WHAT IS AN OUTBOUND LINK IN SEO

Matthew Carter
Hello friends, my name is Matthew Carter. I’m a professional link builder for a large SEO agency in New York City.

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And while Google's authority metric for web pages has not been publicly updated since 2013, it is still very much used.

And in this guide, we will teach you everything that you need to know about outbound links, specifically looking at:

Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page? — Google Webmaster Blog.

It is easy to come across a fact, statistic, or a quote on a site and be quick to reference that as the source, but often that is being cited from somewhere else.

You can identify potential issues with your site's outbound links using the SEMrush Site Audit Tool, the main one of these being those that have had the rel= "nofollow" attribute.

CheiRank vs. PageRank.

Outbound links should be used to either cite your sources or to allow your readers to navigate to a website that you reference. It is important that you consider carefully the sites that you link out to, and whether or not they are trustworthy sources.

Influencer marketing is a big business right now, and many brands are enjoying huge sales from the referral traffic that is being sent from other people promoting their products and services.

Always use the original version when you can do so, to add that extra layer of trust.

If you are responsible for creating content as part of your marketing efforts, there is a very good chance that you are also responsible for any outbound links that sit within these pieces.

That said, many publishers (and other content creators) often avoid linking out for the simple reason that Google has been known to hand out a manual action penalty for "unnatural links from your site." This has evoked fear amongst publishers, and there is a misconception that the safest thing to do is not link out.

The main point to note here is that these links are not being sold to build links or improve organic rankings. If you accept payment for links, accept gifts in return for a link, or allow users to leave comments or forum posts, be sure to use the right attribute.

It is a complex concept to get your head around, but one that further backs up the importance of considering how you link out.

The main thing to take away from this test is that although we don’t know and have not proved how powerful outgoing links are in the grand scheme of things, we have proved they do have a positive impact if used correctly. More importantly, we disproved the old myth of Pagerank retention which in my opinion has done nothing but harm to the internet as a whole as webmasters try to keep the ‘link juice’ in house slowly eroding the building blocks of the web. — Reboot Online.

For the vast majority of content creators, outbound links should be used to cite sources without any worry or concern, and avoiding them altogether is not the right course of action to take.

Outbound links are links that point from your website to another.

What are Outbound Links?

While they are not the first thing most SEOs think about when auditing their sites and planning successful strategies, there are reasons why they should receive more attention.

Google is not penalizing sites for linking out to sources. But these manual actions exist to help keep the web clean.

It is safe to say that, while there is no confirmation on the specific extent of the impact that outbound links can have on a site's visibility, they are something that SEOs should be paying more attention to.

Someone who is not an expert in their field would be unlikely to know the right sources to cite in the same way as someone truly experienced would. In a post on the Google Search Central blog in August 2019, there was a reference to citing sources concerning expertise, mentioned as a question to ask yourself when analyzing your content:

As well as the fact that unnatural outbound links can harm your website's performance.

SEMrush columnist Kevin Indig breaks this down in easier-to-understand terms:

If a site is seen to be selling links to other websites or is suffering from problems where user-generated content (usually comments) are resulting in backlink spam (placing unnatural outbound links), these actions may happen.

Outbound Links Demonstrate Expertise.

If you are citing a source (person or research), link out to the information mention. This way, you build the trust of your readers by referencing your sources and presenting them to your audience. This to visit and understand themselves if they wish to do so.

It is easy to confuse these, and the reality is that an outbound link from one website is a backlink for another.

If you find that you need to force links into your content, then you are likely approaching this in the wrong way. If you write naturally and note the sources that you use while researching topics and concepts, it will often be the case that links make sense.

If Google sees clear citing of sources as evidence of expertise, you would be crazy to overlook the importance of outbound links.

When writing on the web, outbound links are how you should reference your sources. This is something that Google employees themselves have confirmed on multiple occasions.

Outbound links are not solely the same as external links, yet they fall under this categorization.

The term external links can refer to:

Linking to other websites is a great way to provide value to your users. Often, links help users to find out more, to check out your sources and to better understand how your content is relevant to the questions that they have. — John Mueller, Google.

But she also notes that the external links may not be the reason those pages rank well:

Everyone who works in search engine optimization (SEO) knows that links pointing to your site are an important signal for Google. But did you know that links going out from a page can also play a vital role?

Derek at CXL explains how this lines up with a users-first approach to content:

“If you really believe that your content marketing is there to benefit your users, I think you have to link to competitor content. They’re the other sites that are most likely to have created authoritative content on topics similar to those you cover. If you feel anxious about doing that, it’s a bit naive. Your users know that competitors exist. They’re going to find their websites one way or another. If anything, a willingness to link to others’ content may even reinforce why you’re the better resource—users know that you’ll give them full, honest answers.”

