Using Relevant External Links to Boost SEO

Published on September 15, 2014

SEO is comprised of many different interlaying factors. Quality content presides above all else, but is invaluably supplemented by keywords, meta tags, alt tags, H1 headers, inbound links, and one factor that is often forgotten: external links.

Some small business owners are skeptical when it comes to external links boosting their own SEO. If a link takes my reader elsewhere, doesn't it serve a negative purpose?

The answer may surprise you.

The benefit of external linking

It's understandable that external links are a commonly overlooked SEO strategy. Sure, its simple to see the benefit of other websites linking to your site, but what direct benefit do you gain from linking to their websites?

Lets look at it from the perspective of user interest. Users respond to content that is enriching, relevant, and above all else, helpful. Search engines also with to supply users with content that is helpful.

Helpful content is constructed with what we like to call "dynamic substance" - a variety of substances that provide great value to your user. External links to credible, reliable sources that boost the quality content you've already made adds a great deal of value to your users, and thereby Google recognizes your website as valuable as well.

Types of external links

The external links you create can come in a variety of forms. One of the most effective tactics is to develop content that allows for seamless links directly within the content itself. There are, however, a wide variety of other ways to include external links within your content:

  • Guest Posts: Invite a guest to add some content on your website in exchange for external links to their own website
  • Brand Mentions: Are you mentioning an external brand in your content? Link to their main site.
  • Infographics: Share an infographic from another website (with permission, of course) and link back to its original source.
  • Resource Lists: Include a list of related resources at the bottom of your article, with hyperlinked titles and potentially a brief description
  • External documents: Referencing a scholarship or press release? Link them.

How to present your external links

The success of your external links, of course, depends on the way you present them. External links can easily be perceived as spam, especially if the content is not obviously connected to yours.  In those cases, you'll likely see inevitable damage to your SEO.  

The Vertical Measures blog describes "natural vs. spammy" links as such:

[I]f your website is geared towards sports, it would make sense to link out to other authoritative and relevant sport sites and pages that can enhance your visitor’s experience; whereas including a link to a dentist’s office would seem out of place (unless somehow the connection is legitimate).

Additionally, when sending your users to another location, make sure you do so in a way that isn't in any way confusing. Making a list of URLs at the bottom of your article, for example, doesn't give your reader much indication of what each URL will provide them.

Instead, link your URLs either in context of your content or with a hyperlinked descriptive title or phrase.

The bottom line?

Sharing other content supports your own image as a helpful resource. If you share the love, then not only to users appreciate it, your linked websites appreciate it too. Maybe they'll return the favor again someday.

Unsure how to utilize external links on your website? Don't hesitate to send us an email or give us a call. We'll be happy to help.