While many of us know that earning quality external links provides a nice boost to your website’s SEO, we’re not all exactly sure why.
Some of us wonder what an external link is defined as. Some wonder if outbound links are the same thing as external links. How do external links help a website rank higher in search?
The answers to all these questions are below.
What is an external link?
External link – Any hyperlink that takes users to another domain than the source (the website the hyperlink exists on)
If a website links to your website, one of your blog posts, or a webinar you’re running, that’s an external link. They link from their website (the source) to another website (yours). Some people call them outbound links – but they’re the same thing.
This is different from internal links, which point to pages on the same domain as the link exists on. If you include a link to a recent blog post you wrote inside another blog post, that’s an internal link.
Internal link – Any hyperlink that takes users to another page on the same domain the hyperlink exists on (the source)
How do external links benefit my company?
External links can be beneficial for your business in two ways.
First, if you link to another (quality) website on your own site, you pass a little “link juice” to your website for search rankings.
By including a link to a reputable, quality website on your own, you tell the search engines that your site also has reputable, quality content and signal them to bump you up in search rank.
Second, if a quality website links to your own website, they pass a little of that link juice on to you. By linking to your website, they’re telling search engines that your content and webpages are of high quality and value for readers.
Quality websites have more “clout” with search engines, so when they link to (recommend) content or other websites, it’s a signal to the search engine that it’s high-value content that should be ranked higher.
What can go wrong with external links?
But external links aren’t always beneficial for your business.
If you link out to websites that have been penalized in search for bad linking, questionable content, or slow loading speeds, you essentially tie a cinder block to your foot.
When you hitch your own website to one that search engines are already wary of or have penalized for bad SEO practices, you penalize your own website. As Thom Yorke of Radiohead so eloquently utterered, “Don’t tie yourself to the sinking ship because, believe me, it’s sinking.”
Why do external links matter for SEO?
Moz and top SEO experts believe external links are the single most important and influential source of search ranking power. That’s not a statement to be taken lightly.
External links boost a website’s reputation, search rank, and user reach. As mentioned above, external links are used to pass “link juice” from one quality website to another. They work more effectively than internal links because they carry the weight of a third party’s view.
Think about this. When given a description of someone, which would you trust more:
- The person’s description of themselves, or
- A description of the person from someone who knows them
Search rank trusts the other person’s description more than the person’s own description of themselves. So when a website chooses to link to yours, they have essentially vouched for your website to the search engines. Be sure to thank them!
External links can be a big boost for your website’s search rank. If you want to learn more about earning high quality external links, check out our blog post on the topic below!