In our previous blog, we discussed everything you should know about internal links on your website. As a business owner, it’s important to understand both internal and outbound linking strategies. While internal linking might seem more valuable on the surface, there are many benefits of having outbound links on your website.
To help you understand the entire picture, we wanted to follow up with a blog that covered the ins and outs of outbound linking. First, let’s define what outbound links are and the value of them.
What Are Outbound Links?
Outbound links are links that you use on your website that lead to outside sources. Outbound links are commonly used to provide a reader with more information. Statistics, studies or quotes from original sources are typically hyperlinked within content to an outside source. Keep in mind that if a fact is common knowledge, it most likely won’t need to be linked to an outside source. For example, apples are red is common knowledge.
When creating content, writers and marketers will lead to outside sources to provide more authority and back up what they have to say. Some call outbound links “authority links” because you link to an authoritative source.
Just as you can link to outside sources, outside sources can link to you! If your business is a leader in your industry, it’s likely writers and other businesses will link to your website or content. If someone links to your site from theirs, it is then referred to as a backlink. It can be a little confusing, but outbound links and backlinks fall under the same umbrella of external links.
Benefits of Outbound Links
While there has been some difference of opinions in the SEO world about the value of outbound links to SEO, there are still some major benefits of utilising outbound links. Let’s talk about a few of them in detail.
1. Build Trust
When it comes to writing content or creating web pages, online users won’t automatically trust your business. Just as brick-and-mortar businesses need to gain the trust of customers, you need to do the same with your digital presence. Outbound links help you cite the sources that you use, which gives the reader the opportunity to read further.
Although the internet is a great invention, false information is easily spread across the web. As a business, you need to position yourself in the best possible light. An outbound linking strategy can show that you have done your research and taken the time to learn more about the topic at hand. One single business or person does not have all the answers. If you aren’t citing other sources in your work, you might actually lose trust instead of gain it.
2. Add Depth
We just mentioned the importance of outbound linking to build trust with readers, but outbound links are also vital to add more depth to your content. When search engines crawl your pages, they look at every aspect, including outbound links.
Ultimately, outbound links can help search engines add more context to your own content, especially if you’re linking to an authoritative source. This is beneficial to your website as well as the site where you’re linking.
3. Provide Value
Think back to the benefit of building trust. While you are building trust with your readers, you’re also providing them with valuable information. At the end of the day, your readers have the intent to make a purchase, book an appointment or find more information. Regardless of where they are in the marketing funnel, you need to give them as much value as they can handle.
Using outbound links shows that your business isn’t perfect – and that’s okay!. In today’s digital landscape, readers look for authenticity and genuineness. When using outbound links, you are showing that you don’t have all the answers, but you have found sources that can provide the answer the reader is looking for.
Best Practices for Outbound Linking
Now that you understand what outbound links are and some benefits behind them, let’s discuss some best practices your business should follow.
1. Don’t Randomly Use Outbound Links
Remember when you had to write papers in school, and you had to cite your sources? The teacher knew if you didn’t use real sources, or you chose random websites or books to use. When it comes to the digital world, imagine a teacher being there waiting to grade your outbound links.
You should NEVER insert outbound links into your content or web pages that don’t make sense. Linking to outbound sources should read naturally and fit into the flow of the sentence. If you’re forcing a statistic or a link into your content, it won’t come across well to the reader. Do your research ahead of time, so you can naturally include that information as you are writing the content.
And remember, if something is common knowledge, you don’t need to include an outbound link. You also need to consider your audience, too! For example, writing content about digital marketing for small business owners vs. a digital marketing agency are two entirely different audiences. Small business owners might need a little extra information, so you might need to include more outbound links compared to catering to a marketing agency.
2. Use Sites You Trust
As you are researching your topic or writing your content, you will reference many websites full of information. Of course, you will want to cross-reference sites to make sure the info you find is accurate. When it comes to citing your source and using an outbound link, you should only link to sites you trust.
You will come across many sites in the initial research stages that are not reputable sources. If you were an online user reading a blog, and you navigated to an outbound link that wasn’t high quality, you would probably be upset with the business that led you to that page. Step into your reader’s shoes when it’s time to consider outbound links.
3. Use the Proper Amount of Outbound Links
You’re probably sitting there asking yourself, how many outbound links should an article have? Great question! Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact answer we can provide. Using outbound links in content depends on a variety of things, including industry, the purpose of the content, the audience you’re targeting and more.
However, there is a rough guideline we can share. On average, a blog can contain five outbound links. You can learn more about this number by reading the Alexa blog. As mentioned earlier, this isn’t an exact or magical number.
The most important thing to keep in mind is what you are trying to answer with your content. If you’re publishing a study that your business completed, it’s likely you won’t need outbound links as you have all the information you need. If you’re creating an infographic compiling stats from a specific year, you will most likely need more than five outbound links.
Use your best judgement when it comes to outbound links. Having an outbound linking strategy can be valuable, but not every piece of content needs to include outbound links. And, just because you don’t use outbound links doesn’t mean you should forget about internal links. Utilise content that you already have created and use that information as a source.
4. Open Outbound Links in the Same Window
There have been many discussions on this topic, but as a best practice, many people believe that opening outbound links in the same window is ideal. While you don’t always want a user to navigate away from your page, you need to consider the user experience first and foremost. Many times, users are completing searches on mobile devices. Opening a new window on a mobile device can be frustrating as you try to navigate back to the page you were originally on.
Instead, you should have outbound links open in the same window, that way the user can easily hit the back button instead of searching through all of their open tabs. However, there is no clear evidence for or against new windows vs. the same windows.
While the choice is yours and there is no set-in-stone rule, make sure to do your own research before making a decision. Once you do decide on a method, stay consistent across all pages. The last thing you want is to have different window settings across pages. As a user, this can be frustrating and confusing as they navigate through your pages.
Bonus Tip: See what your competitors are doing with their outbound linking strategy. Of course, you DO NOT want to copy them. Your business needs to be authentic, but it won’t hurt to see what they’re doing for their linking strategy. Your competitors are probably analysing your pages, too. Consider doing a competitor audit. This will allow you to see where your website may be lacking or if you are light years ahead of your competitors. Competitors audits are great to do if you’re still in the planning stages of your business or if you’ve hit a plateau in your marketing efforts.
An internal and outbound linking strategy is crucial for businesses of all sizes. While they do provide different benefits, you need to include internal and outbound links in your content where appropriate. However, don’t go crazy and include a million links; this can be overwhelming for the reader and unnecessary for your business to do. Find a middle ground and create a linking strategy that works best for what your business needs.
Hyperlink, backlink, external links….all of these terms can be confusing. Trust us, we were in your shoes once too. At Higher Ranking, we’re here to help your business with all things digital marketing. From search engine optimisation, web design, social media, display advertising and more, our team of experts can handle all your marketing needs. Learn more about the services we can offer your business.
Not sure what digital marketing strategy your business needs? We have you covered. Contact us today with any questions you might have or services you are interested in. We’ll reach out to you as soon as we can to get you on a path toward online marketing success!