External linking simply refers to linking from your website to another website. And yes, it’s something you should occasionally do. Which may sound odd; why would you want to send your site visitors to another website? Isn’t the whole point of the internet to get people onto your website? Well, we’ll address that below, and then give you some tips for external linking in ways that are advantageous to your brand.
Why Use External Links on Your Site?
Before you’ll appreciate our tips for external linking, you’ll need to be aware of the benefits of this hyperlinking practice. Here are the main benefits you get—though we must emphasize that you only get them if you implement a smart external linking strategy that adheres to certain best practices (more on that in the next section):
- It improves your SEO. Google and other search engines consider it a positive reflection on your own page’s quality if it links to other high-quality pages. These hyperlinks also provide search engines with more clues to what your content is about.
- It boosts your brand authority and credibility. When you link to reliable sources and provide additional reliable information, it demonstrates that you’ve done your research, you take accuracy seriously, and you believe in being well informed (and having a well informed audience).
- It provides more value to your visitors. Some readers like to keep reading when they’re interested in something. By supplying additional reliable information that your audience can quickly and easily access, you’re doing them a favor. And this ultimately enhances their user experience with your site and your brand.
- It can foster new connections. Many brands monitor their backlinks (links on other websites that direct to theirs), as this is a key part of SEO. When they find you linking to them, they may return the favor and provide a backlink to your site (thus boosting your SEO), they may share your content from their social media accounts, they may reach out to you if there’s something of mutual interest to discuss, and so on.
Tips for External Linking in Beneficial Ways
Follow these tips for external linking to ensure you’re employing best practices that actually deliver the benefits outlined above:
- Only use highly relevant external links. Don’t just pepper them in for the sake of doing it. Only link to another site when you have a compelling reason to do so. For example, the page you’re linking to should back up an important statistic or assertion, provide further reading on a central topic beyond what you’re covering, etc. And use them sparingly.
- Only link to high-quality sites. Make sure any site you link to is an authoritative, trustworthy source with quality content. Linking to unreliable, spammy, poorly written, or otherwise low-quality sites hurts your brand reputation and your SEO. If you ever have to link to a questionable site, use the no-follow tag so search engines know you don’t want your site associated with the other one.
- Use descriptive anchor text. Don’t just hyperlink the words “click here” or something similar. Instead, naturally hyperlink a phrase in your writing that describes what the content is about that you’re linking to. This is a best practice for your audience and for search engines.
- Set external links to open in a new tab. This is an important one. If you send the reader off your site completely by allowing the external link to open in the current tab, they may never come back. By opening the link in a new tab, they can look at it whenever they’re ready, and they won’t be carried away from your site.
- Don’t link to the competition. Obviously, you don’t want to send your visitors to a competitor’s website. Also, by backlinking to a competitor, you boost their SEO, increasing the chances that they’ll outrank your site in search results for keywords you both depend on for organically attracting targeted traffic.
- Conduct a link audit two to four times per year. This is a way of checking your site for broken links. Links sometimes go dead on the internet. It’s just a fact of digital life. It doesn’t reflect well on you when your visitors click a link on your page and it doesn’t work. Search engines don’t appreciate it either. Use a tool like the Check My Links extension for Chrome.