A Guide to External Links for SEO
What is and how to create an external link
External links, which are sometimes known as outbound links, are an important part of the search engine optimization process, especially if you want to be an authority site in Google’s search engine results pages. In fact, people perform 67,000 Google searches per second, and nearly 80% of searchers ignore paid ads, which means showing up in true results is your best bet for getting noticed. Check out this guide to help you learn more about external linking, why it is important, and how you can do it effectively.
What is External Linking?
Before you can learn how to use external links effectively, you must first understand what they are. External links are snippets of text that, when clicked on, direct the reader to another website that is completely independent of your own. While this seems simple enough, it does get a bit more complicated.
There are two types of external links: nofollow and dofollow. Nofollow links are links that help you avoid some of Google’s penalization systems for the overuse of some types of external links. However, it is important not to use them for every external link since doing so blocks that website owner from receiving a “vote” of confidence with Google. For the most part, you should stick to using “dofollow” links that allow both your website and others’ websites to receive good clout with Google.
What Is the Difference Between External and Internal Links?
External links are links you use on your website that direct to other websites across the internet. Typically, these links go to pages that have similar content as yours, sell products related to your content, or otherwise relate to your business in some way. Depending on the situation, you may even find that you link to competitors’ pages from time to time. The pages you link to could be other bloggers or small businesses, or they could be the websites for large corporations. For example, if you run a pet blog, you may link to other pet blogs, celebrity dogs’ social media pages, or big names in the pet industry, such as Petco or Chewy. Creating external links build a stronger reputation for both yourself and the other websites that you link to.
Internal links work much the same way, except that the clout you’re building is solely your own. When you build an internal link, you are linking to a URL within your own website that provides more information on the subject you’re talking about. Keeping with the pet blog example, imagine you write a blog about the types of treats your dog can have at Independence Day celebrations, but you wrote a similar blog post about Christmas treats. You can throwback to the Christmas blog via your Independence Day blog, providing an informational link and building your own search engine results rankings in the process.
How Many External Links Per Page?
When it comes to knowing how many external links to include on a page for search engine optimization purposes, you’ll find a lot of random answers. Some of them aren’t so helpful. Sure, you know you need to include as many links as are useful for your readers, but what if you don’t know how many are useful for them? Yes, it used to be that you couldn’t include more than 100 links because Google couldn’t crawl more than that, but that’s no longer true. For this reason, one company did its own research to determine how many external links worked best.
The company’s methodology involved searching for random words and then using them as external links in its own content. It then tracked how the pages prevailed in search results rankings as it added more external links or took them away. The results indicated that external links are not helpful if you only use one or two for a long page, very helpful if you use roughly one external link every 400 or 500 words, and less useful when you begin to stuff too many external links into your content (because Google then determines you’re trying to game its system).
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t overdo it with the external links. As you’re hyperlinking to your favorite fellow bloggers or pet websites, it is important to ensure you are only doing so when necessary and when it is providing truly factual information.
How To Find External Links in a Website
When you want a strong search engine optimization strategy, you need strong external links. This means knowing how to find the ones you already have on your domain so that you can track their effectiveness as needed. In fact, Google itself offers plenty of tools for you to do just that.
The company’s link analyzer allows you to keep track of how many external links you have on your website, shows you where they are, and helps you determine how beneficial they are for your search engine rankings. They even show you what percentage of your links are external, whether the anchor text you’re using is helpful and much more.
Remember, there is a wide range of link analyzing tools on the market, some of which are free and some of which are paid. Before you stick to a Google checker, you may consider trying some of the other ones out, too. You might find another one (or even a combination of more than one tool) works better to fit your needs. If you use a content management system, such as WordPress, you can even use a popular plugin like the Link Checker to track your internal and external links at the same time.
How To Create External Links With HTML
Websites, including the links you add to them, are created using programming and coding languages. Often, they include a combination of HTML, CSS, and more. HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language, was created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and helps you to add pictures, stylized text, and much more to your website. In fact, it is still a popular way to add external links to your website.
