Outbound Links: hacks for ease and speed for the solopreneur content-marketer
Are you a content-marketer wanting backlinks from others to raise Google rankings? I bet you are!
Are you a content-marketer who links out to quite a few others in your posts? I bet you do, if the links are relevant to your article.
But did you know that many solopreneur content-marketers balk at doing this? They think they are passing away something very precious, that they’ve earned at great cost. LINK JUICE!
Nothing can be farther than the truth. Outbound links count among the powerful Content SEO Factors. Reputed research has proven this with conviction.
So drop these fears of linking out:
- “Customers will click out of my site and never come back.”
- “Google will penalize me if I accidentally link to bad neighborhoods.”
- “I will lose my ranking if I link to sites with lower rank than my site.”
- “People won’t link back to me, so it’s no use linking to them.”
Besides SEO benefits, you can use outgoing links for outreach purposes as well. You can email those you’ve linked to let them know you’ve done so.
A site that receives your outgoing link will take note of you. If they like what they see, they may even share your article on their social media channels. Or even better, they may link back.
So learn the correct ways to do outbound linking, and see how you can only gain!
What are outbound links?
Outbound links are hyperlinks you create from your blog posts to other external sites. They are not links within your site from one blog post to another. They are links to entirely different sites from yours. They direct away from your website. If someone clicks on the link, they get to another page on another site.
When do you create outbound links? Here are some situations where you may like to do this:
- You want to provide a reference for some facts or research you have provided in your article. You can create an outbound link to the original research or reference. This will add more value and credibility to your own content.
- You may want to use images, videos or infographics from another site on your page. You should give due credit to the original creators. This is good practice. You may like to create outbound links to their appropriate pages.
- You may like to include a passage or quote from another article by another author. In such a case, you may give a link to the original article from the author, from where you sourced your quote.
- You may have mentioned a new concept in your article which people may want to understand better. For example, you may have written about, say “artificial intelligence”. This is a term that’s still new to a lot of people in the online world. You may want to outlink the term to a site like Wikipedia. The idea is to allow people to get an idea of what the term means.
- You may have named a person in your article as an expert. You may like to give an outbound link to their Twitter page, so your readers can contact them if they like.
There are many such instances where outbound links can work. But the main aim should be to give your reader more value out of your article. Also, this extra value must be relevant to the topic of your article.
Do outbound links matter for SEO?
Outbound links most definitely matter for SEO. But not in the direct way as most of us believe. It’s not like you add some outbound links in your article, and it rises in Google rankings.
Outlinking works for SEO in a more generic and roundabout sort of way. Your outbound links helps other site owners. They in turn link to others … and so on.
Now Google indexes all sites online by following links from one web page or site to another. So links are how Google discovers and indexes sites, giving us all access to the wealth of sites online.
Outbound links are the way all sites online help all other sites succeed … and thereby also succeeds itself by being part of the network we call the Web.
Apart from this, there is an excellent study by Reboot Online. This study confirms that outbound links do have a positive impact on SEO if used correctly. You may like to see what the research says … which is why I have created an outbound link here to the Reboot Online research site.
The key types of outbound links
There are two types of outbound links … nofollow and dofollow (which actually means follow).
Links that you create on your blog posts are by default dofollow links. To create nofollow links, you have to change your site settings.
When search engines see dofollow links, they see that they have to follow these links to see where they lead. As search engine spiders move through links from site to site they assign “ranking power”. This ranking power is also called “link juice” by SEO experts.
This “ranking power” depends on who is linking to whom. If a high ranking site links to a low ranking site, it passes on some of its rank authority to the linked-to site. A dofollow link is also like a vote of confidence from the linking site to the linked-to site.
You can spot nofollow links by looking at the source code of a webpage. You will usually find a piece of code demarcating a rel=“nofollow” tag. This code tells search engines not to follow them.
What this implies is that these links do not pass on link juice to the target website. When search engine spiders encounter a nofollow link, it means they have to stop in their tracks. They cannot proceed their search to discover the linked-to page.
Nofollow links are very important in several instances. For example, you may not want blog commenters to put links in their comments. These links may allow them to get some precious link juice. If links from your site lead out to the blog commenters weak sites, it may erode your hard-won credibility.
You should also make nofollow links to affiliates’ sites or others’ product pages. Links to such sites have revenue generation potential. Google mandates that such links should be nofollow. It’s not worth antagonizing Google.
The positive effect of outbound links
Positive outlinking can do a lot of good for your site. Your reasons for outbound link creation have to be about “offering readers more value”. Be the source of great information. It’s as good as offering that information yourself.
