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External Links in SEO: Adding Authority to Content

When exploring the digital landscape, you’ve probably encountered the term external links in SEO or outbound links. But what does it mean, and why is it vital? Let’s break it down for those new to the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) world.

The current article is "2.18. External Links in SEO" of our Complete SEO Guide Box.
Previous Article: 2.17. SEO Internal Linking. Next Article: 2.19. Link Cloaking


Before understanding the main topic, read our Adding Links to a Website Guide, which explains link types and the anchor text.

External links are sometimes called outbound links. These are the links that point from your website to other domains. Think of them as doors leading from one site to another, inviting readers to explore further information elsewhere.

Building Trust and Credibility: By linking to authoritative and reputable sources, you bolster the credibility of your content. Readers are more likely to trust and value your content if they see that you’ve done your research and are referencing well-regarded sources.

Improving User Experience: External links can enrich your readers’ experience. By providing them with links to further reading, you’re offering additional value and showing them that you care about their journey for knowledge.

Boosting Your SEO Ranking: Contrary to the myth that external links may ‘leak’ SEO value, they can enhance your SEO. Google’s algorithm considers various factors when ranking pages, and one of them is the content’s quality and relevance. By linking to relevant, high-quality sources, you show search engines that posted content is valuable and well-researched. Search engines see your site as part of the broader web ecosystem rather than an isolated island. Of course, there is no point in linking to reputable sources if the link’s content doesn’t match the content you’re connecting from.

Relevance: Ensure the content you link to relates directly to your topic. This relevance aids readers and adds depth to your content.

Authority Links: Aim for reputable sites – think academic institutions (“,edu” TLDs), organizations (“.org”), government (“.gov”), and industry leaders are often good choices or established news portals. They lend authority to your content.

Prioritize Fresh Content: The digital world evolves rapidly. Always link to up-to-date information, especially on frequently changing subjects.

Avoid Overlinking: While external links in SEO are essential, overdoing them can overwhelm readers. Choose links that truly add value.

Check for Broken Links: Regularly check your links. Over time, some may break. A broken link hinders the user experience and could harm your SEO efforts.

The relevance of an external link in SEO, or how closely related one site’s content is to another, plays a pivotal role in its value. Consider the scenario where your website is focused on “printer cartridges.” This scenario is deemed relevant if you secure a link from another site discussing printers. Their shared topic, in this case, “printers,” makes the link meaningful.

To further illustrate, let’s delve into a practical example. Imagine you search for “flower types” on Google and navigate to the Wikipedia page discussing “flowers.” A quick scan reveals that the term “flowers” appears multiple times. If your website’s niche also centers around flowers and you receive a link from this Wikipedia page, that link carries high relevance. The prominence of shared keywords on both pages reinforces the link’s pertinence. Moreover, the actual text used in the hyperlink (known as the anchor text) should ideally be a keyword that aligns with the topic of both sites.

However, it’s essential to be knowledgeable. Avoid linking randomly or without context, especially to sites that don’t provide additional value to the reader. For instance, simply linking a company’s name without context or relevance, like linking the word “Apple” to Apple’s official website, won’t benefit your SEO and could confuse readers. Prioritize links that enhance understanding and enrich the user’s journey.

“Authority links” or “high-authority links” stand out prominently. Authority links are inbound or external links from websites recognized as trusted and influential sources within their industry or niche. This influence is typically gauged by metrics such as Domain Authority or Page Authority, tools developed by SEO companies to predict site ranking on SERPS (search engine result pages).

For instance, websites like BBC, Wikipedia, or Harvard University are often considered high-authority because they are established, respected, and provide accurate, well-researched information. Incorporating authority links, especially external links in SEO, shows search engines that the content is backed by reliable sources, thus enhancing your content’s trustworthiness and credibility.

With external links in SEO, the quality of your associations matters immensely. It’s crucial to be vigilant about where your links come from and where they lead. Engaging with spammy or low-quality websites can damage your site’s credibility and potentially hurt your search engine rankings.

Search engines, like Google, are adept at identifying and penalizing sites that maintain associations with questionable or harmful domains. Just as a bad neighborhood can affect the reputation of its residents, a spammy link can taint the perception of your website.

It’s always wise to ensure that your inbound and external links are with reputable, high-quality sites to maintain the integrity and trustworthiness of your domain.

On the surface, link exchange might seem like a mutual benefit where two sites link, promising traffic reciprocity. However, this practice comes with significant risks.

While you might be flooded with emails from various site owners offering to link to your site in return for a link on yours, caution is advised. Google and other search engines have grown aware of such arrangements, viewing them as attempts to boost site authority artificially. As a result, the value of these exchanged links can diminish drastically, potentially jeopardizing the SEO health of your entire domain.

An even riskier variant is the “3 Way Link Exchange”, where 1st site links to 2nd site, 2nd site links to 3rd site, and 3rd site links back to the 1st site. This more puzzling attempt at disguising link reciprocity is not lost on search engines; Google is known to impose even stricter penalties for such schemes.

The best link practice remains one-way, where sites naturally link to valuable content without expecting a link in return. It’s essential to know where and how you place links, prioritizing the quality and relevance of the connection over quantity.

Google Tips

Follow Google Tips About External Links on Google Docs.


External links in SEO aren’t just technical jargon – they’re crucial tools to elevate your website’s trustworthiness, user experience, and search engine ranking. As you venture into the digital realm, understanding and effectively implementing these links can set your site up for success.

The current article is "2.18. External Links in SEO" of our Complete SEO Guide Box.
Previous Article: 2.17. SEO Internal Linking. Next Article: 2.19. Link Cloaking


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