What Is an External Link? Definition, Types, and Link-Building Best Practices

If you’re just starting your blog or website, you may have heard that external links are critical but have no idea what they are or how to use them. So what is an external link, and do you really need them for your site?

In this post, we’ll break down what external links are, their benefits, and link-building best practices.

Key Takeaways

  • External links, also known as outbound links, are hyperlinks that connect one website to another, leading to a different domain from the originating site.
  • They play a crucial role in search engine optimization (SEO) and act as indicators of credibility, value, and relevance for the linked web page.
  • Outbound links help build credibility and authority for your website, enable search engines to discover new pages faster, foster relationships with other websites, and enhance user experience by providing additional resources.
  • Nofollow and dofollow attributes can be used when linking externally; nofollow external links tell search engines not to consider a link as a vote, while dofollow links allow them to associate connected content.
  • Adopting Google’s Webmaster Guidelines is essential for link-building — these guidelines warn against participating in link schemes designed to manipulate rankings, as it can lead to penalties.
what is an external link

External links, also known as outbound links, are hyperlinks that connect one website to another, leading to a different domain from the originating site.

They play a crucial role in search engine optimization (SEO) and act as indicators of credibility, value, and relevance for the linked webpage.

There are various types of external links that one can categorize based on their purpose and usage:

This type of external link is a hyperlink originating from your website that leads to other domains. Including valuable outbound links within your content makes it more comprehensive and aids in improving the trustworthiness of your site in the eyes of search engines and readers.

Examples include links to articles that contain helpful information and product pages that complement the content of a web page.

This type of external link is often included within content to provide additional information or resources on a particular subject. Resource links often include citations, references, and related articles, thus enriching the reader’s understanding of the topic.

Examples of resource links include links to academic research studies, non-profit organizations, and government websites.

A navigational external link can be used on a website to direct users to other websites that are part of the same network or related organizations, like a parent company or industry association.

Websites often place an affiliate external link for monetization purposes. These hyperlinks lead to a product or service, and the website owner receives a commission for each sale or lead made through these links.

An external link that leads to sponsored content or paid promotions is considered an advertising link. These links are generally banner ads or sponsored posts used to increase brand visibility for businesses.

It’s essential to use external links appropriately and monitor both inbound and outbound links regularly to optimize your website’s SEO efforts. A strategically implemented external linking strategy can drastically improve your site’s performance and user experience.

External link-building is an integral part of search engine optimization. Here are some reasons why they are crucial:

Builds Credibility and Authority

Search engines like Google evaluate websites based on various factors, with external linking being a critical one. These hyperlinks, also known as backlinks, indicate the relevance and quality of the content being linked.

A higher number of quality backlinks can boost a website’s authority, leading to improved search rankings and increased organic traffic.

Helps Search Engines Discover New Pages

External linking helps search engines discover and index new web pages faster. They create natural connections between different pieces of content, making it easier for search crawlers to find and evaluate web pages.

By linking to relevant content on other websites, site owners can increase the chances of their pages being discovered by major search engines themselves.

Fosters Relationships and Networking

An external link acts as a networking tool that fosters relationships between websites and content creators.

By linking to reputable sources, websites can collaborate and support each other while benefiting from shared traffic and credibility.

Enhances User Experience

Incorporating external links enhances the user experience. When informative and relevant external website links are embedded in a piece of content, it adds depth to the information presented, allowing users to access additional resources and explore related topics.

external links

When discussing link-building, it is essential to differentiate between internal links and external links, as each serves a distinct purpose within a website’s structure and contributes to its search engine optimization.

Internal links refer to hyperlinks that connect one web page to another within the same domain or website. They assist both users and crawlers in navigating the website and establishing a hierarchical structure for the site’s content.

You may find an internal link in a header, footer, menu, and body text, directing users to related or relevant pages on the same domain.

Using internal links efficiently brings multiple benefits, such as:

  • Improving user experience by providing easy navigation
  • Increasing time spent on the site
  • Distributing link equity (ranking power) across the site’s pages
  • Enabling search engine bots to crawl and index the website effectively

On the other hand, external links are hyperlinks that point to pages on a different domain, connecting your website to external sources.

These links are considered third-party votes by search engines and carry significant weight in terms of SEO and establishing credibility.

External links offer the following advantages:

  • Building authority and trust for your website
  • Establishing connections with other authoritative sites
  • Enhancing user experience by providing valuable references or resources
  • Enabling search engines to better understand your content’s relevance to other pages

When implementing external links, webmasters can control their linking behavior using nofollow and follow attributes. The nofollow attribute informs search engines not to consider the link as a vote, while a follow link will allow search engines to associate the connected content.

Using these attributes effectively helps maintain a balance between internal and external linking practices, avoiding penalties for manipulative linking tactics.

You can see how many external links point to your site from other websites by using a tool like Semrush or Ahrefs.

Outbound links, also known as external links, are hyperlinks that lead to a page or resource outside a particular website. They point from your site to other websites and are considered endorsements for valuable content.