The way HTML is used changes often (it is on version 5.2 as of September 2018), but the methods you use to create an external link with the coding language have stayed the same overall. All you need to do is copy and paste a snippet of code where you want an external link to show up, filling in the capitalized parts with your own information.
<a href=”HTTP URL HERE”>YOUR TEXT HERE</a>
For example, if your pet blog wanted to connect to a dog food website, you’d add the dog food website’s complete URL (including the HTTP) between the quotation marks and add your anchor text (such as a product name or the company name) where it says “YOUR TEXT HERE.” You can also add dofollow or nofollow attributes in this section if necessary.
How To Add External Links in WordPress
There are lots of different ways in which you can add an external link to WordPress. You can create text widgets, build new navigation menus, design button links, and much more. However, for the purpose of simplicity, you’ll likely only need to know how to add the links to your posts and pages.
To add an external link to your post or page, you simply need to use the visual editor. If you’re adding it to a previously created post, you can open the post to edit it. Otherwise, simply add the links as needed while you write a new post or page. When using the visual editor, highlight any text you want to use as a hyperlink to an external website, and then click on the “insert/edit link” image (it looks like a tiny piece of chain). When prompted, you can add the URL, ensure your link text is correct, check a box if you want the link to open in a new tab, and then click the “add link” button. That’s all there is to it!
How To Find and Fix Broken External Links
If you’ve already read the piece on fixing broken internal links, you know how to find and fix broken external links on your page as well. They use the same tools. First, though, it may help to understand why broken links are problems. When links on your pages don’t land where they are supposed to, they make for a bad user experience. People who feel that your website looks unprofessional and is hard to navigate are less likely to buy your products or services, continue to read your blog, or recommend you to their peers. Ensure this doesn’t happen to you by fixing your links at least once per month.
There are dozens of tools available to help you find and fix broken links, but Google Analytics still reigns supreme. The tool allows you to decide how often you want to be notified of possibly broken links and then helps you find exactly where the issues are on your page so that you can fix them. When you’re notified of a broken external link, you can choose to navigate to the page on your own to change the HTML manually, or you can use the linking options in your content management system. Editing options for posts, pages, and links are usually easy to find in your CMS’ administration panels.
How To Build External Links for SEO
When creating external links to help you with your search engine optimization and results page rankings, it is important to consider several factors. After all, you don’t want to link to any old website, because many of them will offer no value to your own.
Start by searching for trustworthy domains that are popular and have excellent reviews. For example, the pet blog you run probably doesn’t want to link to tiny local pet supply stores unless they happen to be local and the page or post is extremely localized.
Regardless of how large or popular the site you link to externally is, you’ll need to ensure it is relevant to your content. If your pet post is about big dogs, linking to content about a hamster in the post is not likely to provide any merit for your blog or for the external website, either. The anchor text matters as well. Don’t use “Pitbull dogs” as anchor text if the link goes to a page all about Pomeranians, for example. Remember, the quality of your content and the content of the page you’re linking to is truly even more important than the popularity of either page.
Are External Links Good for SEO?
External links as part of your SEO techniques are essential. Experts believe that linking to other websites offers several benefits for your own website. First, it creates trackable traffic. The webmasters of the sites you link to may notice your own site in their analytics, check it out, and decide to somehow use your services and partner with you, for example. Beyond that, linking to other websites helps the Google algorithms to better track your own website and popularity and likely to reward you with higher search rankings.
External linking goes beyond SEO, too. When you link to other websites, especially smaller ones who are also trying to get themselves on the map, they are more likely to create links back to your content as well. This type of natural link-building creates a better community of bloggers, small business owners, and beyond. Beyond that, it encourages participation. External linking is more likely to help you get noticed on social media via comments, readership, and more.
The Bottom Line
External links are an important part of your search engine optimization plan and should be treated as such. Whether you’re just creating your website, or you have a long-established one that you’re looking to make even better, you cannot skip the community and ranking-building activities associated with outbound links. If you are unsure of how to create the best SEO optimization with links yourself, don’t be afraid to hire an expert. SEO professionals have the knowledge and experience necessary to help you create the best website possible for your business needs.
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