SEO Guide to Building Outbound Links

Written By Dale Hammington

Link building has revolutionized the SEO building efforts of digital marketers. While most bloggers and businesses focus on trying to get links back to their own work, building outbound links is equally as important if you want your website to rank well.

To be able to build outbound links to optimize your SEO, you need to approach the content creation process strategically. Here are some of the most important considerations for building high-quality outbound links that will improve your SEO and visibility.

What is an Outbound Link?

Before you can go forth with your link building efforts, you must first understand what an outbound link is in comparison to an inbound link. An inbound link is a link on a website that connects to your content. The more inbound links you have from high-quality websites, the better your SEO will be. This is why many link-building companies are flourishing right now, as content marketers want to ensure that their website is being linked from multiple respectable sources.

An outbound link is the opposite: it’s a link on your website that refers elsewhere. This is also known as an external link. Why does this matter? The internet is called the World Wide Web for a reason: everything links together to form a web rather than a direct, hierarchical line. When you link to another site, you are showing the Google bots that your content is related to the content you’ve linked to. It helps connect the dots and build recognition of your content by categorizing it accordingly and connecting to keywords that can help you reach your intended audience.

Yes, you do want your business website to be in cahoots with Forbes, and yes, you do want your digital marketing website to be connected to Neil Patel. Building outbound links to authoritative, trusted websites builds your own authority and authenticity with your audience.

Implementation of Outbound Links

When implementing outbound links, you will have some decisions to make about where you put them, what sites you link to, and whether or not you decide to share some of the page ranking pie. Here are some of the most important considerations when implementing outbound links:

Dofollow vs. Nofollow Links

When you inject an outbound link into your content, it defaults to a “dofollow” link. This means that when the Google bots (or spider) crawls over your website, it will be redirected to the reference website when considering rankings. This can be both good and bad, depending on the website used, your goals, your keyword optimization, and the content you’re linking to.

A “nofollow” link blocks the bots from redirecting and doesn’t give the linked site any authority. This is frustrating for other websites who are trying to use inbound links to improve their SEO. Which should you choose? Let’s dive into the complexity of the answer below.

Website Ranking and Quality

One of the things you need to consider is which website you’re linking to. If you’re linking to a major website that already has a significant following, you might want to keep a dofollow link in place as the relationship between your sites is positive. If you are linking to a low ranked site or something with questionable content, adding a nofollow link is best.

Keyword Optimization

Another consideration is the keyword you’ve optimized your content SEO for. If you add a dofollow link to another site that is optimized for the same keyword, they will benefit from the page ranking and you will not. If you’re talking about running advertisements on Instagram, for example, adding a dofollow link to Instagram will not help your SEO in any way, shape or form as they will always rank above you.

Do They Deserve a Dofollow?

Here’s where you get into the shady world of Internet ethics. Consider why you’re linking to a site. Did they provide you with valuable information which you’re citing in your content? If so, they’ve done work to improve your standings, and they deserve a dofollow link. Lots of CMS providers send notifications when a dofollow link is added. The owner of the content you’ve linked to may opt to share your work with their audience, boosting your reach.

Nofollow Ranking Implications

The Google bots are all about the human idea of fairness when ranking websites, so don’t get greedy and use only nofollow links or you will be downgraded. Think critically about where you’ll include nofollow and dofollow links, making adjustments according to your analytics.

Quality Over Quantity

There is no set number of optimal outbound links for content or a website. What seems to be more important to the Google bots when it comes to SEO is the quality of the links rather than the quantity. When assessing link quality, consider the following:

  • Is it a reputable site? Using a well-recognized website as a source for outbound links and information will help you rank higher than if you include a link just because you’re expected to.
  • Is the outbound link on an active site? Google loves to see fresh content on a regular basis and downgrades the SEO ranking of stale sites that haven’t been updated in some time.
  • Is it related? Does the topic you’re linking to directly relate to what your content is discussing? Will the keywords of that site line up with the content you are drafting?
  • Are they in direct competition? Imagine you find an informative article on a high-quality website that would be beneficial to your audience. However, the site sells something that is in direct competition with your products. Again, ethics come into play here, but linking to your competition is never a good idea in business.
  • Does the link fit naturally? If you’ve been approached about including a link to another site with a specific keyword, assess that it fits naturally with your content. A seemingly unrelated link or something that is worded strangely to reflect search engine typing can have a negative impact.

The key takeaway is not to build an external link for the sake of including an external link. Find something relevant and add a couple to your post if it fits.

Internal References or External Links?

A common question that is asked by newcomers to digital marketing is if it makes sense to have more links to your own content than external content. After all, why would you link to someone else’s page if you already have relevant content published?

This is another gray area when it comes to SEO and link building. You should have a few links to your own content. One of the main metrics on Google Analytics that plays into your SEO rankings is your bounce rate. The bounce rate is calculated based on whether or not people click past their landing page and explore more of your site or if they leave immediately after looking at one page.

Someone who glances at one recipe on your site before clicking back to the search results page will increase your bounce rate. Someone who sees an internal link for another recipe and clicks it will decrease your bounce rate. The lower the bounce rate– which is usually presented in the form of a percentage– the better.

That being said, outbound links are still essential to improve your overall ranking. So, make it a goal to add two relevant outbound links even when you have a lot of useful internal content to link to. Remember that outbound links can still be profitable, especially if you’re using an affiliate program.

Outbound Affiliate Links and SEO

For those who are unfamiliar with affiliate or referral marketing links, these special links attach a tracking number to a URL to track conversions and pay a commision to those who drive traffic through the link. This is in contrast to a natural link, which has no monetary tracking attached. Affiliate links are often used by bloggers and influencers who rave about a product or service and encourage their audience to purchase it. Rather than selling the product or service themselves, the content manager refers their audience to another business and receives a kickback.

Many wonder how affiliate links impact SEO when used as an outbound link. Long story short, it doesn’t really have an impact either way as most affiliate links are redirects. While they may boost conversions for a business and drive traffic, they don’t boost organic traffic from SEO.

That being said, it’s wise to include a nofollow link when adding an affiliate outbound link to your website. This prevents the risk of any penalties from Google if they don’t like the content you’re linking to and ensures that should the outbound link promote similar content, you’re not missing out on rankings. There isn’t a lot of insight from Google as to how a poorly executed affiliate link can impact one’s SEO, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Key Takeaways

When building outbound links, it’s always better to value quality over quantity and think critically about your goals when adding a link. Use an application that will give you guidance about website authority in outbound links and keyword optimization. Use a nofollow link when it makes sense to do so and share the value of dofollow links the majority of the time. By adding smart outbound links, you’ll see an increase in your rankings and SEO.

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