On the other hand, inbound links, sometimes referred to as backlinks or incoming links, are all the hyperlinks pointing from other websites to your site. Google sees these inbound links as signals of high-quality content.

Key Differences

  • Direction: Outbound links are those that start from your website and direct users to another website, while inbound links are those that originate from other websites and direct users to your website.
  • Function: Outbound links act as endorsements or recommendations for content on other websites, whereas inbound links work as votes of confidence for your website’s content, indicating its value and relevance to others.
  • SEO Impact: Inbound links, when coming from high-quality and relevant sources, can significantly improve your website’s search engine ranking and visibility. Outbound links, though not directly impacting your website’s ranking, help establish your website’s authority and relationships with other websites in your niche.
  • Control: Outbound links are under your control, as you decide which websites to link to. In contrast, obtaining inbound links depends on other websites finding your content useful and linking to it. You can, however, use strategies to improve your chances of earning high-quality inbound links.

Using Nofollow and Dofollow Attributes

In the realm of SEO, nofollow and dofollow attributes play a significant role in managing external links. Here are some key points to consider:

Nofollow and Dofollow Explained

Nofollow is an attribute added to a link using the rel=”nofollow” HTML tag that instructs search engines to ignore the specific link. Dofollow links are all links without the nofollow attribute and can influence the rankings of the linked pages.

Using Nofollow and Dofollow Effectively

Use a nofollow link to control linked content and avoid spam, such as comment sections or user-generated content. Use dofollow links for high-quality, relevant, and trustworthy content that contributes positively to your site’s audience.

Regularly analyze and evaluate your backlink profile to assess the quality and relevance of your site’s links. This practice helps ensure your backlinks contribute positively to your site’s rankings and visibility.

Nofollow links can still drive traffic and lead to dofollow links from content creators mentioning your website. Therefore, do not underestimate their potential value for your site.

Using nofollow and dofollow attributes wisely can empower webmasters to control the quality of linked content on their sites, build strong link profiles, and utilize an effective SEO strategy. Remember to maintain a focus on providing valuable and relevant content for your site’s users while being mindful of their usage.

Understanding Google’s Webmaster Guidelines

external linking

The Google Webmaster Guidelines are a set of recommendations provided by Google to help webmasters optimize their websites for better visibility in Google’s search results. These guidelines cover various aspects of website management, including content creation, website structure, and technical elements, such as indexing and crawling.

One essential aspect of these guidelines is the discussion on external links. These links play a significant role as ranking signals, helping Google determine the relevance, authority, and credibility of links pointing to a website.

High-quality external links can improve a website’s search engine ranking, while low-quality links can harm it.

Google’s guidelines specifically warn against participating in link schemes designed to manipulate search results. Link schemes include practices such as buying or selling links, excessive link exchanges, or using automated programs to create links. Engaging in these activities can lead to penalties and negatively affect a website’s ranking in search results.

To stay compliant with Google’s guidelines, it is crucial to focus on cultivating organic, high-quality external links. This can be done by creating valuable, unique, and shareable content that attracts and engages users. Additionally, partnering with reputable websites and participating in relevant online communities can help increase your site’s visibility and strengthen its link profile.

By adhering to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, website owners can improve their chances of achieving sustainable SEO results and maintaining a positive relationship with the search engine. Understanding and applying these guidelines is essential for anyone looking to optimize their website and achieve better visibility in Google’s search results.

Link-building plays a significant role in enhancing a website’s authority, search engine optimization, and user experience. To maximize the benefits of external links, it is important to carefully consider their implementation in your content.

Firstly, ensure you find external links that are highly relevant to the subject matter of your content. This enhances your visitors’ experience by offering them additional resources and information. Relevant and quality links can help establish your website as a trusted source of information and boost your site’s credibility.

Create Descriptive Anchor Text

External links should have descriptive anchor texts, which give the reader an idea of what to expect when they click on the link. This adds value to your content, improves user experience, and increases the likelihood of users engaging with the linked content. Additionally, avoid using too many external links within your content, as it can make your article appear spammy and distract your visitors from your core message.

Focus on Authoritative Sites

When establishing relationships with other websites, focus on building connections with authoritative and credible sources. This can lead to increased exposure, traffic, and backlinks to your site. Keep in mind that linking to low-quality or spammy sites can have a negative impact on your SEO and user experience.

It is important to periodically monitor and update your external links. Broken links or outdated links can lead to poor user experience and may hinder your site’s performance in search engine rankings.

Final Thoughts

External links have a positive impact on a website’s rankings. By linking to relevant and authoritative websites within a specific niche, website owners can help search engines better understand their content, topic, and niche. External linking leads to improved ranking and visibility in search engine results.

It is important for website owners to follow link-building best practices when including external links on their pages. These practices include linking to high-quality and relevant websites, using descriptive anchor text, keeping the number of outbound links reasonable, and ensuring the target website does not have a negative impact on the user’s experience.

By following these link-building guidelines and incorporating external links thoughtfully, website owners can create a better user experience, improve their website’s SEO, and foster relationships with other websites in their niche.