It’s well-established that when a reputable website posts a link to content on your website it helps improve its reputation and can lead to better rankings on search engine result pages. Getting a high-authority site like Harvard.edu or Yahoo News to link to your content is a big deal, but it’s also important for your site to return the favor. It’s common for a professional SEO writer to view the practice as a double-edged sword and consequently avoid including outgoing links to another website. There’s a common concern that linking to other sites will boost a competing site’s reputation and thus lower your site’s position in search rankings. While it is true that if your site has a well-established reputation you will give the linked site a boost in SEO, the link also boosts your content’s relevance within search results. Linking to other sites provides mutual benefits and can help your content do better when diligently implemented.
It’s All About Relevance
Just because linking to other sites can help your site’s SEO, it doesn’t make linking to as much content as possible a good idea. There’s a vital difference between a good link and a bad link: relevance. Having bad links can actual backfire and hurt your content’s SEO performance. When a search engine’s crawler examines your content it’s trying to establish its quality relative to similar works and its relevance to a given search. A good link is one that forwards on to other content that is closely related or supplementary to the content present in the blog or article.
For example, a professional SEO writer might be working with a blog on the iPad Pro and what it means to people in the web design industry. Good links to include here include reviews for the device on reputable sites like ZDnet, Cnet, Engadget, Mashable, and TechCrunch as well as a link to Apple’s iPad Pro site. This case would work as an example for linking to other blogs that have opinions on what the device means to the industry because it’s likely someone in the web design industry is going to want more than one opinion on the iPad Pro. Bad links include unrelated content, loosely related content, content from websites with very poor reputations, and spam sites. For example, you wouldn’t want to link to spammy sites claiming to give away heavily discounted iPads nor would you want to link to articles about an iOS security breach. The former has a low reputation aspect and the later will shift the page’s relevance away from the iPad Pro towards general iOS issues.
Links with Scrutiny
Choose your links wisely: one page full of irrelevant links while the majority of pages don’t have any links isn’t going to make a difference. Add links only when it makes sense; it’s okay to have some articles and blogs without links. When determining if you should include a link, as yourself if that link benefits the reader, if it strongly relates to the content theme you’re trying to push, and is the site you’re linking to respectable. Outbound links should also be formed in a natural way that fits with the flow of the content. For example, “click here” and a highlighted version of the link itself aren’t well implemented. Instead, you’re better off linking text that describes the content at the link. Don’t spread yourself too thin with links either: two well formed links are better than a dozen poorly implemented ones. Using too many loosely related links can get your content flagged as a link farm which will count against your site in SEO.
Well-implemented outbound links are an SEO-building strategy that is completely within your control. However, the concerns with helping your competition are not unfounded. You’ll want to be careful in instances where you’re selling a product or handling breaking news coverage because you don’t want to unnecessarily give your direct competition a boost when you have nothing to gain from it. If you’re having trouble finding sites related to yours to link to, try using Google’s “related” operator on your site’s domain as well as similar sites you know about to find good link candidates. You use the related operator by searching “related:mysiteurlhere.com.” Improving the way you utilize outbound links on your site will produce a higher-quality product which is the tried and honest way to succeed in SEO.
Dan S is a former news journalist turned web developer and freelance writer. He has a penchant for all things tech and believes the person using the machine is the most important element.