To what extent do outbound links affect a page’s ranking in search engine results? In the grand scheme of SEO tactics, outbound links by themselves will not move mountains the way inbound link-building might, for example.

How many outbound links should I include?

Linking to high-quality external sources may help with search engine optimization in a few ways.

“Even as an SEO, I suggest opening all links in the same tab. This primarily comes from the web usability and UX perspective, and with accessibility for all users in mind. Think of your website’s mobile users and of how frustrating the new tab experience is on iOS, in Safari browser, for example. Users always have the option to open things in a new tab when preferred, but they shouldn’t be forced into this.”

Controversies about outbound links abound, including these misconceptions:

While many content marketers avoid attributing competitors as sources, a few fearlessly reference them. Neil Patel says that putting his site visitors’ interests ahead of his own, including linking to the best content even when it’s from a competitor, is one of the things that earns him repeat visitors. He also feels this helps Google better understand where to rank his site , and that it even encourages backlinks from his competitors.

Years ago, SEO companies embraced the nofollow attribute to address the concern that linking out would dilute link equity. But that appears to have dissolved in 2009, thanks to an update by Google. Now it comes down to certain situations when the nofollow attribute should be used with outbound links. These generally fall outside of typical editorial links :

One more way outbound links can deliver value for content creation teams is in the relationship currency it offers.

Outbound links are an important way websites participate in and contribute to the internet. They can add value for readers, help your site with SEO, and open conversations with other businesses.

To take it a step further and evaluate the trust of a website, use the Competitor Backlink Checker tool in your Alexa account to evaluate which other sites have already linked to the website.

Best practices also encourage the use of outbound links to.

Content marketers often use outbound links to provide easy access to information about a related topic that they don’t address on their own website. Ilia Markov, content marketing manager at ChartMogul, uses outbound linking “as a way to provide more background on topics that cannot be covered in full in the article at hand.”

What Is an Outbound Link?

Tatiana Morand, SEO and content manager at Wild Apricot, agrees. She says, “I try to include outbound links in my content to support the points I’m making with outside evidence and opinions. I feel like it makes the piece stronger and gives it more authority. Plus, it shows, both to Google and to readers, that we’ve done our research on the topic and aren’t basing it solely on our own opinions.”

Search engines determine your website’s authority by looking at websites you associate with, among other things. This includes sites that link to you, and those you link out to. So you will want to avoid linking to pages that provide a poor user experience or show evidence of shady tactics.

Bobby Holland, founder of SEO company Bipper Media, explains, “Outbound links bring balance and authenticity to the overall SEO health of a page. If you think about it, the highest-quality articles submitted for professional reviews always reference their sources. Outbound links help achieve authority in the same way when you reference the sources used in the creation of your content.”

For Wild Apricot’s content manager, determining whether a page is a good choice for an outbound link or not comes down to whether it “feels authoritative,” which, to her, means that it also links out to its sources. Tatiana also considers a source’s domain authority .

Cara suggests an average of five outbound links for blog posts or one external link for every 230 words. However, it’s hard to believe in a “rule” for the number of outbound links. It will always depend on what information you are presenting on the page and how you can best support it.

Building relationships—and the goodwill that results—can help you in many ways. For example, you may find that providing thoughtful external links in your content encourages experts to participate in your content when asked.

Consider the following when choosing the best page to link to:

What about linking to competitors’ websites?

According to Bobby Holland, one of the biggest mistakes content marketers make when it comes to outbound links is to use the nofollow attribute for all of their links : “When you ‘nofollow’ outbound links, you are creating a very heavy, one-sided spectrum of authority that leans 100% in the direction of your website and content,” Bobby says. “In essence, it’s the equivalent of not adding any outbound links to your content.”

It may be that the effects of linking to external sites, like building trust, are what ultimately affect SEO for the better.

There’s no need to force keyword use in anchor text. Above all, it should be clear and meaningful: You’ll want to make sure the material at the link clearly says what your anchor text indicates.

Anchor text refers to the words that the reader can click to reach the linked page. There’s usually no need to treat anchor text differently for an external link. But if you’re linking to a PDF or gated material, you may want to indicate that in the anchor text.

An outbound link, also called an external link, is a link from your website to a different website. An outbound link for you is an inbound link for someone else. If a link takes readers to another page on the same website, it’s called an internal link.

Some believe external links should open in a new window, but some user-experience experts say no. Users expect them to open in the same window, and when you deviate from the default, people get thrown off.

Today’s savvy readers look for signals that your information is authoritative and trustworthy, and external links are examples of that.

Not only are these myths, but following them might bring negative consequences.

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