It’s all too easy sprinkling links into your content as you’re in writer mode. It’s a great way to give credit to authors and sites that have published engaging, information-rich content that you either want to talk about or flesh out in your own way. What you probably didn’t realize is that the links you’re including from other sources can help or harm your site’s search engine ranking.

In a recent post, we’ve talked about the importance of content being original. But if you’re not taking the time to find other articles or blogs that complement your work, you’re passing up on a PageRank gold mine. Splashing links here and there is easy enough, but finding the best pages to link to takes a little more strategic thinking. Here’s a quick introduction and guide to making external links work for your site. We’ll cover:

  • The external link misconception
  • How popular domains provide the greatest value
  • Why you should use multiple sources
  • Show how external links can build relationships

Why External Links Are Your Friend

Your blog and your site are something that you should be proud of. Odds are you’ve invested time and money to make it into a great tool for your business to generate leads and serve your customers. So you’re probably wondering why we are suggesting to include external links at all? Those links could take people away from your site, distracting them from reading more of your content, right?

Courtesy of Reboot

Courtesy of Reboot

This is where we need to put the brakes on. Whenever you are making decisions on how your site is designed, you often think about the people who will be using it. You’re trying to offer them an experience that is easy, efficient even. With your content, you have to use that same mindset, and using external links is part of that process. As people are searching or reading on the Internet, a simple search engine result may lead them from one article to the next. No dead ends. No roadblocks. Those searches are taking a reader on a journey to becoming educated on a topic. The content that they find on the way is providing as much value as that process is. It’s important to a search engine that high-ranking content fosters a lily-pad-like search pattern, promoting more in-depth searching in a way that best serves the person who made the query in the first place.

Links could seem like they’re taking people further down the rabbit hole, but ultimately their importance stems from their ability to best serve customers. Similar to how it works in the real world; digital strategies that offer readers or searchers the best service will come out on top.

Links to Popular Domains Are the Biggest Win

Nobody likes being sent to unrelated search results or junk sites. And search engines are not big fans of these sites either. That’s why choosing to link to a more popular, trusted sites provides more value to your content. For search engines, these popular domains are regarded as providers of great, relevant work. When you begin affiliating yourself with these sites, you’re showing search engine algorithms that you are posting similar, high-quality stuff.

Courtesy of Reboot

Courtesy of Reboot

Earlier this year, a marketing firm did an experiment that involved creating 10 websites that all targeted the same, made-up keyword. Over a period of five months, the 10 sites were kept as similar as possible, with the only varying factor being external links to different sites. The result? When the five months came to a close, the team found that the sites that linked to authoritative sites like Oxford University and Cambridge University were ranked higher than other sites that had no links at all. How’s that for the power of external links!

Diversify Your Domains

Now that you might be warming up to the idea of using more external links in your posts, you should also note that having a variety of links is a good thing. If we’re talking about the power of external linking for improved SEO, we might want to link to some of the big authorities on the topics, like Moz, Backlinko, or ShoutMeLoud. In a search engine’s algorithm, offering up a smorgasbord of unique domains shows that you’re doing your due diligence — crafting content that’s got more to offer than just a simple one or two sided view.

Courtesy of Moz

Courtesy of Moz

Because the sites that you’ll be researching on are already trusted, high-ranking sites (we hope), they should already be taking advantage of external linking within their own content. Use those links to help guide your search as you look for more sources for your own work.

Linking Can Build Relationships & Authority For Your Site

On the web, the saying “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” couldn’t be more accurate. As you tackle and improve your site’s SEO by posting better, more optimized content, other sites will start taking notice. Cue the community-oriented side of external linking.

Here’s how it works: Odds are that you’ve been linking to different sites in your posts. The sites that you’ve been linking to are starting to feel all warm and fuzzy about you because you are sending traffic to them. That traffic is helping their reputation and Pagerank. Everybody’s happy!


Courtesy of Auron

Over time, your hard work online will catch up with you, and other people will start linking to your page after they read one of your blog posts. This is the linking game. Think of it as a support system. Sites that are producing content that covers a similar topic have a lot to gain by linking back and forth. Doing this helps your site become a more established authority on a particular subject.

If you need help brainstorming where to find opportunities to get links back to your site, we suggest checking out Hubspot’s 8 Best Link-Building Tactics to Boost Off-Page SEO. Some of the ideas you’ll find we’ve covered here, but there are a few suggestions that could help you sniff out more inbound traffic.

External linking is a powerful tool to take your content from good to great, and there’s a number of ways to make it your own. Looking for more in-depth help on improving your SEO? Check out our 2016 SEO Checklist to get our team’s insights on how to make your website work harder for your business. If you’re looking for SEO expertise but still not sure where to start, let’s chat.

2016 SEO checklist