Help readers get valuable information that your site can’t include
Remember people have low attention spans, so if your blog article is too long by itself, it can tax the reader. Also you shouldn’t meander into all related branches of your topic. Giving the reader some extra links for related reading later is a great idea. It is genuine value addition.
Be the signpost for readers of authoritative sites in your niche
Never fear that if you create outbound links you will lose readers to those sites. There’s way too much information overload on the Net. So people are always grateful to a site that helps them separate the wheat from the chaff. Let them rely on you to show the best sites for extra knowledge.
Offer outbound links to sites that explain your points further
Have you noticed how people like to include the quotes of great people when they make a point? They use these to add weight to their own arguments. They cite people greater than themselves to engender greater trust and belief. They add force to the validity of their points of view. Outbound links do the same thing for your site and brand. They add weight to your words.
Link to statistics or research that adds scientific proof
This is an age of data-driven content. When you tell people something new, they like proof that it works. They may want more than social validation. They may need some scientific proof. This is especially true when they have to invest money on the basis of the recommendations you make. So, outbound links to serious research and statistics is a very strong idea.
The negative effect of outbound links
Outbound linking can backfire if you don’t follow some basic rules. Make sure you steer clear of these negative activities:
Don’t link to any spammy site … when in doubt leave out
Linking to non-relevant, spammy websites can erase all your goodwill built with Google. It’s comparable to “being in bad company” in real life. Who you associate with has an impact on how people and search engines perceive and respect you.
In general, don’t link to sites lower than you in Moz DA rankings
This is not a sacrosanct rule and you can break it with due care. You can link to sites below your DA if, say, they are new sites of well-known and respected influencers. But, in general, you’ll give Google good signals if you link to those above you in rank. Google may see this as your “intention to give readers quality information”.
Steer clear of unrelated sites, even if they are high ranking
There is huge interest among content-marketers to cite and link out to .edu or .org sites. This is because educational institutions, apex bodies or research sites sound “authoritative”. Most often, blogs do this outlinking in the hope of getting backlinks from them. But whatever the rank of such “authority sites, if they are not related to your topic, they are of little use on SEO.
Don’t link out to sites that have too many outbound links
Sites that have too many outbound links themselves are not great to link out to. They may be sites doing outbound linking in return for inbound links. Or they may be link farms. They could also be the type of sites that accept money to add links. Other than Wikipedia, I’d be suspicious of any site with too many outbound links. You’d be better off linking to genuine bloggers with more rank and respect than you.
Why and how to use outbound links
It’s good to have a strategy for your outbound linking rather to make it a haphazard exercise. Here are some ways to give shape to your outbound linking campaign:
Use outbound links to add to your brand credibility
Outbound links to references is a way to show your site offers credible information. It builds brand trust. It also brackets you with the best-of-breed sites in your niche.
When you link to good statistical sites you also show you have done deep research on the topic. You reinforce your brand and topical authority.
Be prudent in your choice of outbound links
There are 2 types of external links to always avoid:
- Beware of unmonitored user-generated links. Letting your site users or readers post links without regulation is dangerous. Google may look askance at your site as a possible link farm. Use a good plugin like Akismet to separate the spam. Be careful also of spammy-looking blog comments full of links. Always publish comments only after moderation.
- Beware of surreptitious paid advertising links. These are links where people pay you to put in links that lead to their product pages. This is very dangerous temptation. Clever readers can see through it. It’s worse if the product turns out to be a terrible blot on your brand. All the money in the world is not worth brand erosion.
Place good outbound links that Google will not penalize
What are good outbound links. They are the ones that add to the content on your blog post. They enhance your post for readers to get more valuable information. They are not about fulfilling an SEO task by adding some random outbound links.
Google expects you to sniff out the “bad neighborhoods” with whom you should not associate. Don’t get or give links to places without repute or whom you don’t know. Give links to sites that are well-known for their brands, products and credibility.
Use outbound links to build strong relationships online
Don’t think of outbound linking as a way to get inbound links. That doesn’t work. If you do outbound linking with this aim, you are bound to get disappointed that the idea is not working. In fact, even Google will suspect if this is reciprocal linking or some form of quid pro quo.
There’a more honorable goal you can set for yourself, though. Aim to get better networked with those respected online, by linking to them when relevant. Let them know you have linked to them. Thank them for the inspiration. Gain friends and relationships.
Best practices for adding outbound links
To be on the right side of pros and cons of outbound links on SEO, we must follow some best practices:
- Always ensure there are no broken links in your content. There are good plugins to help you do this.
- Remember to include Nofollow links wherever required on your site.
- Use relevant anchor text for all external links. Otherwise it could mislead readers and lose you credibility.
- Always let external links open in a new tab so that your original site page doesn’t close.
- Always link to other people’s sites or pages that are relevant to the topic of your post.
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content SEO Factors”: