While most SEO strategists rely on internal linking to improve the search engine ranking for their websites, external links and outbound links should also be integral to your efforts. They also help drive traffic to your site and improve its authority. Even with the constant evolution of search engine algorithms, linking remains an essential factor in designating your site as a quality resource.
While the terms are often used interchangeably, there are some critical distinctions between external links and outbound links SEO. Understanding the difference between the two allows you to come up with more effective SEO tactics.
What are External Links?
External links, or backlinks, are hyperlinks that, once clicked, directs users from one page to a different target page. More specifically, other sites that are linking back to yours as a resource.
Getting other pages to create external links SEO back to your page helps it move up higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) presented to users when they enter different search terms. Some of the metrics many search engines use in evaluating the quality of external links include:
- The trustworthiness of the domain providing the link
- The popularity of the domain providing the link
- The number of variations used in the anchor text used to link back to a page
- The accuracy of the anchor text used
- How relevant the external link is to the source providing the link
Is an External Link Good for SEO?
Every SEO strategist should work toward having their site perceived as an authority relative to their market. A home improvement business wants to secure backlinks from blogs and sites relevant to that industry. The more you can get other sites to notice and recognize your site as an expert source, the better your site will rank when users enter search terms related to your business.
Keep in mind that quality always outweighs quantity. Getting a lot of out-of-context backlinks isn’t going to help your business. In fact, you might end up getting penalized by many search engines for getting too many external links from untrustworthy sources. They also come down heavily on sites they perceive to be buying backlinks, an old black hat SEO strategy.
SEO external links from other sites represent a vote of confidence in your site's relevancy related to topics of interest to visitors. Think of it as getting a referral from a business contact. The reputation of the individual making the recommendation plays a big factor in whether someone ultimately follows through with reaching out. The same philosophy applies when you get backlinks from well-respected websites.
What are Outbound Links?
You might be wondering, "what is an outbound link?" At first glance, an outbound link doesn’t seem much different from external links. An outbound hyperlink uses the same anchor tag format as an external hyperlink to direct you to a site. The difference is that outbound links are those housed within your webpage. You’re linking to sources you deem reputable and worthy of your visitor’s attention related to a topic of interest. It may help to think of them as authority links used to back up the sourcing of information found on your site.
The quality of an outbound link used in your content helps visitors feel more comfortable that they’re reading accurate information. You often see outbound links included in blogs and articles to back up the veracity of the information you’re reading.
Are Outbound Links Good for SEO?
It's important to remember that inbound and outbound links are important for SEO. Just like with SEO external links, quality matters over anything else. If you’re citing statistics to back up claims about a specific topic, the accuracy of the source of your external link matters greatly. It should confirm everything you’ve written and not make visitors feel deceived.
The more you consistently provide a quality outbound link from your content, the more search engines view you as an authoritative source. Outbound links provide search engines with context for your content and provide readers with additional resources on specific topics.
Outbound links do not distract or take away from your page. They add more weight and value to your content while strengthening the signals around your topic. That boosts your search engine rankings when users look for information on topics that tie back to your content.
Backing up your content with outbound links builds reader’s trust. They know that you’re providing them with the most accurate information possible. That helps you become a source they turn to when they need material or other evidence on certain subjects.
Finally, outbound links showcase your expertise in the field by showing you how to find proper sourcing on different topics. While the overall impact of using outbound links continues to be a topic of debate, they can have a positive effect when used properly.
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