Outbound Linking

Outbound Links for SEO: How Do Outbound Links Affect SEO?

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    If you are an SEO or know something about SEO, you must have definitely heard about internal links and how important they are in the overall SEO strategy of a website. But did you notice that very few people talk about outbound links or external links and their place in the SEO strategy?

    There is a mixed assumption about outbound links whether they are important or not. It is high time we pay equal attention to outbound links in our link-building strategies. In this article, you will learn all about outbound links and why they matter to SEO.

    What are Outbound Links?

    Outbound links are the links to external sites originating from your website. Outbound links are also called ‘External Links’. They direct users and crawlers from your site to another website.

    Outbound links are added to add more relevance and context and direct user to another source for further reading. These links may be to the original source of a study, facts or statistics. Referring the user to another credible information source is a recommended practice.

    Outbound Link Example: How does an Outbound Link look like?

    An outbound link looks like any other hyperlink. The only difference is that it links from the current web page to another web page on a different website. But it is interesting to see what an outbound link looks like in the backend. 

    For example: I am in love with cheesecakes.

    If I have linked the term ‘cheesecakes’ to another website, in the backend, it will look like this:

    <p>I am in love with <a href=”https://somewebsiteaboutcakes.com/cheesecakes”>cheesecakes</a>.</p>

    Interesting right? To understand this, you need to know about HTML.

    How to add outbound links in WordPress?

    Here is the step-by-step process on how to add an outbound link in WordPress.

    1. Open the backend of the post or page you want to edit. You can do this in the front end too using some of the website builders, but the process is essentially the same.
    2. For example, if I want to add an outbound link to the word ‘cheesecakes’ in the sentence: To know more about cheesecakes, stay tuned to my blog. 

    See the image below:

    1. Select the word ‘cheesecakes’ and click on the link icon as shown in the image below. You can also use the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD+K

    2. Add your URL in the dialog box that appears and hit enter. See the image below:
    1. That’s it! You have now created an outbound link to https://example.com from your blog post through the anchor text cheesecakes.

    Why do outbound links matter?

    You are currently reading this blog post about outbound links and how they affect SEO. This blog is more of an informative blog where you learn the basics and concepts of outbound links. But learning just the theory isn’t much help.

    To answer questions like if outbound links really affect SEO, you need to have some case studies and stats from experiments done by people. Those facts help solidify the claims of the theory. And this makes the theory a fact which can be used and passed on with confidence.

    But hey, I do not have a case study of my own. Neither I have run any experiments to prove the effect of outbound links on SEO. So what do I do? I link out to credible websites which have run experiments and have solid data to back their claims. This outbound linking helps the readers to dive deep further into the topic and develop a holistic knowledge base. You will see me doing the same in the next section

    So you see, outbound links matter as they help the user. And the number one commandment of Google is to make the content best for the user.

    Do outbound links help SEO? 

    Ah, the most important question. If you have read about Google’s Pagerank Algorithm, you know that linking out to another website passes on link equity to it. This dilutes the strength of the page and affects ranking. And the story goes on.

    So essentially, these facts must be enough to scare someone off from adding outbound links to their website. So the question is, do outbound links really help SEO? Let’s find out.

    There is an amazing study done by Reboot, a digital marketing agency, which claims that outbound or external links are a good SEO practice and help you to rank better. Read the study here. ( Note: I have placed an outbound link to https://www.rebootonline.com/blog/long-term-outgoing-link-experiment/ on the whole sentence. This is to show you a practical example of outbound links. Hope you understand better.)

    Here is a video from John Mueller (Search Advocate at Google) about outbound links:

    John Mueller says:

    Well linking to other websites is a great way to provide value to your users. Often times 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.

    I would watch out for a few types of links though. In particular, if you’re linking out to a site because of an arrangement like you linked to me and I’ll link to you. Or because it’s an advertisement or if it’s being done in your site’s comments and you’re not really sure how good those links are.

    Here is a tweet from Danny Sullivan (Public Liaison for Search at Google):

    So, we can safely conclude that outbound links do help SEO. If you ever come across a different fact based on data, do reach out to us.

    How many outbound links per page should you use?

