Why Outbound Links Matter for SEO

When you think about using links for SEO, two things probably come to mind. The first is traditional link building, or the process of earning links from other websites in an effort to boost your site’s rankings and visibility. The second is internal links, or links to other pages on your site that can help users and search engines more easily navigate through your content. There’s a third way to think about links, though, and unfortunately, it’s something that’s often forgotten or shrugged off because of misconceptions that it harms SEO.

Outbound links, or links from your site to other sites on the web, can actually help boost your site’s optimization. For many years, outbound links were thought to dilute the ranking potential of the linking site because they pass valuable authority to other sites, but the reality is just the opposite.

As you’re building content for your site, here are a few reasons to consider adding outbound links and a few tips to ensure you’re following best practices for SEO:

Why Outbound Links Are Important

So, outbound links matter, but why?

  • They build authority. Quality outbound links make your site a reputable resource in the eyes of your users and the search engines. They point your audience to additional content that shows you have done your research and validates your argument. When you link out to other sites, you also point your audience to additional resources they can use to expand their knowledge of a given topic, and you provide them with a more rewarding experience on your site.
  • They build relationships. When you link out to another site, you’re much more likely to earn the attention of the people behind those sites. It’s a quick, simple form of outreach, and it can eventually lead to inbound links to your site.
  • They can boost your visibility. A recent study from Reboot Online shows a positive correlation between outbound links and higher Google rankings. Linking out to other authoritative sites can send additional quality signals to the search engines, which can, in turn, boost your site’s rankings and traffic.

Tips for Linking Out

Keep the following tips in mind when you’re linking out in your content:

  • Quality. It’s a known fact that search engines use a variety of factors to determine a site’s quality, and we know they review inbound links for spam. I often talk to clients about link neighborhoods and explain that it’s important to think about the company you keep when it comes to links. You should pay attention to this when you’re linking out, as well. Don’t send your visitors to sites loaded with ads and junk or tons of irrelevant content. Make sure they’re authoritative and useful and, above all, be sure you’re happy to have your site associated with them.
  • Number. There’s no set guideline here other than not to worry about hitting a certain number of outbound links. You’re not going to get some magic SEO boost by linking out X number of times. Always let the content and user experience guide your outbound linking strategy. If it’s going to be helpful to supply some additional information, do it. If it’s superfluous, don’t.
  • Anchor Text. If you’re unfamiliar with anchor text, it’s the clickable text that displays as a link on a webpage. When I’m targeting keywords in my content, I don’t typically make an effort to include them in my anchor text. That’s because when you do this too much, the search engines perceive it as manipulative or spammy. Insert the links where they make sense and flow naturally in the sentence, and you’ll be just fine.

Don’t Be Afraid!

If you don’t include outbound links in your content, I hope this post has changed your mind. They’re a quick, easy way to make your site more useful and informative, and it’s my opinion that the benefits far outweigh any potential risks. Don’t be afraid to link out!