Outbound Links: Should You Use Them?
Among SEO best practices, one of the most familiar is that you should sprinkle a few inbound links into your content. Less commonly discussed is the usage of outbound links, or links that direct readers to a site other than your own. Most people shy away from using them out of the fear that it could direct traffic, and ultimately sales, away from your own website. But the truth is that, when used properly, outbound links can be a great asset to your SEO.
Building Trust and Value
To understand the perks of using external links, it may be helpful to begin not from Google’s perspective, but from your readers’.
When you were in school, you undoubtedly heard a good bit about the importance of citing your sources in your writing. As you progressed in your education, you may have learned that this practice exists not just to show that your content was well researched, but also to help future researchers. Often, the most useful section of a scholarly article for researchers is the bibliography.
To a lesser extent, the same principle applies to your blog posts. By including relevant outbound links in your blogs, you enable your readers to learn more about the subject at hand. It signals that you’re lending a helpful hand in their quest for knowledge. Not only does it add genuine value for your reader, but it also shows that your content is well researched.
This is part of why numerous studies have shown that Google rewards the employment of outbound links algorithmically. While their benefit is difficult to quantify, we have every reason to believe that we should use them for the sake of our SEO and readership alike. But you have to do so smartly.
How to Use Outbound Links
Now, let’s go over a few quick tips for using outbound links smartly. Google and other search engines will penalize the excessive or careless use of them in the same way they would keyword stuffing.
Don’t overuse them. Your employment of outbound links needs to make sense. It has to be helpful for your reader, and not come across as forced or excessive. Honestly, using them shouldn’t be challenging. You shouldn’t have to wonder where you can put them in. If you’re composing well-researched content, it should happen naturally.
Link to good content. Let’s return to the analogy of the bibliography in a piece of scholarship. As a researcher, the bibliography is only of use to you if the sources cited by the author are quality sources. By the same token, we should only link externally to authoritative or otherwise genuinely helpful content.
It may seem counterintuitive that using outbound links can boost your SEO. But the truth is that it can, and you shouldn’t be afraid to give it a try.
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