    There is no magic number of outbound links to be used on a page. The best way is to use your common sense and try to provide the best information to the user. When you look with this mindset to help the readers, you will automatically know where and how many outbound links should be used.

    As a general rule, try not to put in too many outbound links to overwhelm the user. As a common practice, use at least one or two outbound links per page.

    Should all outbound links be nofollow?

    If you come across a shady or inexperienced SEO, you are more likely to get this advice. They might tell you to set the nofollow attribute to all your outbound links in order to protect your link equity. This is the worst advice you can ever get and implement.

    There is a whole section in this blog about qualifying your outbound links and when should you mark an outbound link as nofollow. Keep reading.

    Have you heard about CheiRank?

    You must be aware of PageRank. But what is this CheiRank and how does it relate to outbound links?

    PageRank uses the number and quality of links to your website to determine the importance of your page and rank it accordingly.

    Similarly, CheiRank uses the number of outbound links to determine the importance and quality of a page. We cannot go deeper into the concept of CheiRank and how it works as it is a complicated topic to be covered separately. 

    But if you are interested, you can read more about it by following these links: (see how I put two outbound links again for the user to a more credible resource for extra study on the topic.)

    Best Practices for Outbound Linking

    1. Outbound links should be relevant: Make sure that your outbound links are relevant to the user. This means, do not link just for the sake of linking. Link to a source where the user can find more information on the topic or can go for further reading.
    2. Link to reputable sources: When you link out to a website, it is highly recommended to choose a website that has high authority on that topic and has a good reputation. This enhances your credibility as a referrer.
    3. Avoid spammy sites: Before linking out to any site, make sure it has a reputation and can be trusted. Avoid linking to spammy sites or sites that provide wrong information.
    4. Don’t participate in Link Schemes: Make sure you do not link out to a website out of any arrangement. Google is very smart at figuring out link schemes and such link exchange arrangements where both the websites agree to link to each other.
    5. Avoid linking to your competitors: It is a common-sense not to link and direct your audience to your competitor’s website.
    6. Open outbound links in a new tab: It is a  good practice that your outbound links open in a new tab when a user clicks on them. By doing this, the user who does not leave your website can just come back by clicking on the tab.

    How to qualify your outbound links to Googlebot?

    It is important that you clearly convey the relationship of an outbound link with your website to Google. This is done by using an attribute called rel in your <a> tag.

    These rel attributes are not used for a general outbound link in your content. However, there are special cases, where Google recommends using them. Here are use cases of rel attributes in a <a> tag:

    1. rel=”sponsored”: If you are linking out to a page that is an advertisement or a paid link, then rel=”sponsored” should be used. This tells Google that the website is linking to sponsored/paid content. Here is an example of how to use rel=”sponsored”:

      <p>I am in love with <a rel=”sponsored” href=”https://example.com/cheesecakes”>cheesecakes</a>.</p>

    1. rel=”ugc”: If you have a comment section on your post or page, or you run a forum where people can post their comments, such content is called User Generated Content (UGC). Google recommends adding rel:”ugc” to the links in such comments or user-generated content. Here is an example of how to use rel=”ugc”:

      <p>I am in love with <a rel=”ugc” href=”https://example.com/cheesecakes”>cheesecakes</a>.</p>

    1. rel=”nofollow”: When you want Google to not follow the outbound link and crawl the page linked from your site, use rel=”nofollow”. Here is an example of how to use rel=”nofollow”:

      <p>I am in love with <a rel=”nofollow” href=”https://example.com/cheesecakes”>cheesecakes</a>.</p>

    Outbound links are great and you should definitely use them to improve your SEO. If you keep in mind the best practices for outbound links and follow Google’s recommendations on qualifying your outbound links, you need not worry at all. Now go out there and link to some great resources. Happy Linking!

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    Ankit Chauhan is an SEO Consultant and Researcher. Having more than 5 years of extensive experience in SEO, Ankit loves to share his SEO expertise with the community through his blog. Ankit Chauhan is a big-time SEO nerd with an obsession for search engines and how they work. Ankit loves to read Google patents about search engines and conduct SEO experiments in his free time.