013, you will not see the same link impact that you would if you linked to similar statistics published in 2021.
3. Relevant anchor text
The anchor text you use to link external websites will significantly impact your SEO. There are a few reasons this is true.
First, your anchor text is a promise to readers on your website. People click on hyperlinks if they think the information on the other side will prove helpful and add value to their lives.
Let’s say you wanted to look up a salmon recipe for dinner. You find a page that talks about salmon and the various cooking styles. Suddenly, you see a hyperlink called “delicious salmon.” You click it, waiting to see what recipe is on the other side.
Once the page loads, you find that you were directed to a nature website that discusses the nature of salmon in the wild. This certainly wasn’t what you were looking for.
Odds are, you wouldn’t trust that initial website anymore and would look elsewhere for dinner plans. You never want to put your visitor in a similar situation. Ensure the content on the other side of your hyperlink fulfills its promise to readers.
The second reason you should choose relevant anchor text is Google tracks this text in relation to your article and the external page. The algorithm can make inferences on the intent of your site by reading linked pages.
If the pages you’re linking to don’t match the type of content on your site, Google may make incorrect assumptions about your business, which could affect your search position.
4. Nofollow vs. dofollow
Next, let’s talk about the difference between the HTML tags nofollow and dofollow. This system was introduced in 2005 and was initially designed to help web admins fight back against spammers.
People would visit website forums and post links to their website in hopes of passing some of the “link juice” to their site. The system allowed people to artificially increase their domain authority and, thus, their search rank.
The nofollow HTML tag allows you to include external links you don’t want to endorse. So, if you have 10 links on one blog post but only want to pass link juice to 4 of the 10, you would need to set 6 links to nofollow.
There are other instances where you may want to use nofollow links. Examples include user-generated content, like reviews, testimonials, and sponsored posts. Using nofollow tags at the right time can help you fine-tune your SEO strategy and build stronger external links.
By default, external links will be set to dofollow. Here’s how to change them to nofollow with WordPress:
Finally, it’s essential to balance internal and external links on each page. If you use too many of either link, Google may see your website as spammy. Consequently, you could see your SEO position shift down instead of move up.
I recommend choosing 4-5 internal and external links per 1500 words. You can use more or less that depends on your industry and how much data you plan on showing your audience. But for a general blog post, a low number of balanced links usually translates to consistent growth.
Why you should add external links
Now, let's explore why you should add external links to your website.
Add value to your reader's lives
The number one reason to add external links is you can add value to your readers' lives. People often trust businesses based on their willingness to help them before they ever pull out their wallets.
People will see your blog as a valuable resource for future research and shopping if you link to reputable, fact-based external links. For context, the average person reads 3-5 blog posts on a website before committing to a purchase. Many first-time readers will become customers if you offer helpful information.
If done correctly, you’ll start seeing comments like this on your content:
These interactions help build trust – more on that next – and can skyrocket engagement on your blog.
Build trust with new visitors
There is a good chance a few of your website visitors are on the fence about buying something from your website. External links to other reputable websites and brands can act as social proof and will help you build trust with your audience.
For example, you want to buy a new pair of basketball shoes online. You're on the brand product page and considering whether you want to spend your hard-earned money. At the top of the page, you will see a testimonial from one of your favorite basketball players with a link to their website. Suddenly, it doesn't seem like such a silly idea to buy a new pair of shoes.
If someone you respect bought the shoes and loves them, there's a good chance you will too. That's how social proof works, and it's an amazing marketing tool you can tap into when adding external links to your site.
I recommend looking at customer reviews and reaching out to industry experts or influencers who've used your product. These reviews can help you quickly build trust with a new audience. A high-profile testimonial on your product pages with an external link can help you generate more sales and improve organic traffic.
Unlock new partnership opportunities
When you want to add an external link to your site, the webmaster on the other end can see that you linked to their content. In some cases, this can lead to new partnership opportunities that otherwise might not have existed.
Let's say an email marketing SaaS wrote about hosting solutions and included external links to all of their websites. The owners of the hosting companies may decide to get in touch with the SaaS to see if they're interested in working together on more content.
These types of partnerships are not uncommon because they ultimately offer more value to the readers. Customers interested in a hosting solution will likely need email marketing software and vice versa. Depending on your industry and resources, there are countless opportunities to partner with other businesses.
Get more backlinks to your site
The last reason to use external links is you can get more backlinks to your website. Remember when I said people could see when you link to their site? Well, instead of reaching out to ask for a partnership, they may simply link to one of your blog posts the next time they write a piece of content.
Backlinks are vital to building a solid SEO strategy. I like to think of backlinks as a form of social currency. The more backlinks you have to your site, the more reputable you are to the community. Google sees it this way too. The developers have said that the number of backlinks a website gets correlates to its search position.
However, relevance and context are critical. Your business should have backlinks from brands discussing similar issues in the same generalized industry.
If you want to know how important backlinks are for your site, consider this; 91% of websites don't get organic traffic through Google. I believe this is partially due to over 60% of websites not having backlinks.
As you can see, there are plenty of factors you should check before adding external links to your website. Today, we looked at five key points that determine how these links ultimately affect your search engine marketing strategy.
We also looked at the benefits that come with using external links correctly. Use the tips offered today to develop a long-term link strategy, and you will start to see your site rise through the ranks for your keywords.
Build trust by sharing top-notch external links, and you will see a boost in organic traffic, engagement, and sales.
Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site. With over 10 years of experience, he’s the leading WordPress expert in the industry. You can learn more about Syed and his portfolio of companies by following him on his social media networks.