The Importance of Outbound Links for SEO

Over at Search Engine Journal, the question of outbound links has been considered. An outbound link is a link from your website to another website. In short, outbound linking refers to the act of  linking to another website from your website.

And the question is, “will it benefit my website in terms of SEO if I link out to other websites?”.

According to Google’s John Mueller, outbound linking can provide a great user experience. But as to whether the existence of outbound links on a website positively affects the search engine rankings of the linker website, he did not provide an answer.

Do Outbound Links Impact Search Rankings?

Are outbound links good for SEO?

Outbound links have long been held to positively improve the search engine ranking of a website that is doing the outbound linking. Anecdotally, many SEO experts swear by it.

Moreover, study after study has indicated that outbound links might be a ranking factor.

So, when it comes to the question of the SEO benefits of outbound links, we have two answers:

  1. Yes, it seems that outbound links might have an influence of the ranking of the site doing the linking (the linker).
  2. Even if there is no direct benefit, it makes for a good user experience.

A Case for the Importance of Outbound Links

It seems to me, however, that the mere fact of (2) means it is reasonable to suppose outbound links do directly impact the ranking of the website doing the linking.

Google’s primary objective is to make search results as relevant as possible. When someone searches for something in Google, Google want that user to be presented with high quality, relevant and authoritative websites in the search results.

Now, if having outbound links on your website makes for a better user experience, and makes your website a better resource for the user, then perhaps Google will rank a website higher due to its featuring of outbound links.

Again, Google want to show the most relevant and helpful websites in its search results.

What could make a website more relevant and helpful than providing links to resources that will help the user?

For this reason, studies aside, it seems plausible that outbound linking can positively improve rankings.

But again, we do have studies indicating that outbound links are a ranking factor for the website doing the linking (and obviously the website receiving the link!).

How To Utilise Outbound Links

The first thing to remember is that too much of anything is a bad thing in SEO. It’s all too easy to overdo it.

As a general rule, simply include links to other websites when doing so will be helpful to your reader. If the link you provide will help the reader find out more about a given topic, then it is a helpful link.

In addition, it is good practice to link to other websites and resources as a matter of citation. If you’re making a statement of fact, linking to a source helps improve your credibility as a writer, and the credibility of your website as a valuable resource.

NoFollow and DoFollow Links

It also helps to know about link attributes. A link is either nofollow or dofollow. The former prevents any SEO value being transferred to the website you are linking to. If you are uncertain of the validity of a website, then it is best to give a nofollow link.

A DoFollow link, however, is essentially a vote of confidence for the website you are linking to. It passes PageRank to the website being linked to. For instance, this link to the homepage of Advanced SEO is dofollow.

How Many Outbound Links?

There is no hard and fast rule regarding the best quantity of links to place in your content. So long as the links are helpful, and your post or content does not contain links in ever single sentence (this can become annoying for the reader), then it should be fine.

The key is to link to relevant websites of decent to high credibility.

Conclusion

To summarize: placing links in your content to other websites can improve your website’s search engine rankings. Doing so makes your website a more helpful resource, and therefore more relevant and credible in the eyes of Google.

And perhaps most importantly, it makes for a good user experience.

Links are what make the internet the connected place that it is. By linking to other websites, you are contributing to making the internet a more connected place.

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