What are External Links?
External links (also known as outbound links) are links from your site to other websites, and they are almost as important to a high organic search ranking as inbound links. Many website owners are completely focused on backlinks that outbound linking remains largely ignored and generally misunderstood.
Without external links to authoritative sources that are relevant and useful to your website’s topics, your content will not be well regarded by the search engines. Google wants to see that you are delivering a great user experience by citing relevant and helpful references in your content.
When you link out to top resources, this increases your credibility and demonstrates your expertise. Your site will also be viewed by isitors as a valuable and excellent source of top-notch information, and your visitors will return again and again because they’ll know that they can trust the information they get from your site.
The Concern About External Linking
Webmasters worry about losing traffic and customer sales if they link out to relevant sites. Others worry about “leaking PageRank” — what (supposedly) happens when you link out to other sites.
These may be valid concerns, but failing to link out to relevant sites could actually harm your search engine rankings, especially with Google focused on ranking sites that consistently deliver excellent user experience. Your link building strategy will only be effective when balanced with appropriate external linking to authoritative and relevant expert sites that actually helps its visitors.
According to SEO Chat, the best plan of action is to have a balanced mix of inbound and outbound links. Your site visitors will naturally expect to see a few links leading to other relevant and authoritative sources to continue learning about the subject-matter or help them solve their problems.
These external links count towards your organic search engine ranking because it’s only natural that an authority site would be connected with other related sites in its industry. Being a competent reference source is important for SEO.
Outbound Links Guidelines
Keep your links relevant.
Your external links have to be useful and relevant to your website’s categories and topics. Having a bunch of completely irrelevant links on your site will only damage your trust and credibility.
For example, if your website is geared towards employment, your readers will expect to see links to relevant and highly authoritative career-related sites and resources. Links to a fashion blog will only look unnatural and spammy.
This does not mean that you should not link to web pages that are not in your niche or industry. However, if you do, there should be a clear and logical reason why you are sending your visitors in that direction. For example, if you have a career-related blog, you can highlight the importance of a good credit score to employment and refer readers to an industry-leading finance blog that offers advise on how to improve their credit score.
Avoid linking to direct competitors. Choose established sites such as Wikipedia pages, PDFs, high ranking, leading subject-matter experts and government authorities as long as they are relevant to your subject-matter. Often, subject-matter experts are educational resources and other relevant and related sources that effectively complement your site.
Link out to other experts.
When linking out to experts in your niche, be sure to pick non-competitive sites that you consider to be relevant to your own site and are experts in the subject-matter you are discussing.
No matter how knowledgeable you are about a particular subject-matter, you cannot thoroughly exhaust a particular topic. Your readers will be expecting to see links to sites that are relevant to the subject-matter you’re currently discussing so they can validate your points and get additional information.
If your visitors are also able to derive real value from the outbound links on your site, this will help increase the credibility and association of your own site. Furthermore, this will increase your standing in the search engines and make you appear more credible and trustworthy to your users, because they will keep returning to your site time and time again.
Monitor links and update broken ones.
A broken link is sometimes worse than not having a link at all. When you link to a page, it is always important to check back on the links periodically because things could change —companies could go out of business, web sites get updated or even leave the web altogether.
If a search engine crawler follows a backlinks on your page and finds that it is a broken link and that broken link is there for a long time, it would appear that you’re not maintaining your site properly. This could cost you a top search ranking, because Google considers poorly maintained sites as low quality site. Make a habit of checking your outbound links once every few months or any time you see an unexpected drop in rankings.