Developing a strategic link-building campaign is undeniably essential for optimized placement on search engine results, but what about outbound links? Should you incorporate outbound links into your blog posts?
Depending who you ask, you will get a wide range of recommendations and warnings about outbound links. Some people believe that outbound links are detrimental. After all, they take visitors off of your website, and those visitors may not return to continue perusing your website’s pages. In addition, there is general confusion about how outbound links impact SEO rankings and if they help potentially competing websites rank higher.
The reality is that there is a place for at least a few outbound links some posts, and a closer look reveals why.
Why Include Outbound Links in Your Blog
One of the most common reasons why outbound links are used in blog posts is to cite sources. This is particularly important if you are citing statistics or if you need to attribute a portion of your content to a specific source. To the reader, outbound links used in this manner add a layer of authenticity to your content that may otherwise be lacking.
If your content is a truly educational piece, your readers may want to research the topic at a deeper level than what your content covers. Pointing them toward quality content that expands on what they learned from your website benefits the reader and promotes goodwill. Not all readers want or need to dig deeper into a complex topic, but the information is there if they want to take their research to the next level.
Outbound links may not specifically be used to bolster search engine rankings, but they do help search engines to understand what your website is about. Relevance is a vital component to Google’s search engine rankings. Attributions that clarify the content of your website will only benefit your website’s rankings for relevant terms.
NoFollow vs DoFollow Links
Google can penalize a website if it determines that the website’s outbound links are excessive and unwarranted. For example, if a link is associated with a sponsorship or an affiliate ad, Google may view that link as irrelevant to the other content on the page. When Google believes that websites are involved in artificially trying to manipulate rankings, it can ding those sites in its rankings. In this case, non-editorial or non-attributional links may seem unnatural and may be suspected for backlink spamming.
How can you get around this?
If your website actually does use affiliate ads or other similar content, you can add the rel=”no follow” attribute to the link. This tells Google not to look at the link. Other options are rel=”sponsored” for ad links and rel=”ugc” for user-generated content. The latter attribute may be used when outbound links are added to user comments.
You may hear about “dofollow” links. There is actually not a rel=”do follow” attribute. Any outbound link that does not have one of the above-mentioned attributes is automatically considered to be a do-follow link by search engines.
A Final Word
Clearly, outbound links can and should be used to add authority and for other essential purposes. However, the quality of those links matter. If you are referencing a government agency’s stats, for example, link directly to the stats on that agency’s page rather than to a third-party site that is attributing to the government agency as well. Essentially, go straight to the source.
Inbound links are also vital to bloggers, and you can read about those here.