7 External Linking Best Practices for SEO

If you want to give your SEO efforts a boost, then one of the best strategies is to pay attention to external linking. Not only will it help bring more traffic and customers to your website, but it also helps with improving site ranking in search engine results. It's important not just to throw external links into your content—although that can be beneficial as well—but instead use the seven best practices outlined below for optimal optimization. Keep reading if you're curious about how optimizing external links can benefit your SEO success!

What is an External Link?

An external link is a hyperlink that directs a visitor to a page of another domain. They are also known as outbound or outgoing links.

It is added to the page with the following code −

<a href="http://www.domain.com/">Your text (anchor text) goes here</a>

For example, if you are writing an article about World War II, you need to visit websites known for their credibility. Then you accumulate some information from the website. So, when you use that information on your page, you can use the link of that website as an external link.

Key Benefits of Using External Links

Adds credibility and value to your content

They tell search engines that you have researched the topic well. It shows you have gained information from various credible sources. It means you are not just making a gossipy article without a verified source.

It helps you rank higher on SERPs

Credible pieces are likely to attract more audiences. This signals search engines that you have top-class content on your webpage. As a result, Google and other search engines push your content higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).

It gets you backlinks

Adding external links is a great way to get backlinks organically. You don't have to seek other sites or request them to link you. Some even pay other websites for backlinks (not recommended). When you link to others, it increases your chance of getting backlinks from other sites.

7 External Linking Best Practices

1. Use anchor text accurately

Let's give you a good and bad example of anchor text.

Example 1

You wrote an article about "how to optimize your webpage."

In the content, you wrote a section about optimizing alt text.

Now you want to add an external link about "alt text."

In the content, you added a sentence, "click here to know more about alt text."

You chose "here" as the anchor text and hyperlinked it.

Now google will read the anchor text to know about your website. Unfortunately, "here" gives little to no hints about the page's content.

Instead, you can use the better example −

Example 2

Instead of "here," you can hyperlink the whole "how to write the best alt text."

The second option is much better. This is because the link makes it easier for readers to click. Most importantly, when the spiders from search engines crawl the page, they will quickly determine the target page's content.

Use descriptive keywords as anchor text or keywords, provided they sound organic. However

2. Don't clutter the page with anchor texts

There is no simple way to determine the number of external links you should put on one page. The rule of thumb is to put at most two outbound links in 500 words. The key here is to add helpful information to the page.

Adding too many external links increases your chance of customers leaving your website. You may end up losing readers in this way.

Simply put, keep it simple, and don't overdo it. Readers might get annoyed by it. Plus, it will look too spammy and invites penalties by Google.

3. The external link should open in a different tab

As mentioned earlier, adding external links increases your chance of audiences leaving your site. However, you can minimize the damage by doing this simple thing. Make sure whenever someone clicks the external link; it opens in a separate tab. In this way, the user can come back to your website quickly.

Referring to the previous example

The article is about "how to optimize your webpage." The page includes an external link about "how to optimize alt text."

Let's assume the reader went to the external link and quickly read the details. If the link opens in the next tab, they won't get lost in the new article. They will probably come back for what they have started.

4. Link only reputable websites

Only links websites with good authority. Linking to clickbait websites or websites with many popup ads will do more harm than good. Not only you lose the trust of your audiences, but it will also negatively affect your site's ranking.

Sometimes, you have no other option but to link some sites you don't fully trust. In such circumstances, use a no-follow tag. This tells Google not to crawl the linked page.

Quality is always more important than quantity. Less trustworthy external links are much preferred over a vast number of low-quality links.

To check the authority or quality of the link, you can check their domain authority. You can do that with SEO tools like Moz, ahrefs, majestic, semrush, etc.

5. Always check external links before adding them

A webpage that shows today might get broken or offline the next day. That's why testing each external link before adding them is crucial. When users click an external link for more information and find it broken, they lose trust in your website. It diminishes the user experience and affects your search engine ranking negatively.

When readers encounter broken or outdated external links in your content, it diminishes their experience, and they might begin to lose faith in your credibility.

6. Add links relevant to your content

Don't think of external links as a tradition that you have to do. The goal of external links is to give more information to users. So, while adding them, ensure they add value to your content. Don't add links about soda if you are writing content about coffee. Google will think you are trying to trick it. So, it may penalize your site.

For example, if you are writing about coffee, you can add links related to consumer statistics, recipes, videos, etc.

7. Don't link competitive websites

You should never add external links to your competitive websites. This is because both of you might be using the exact keywords. Therefore, you should only link a website that ranks number 1 in the SERPs.

For example, if you write an article about the best tools for checking domain authority, you should link to something other than competitive sites like ahrefs, Moz, etc.


Overall, there are many ways to effectively build external links to improve SEO. From creating strong and informative content that is shareable to understanding the authority of existing backlinks and leveraging them, it’s possible to make a positive impact on your SEO with a well-crafted linking strategy. Making sure that the content you link out to is relevant, appropriate and provides valuable information will help ensure each link creates value for your readers. It can feel like a daunting task to work on improving your external links but taking it step by step can help simplify the process and create success over time. Investing in SEO through good external linking practices may take some time and effort, but with the right approach it can be worth the reward!

Updated on: 05-Apr-2023


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