Outlinks: The Gold Mine that will Boost your Brand & Rankings
Links are a huge part of SEO – they’re an unparalleled indicator of site quality and recommendations made by humans. Anyone who has spent 5 minutes trying to get their site picked up by Google will know the never-ending struggle to earn links to their site and navigate the murky world of bloggers, buying links, directories and content campaigns.
The logical thing to do is make sure there’s plenty of reputable sources linking back to your website so these crawlers find it and index it.
But that’s just half the story.
It’s equally important to include outlinks throughout your own content, both to your own webpages and even someone else’s.
But why are outlinks so important? And what can you do to make sure you’ve got enough of them on your site?
The theory behind links
Search engines use links to crawl the web to find new and authoritative content. They start with the pages in their index already and follow any webpages they link to. And so on and so on.
This helps search engines find new webpages to crawl and index and it also helps them decide where to rank those pages for the billions of searches and voice queries users are performing every second.
Why the need for outlinks?
It might seem counter-intuitive because, as marketers, we’re keen to keep users on our site and we worry that rewarding someone else with a link will put their website above our own and hide us in page rankings.
In reality, including links to other pages has the opposite effect and can improve your own rankings.
- Search engines are increasingly looking at the links you send out as a signal of quality – great websites are likely to link to other great sites while spam links to more spam.
- You’ll encourage others to link back to you – linking out shows you’re not closed-off but have an active and positive part to play in your industry. Successful sites attract other successful sites.
- It makes your site more valuable for your readers – you’re sharing more content with them to read and learn from other than your own, so they’ll get a more rounded view of the topic.
- This helps back up your points with facts and expert opinions rather than being a standalone fake news site.
- A long term experiment by Reboot investigated the rationale behind these benefits and found that brand new sites benefited from the quality and quantity of their out links.
This doesn’t mean you should throw in links at random though.
In fact, there’s a lot to navigate when it comes to including links on your website.
Our handy guide below explains the basics of using links and serves up the dos and don’ts to get you linking like it’s 2018.
Do these things, strike gold with your outlinks
1. Do – link within your niche
Links should be logical steps and help build up your own authority. If you’re writing an article on fitness but your sources point to a site about furniture, it’s not a great indicator for what your page is about in the first place.
You want to reach people who are actually interested in what you do and your website, so link to topics that make sense. You should aim to be a master of your niche and let things progress logically rather than jumping all over the place.
2. Do – link out naturally
Firstly, think about how many links to include. Over linking can appear spammy. There’s no magic number for the number of links you should put in each article, but they should only be used when they genuinely serve a purpose.
Secondly, your anchor text should read naturally and tell users what you’re linking to. For example, “We recommend this brand / this product” rather than “Buy best cheap brand / product deals”.
3. Do – include external links in the content you write
The whole purpose of creating content is to be as useful as possible to the people consuming it. You can’t possibly cover an entire subject in one blog or webpage and users will be looking to read-up as much as they can. So, don’t make your content a dead end.
Content should provide a joined-up experience where readers can flow from one place to another rather than jumping back to the results pages and links will guide them to their next piece of content – whether that’s on the same website or another one.
4. Do – link internally if you have a piece of useful content
Link to other pages on your own website that users might be interested in. It’ll help them navigate your site and keep them on it for longer to lower your bounce rates.
5. Do – use link building as part of a much wider SEO strategy
The out links you provide are just one of many ranking signals and should be used as part of a much wider SEO strategy. Take a look at our SEO iceberg to see the other ranking signals that search engines look for.
Building trust through links and reviews, having a strong technical foundation, creating high quality relevant content and offering a great experience on all devices including mobile should be high up on your list
Don’t do these – here lies fools gold
1. Don’t – just do link-for-link reciprocal agreements
Sometimes, a group of websites all agree to link to one another’s site. This is called a link farm and it’s a form of spam that has no overall effect on your link building. Following updates to their algorithm, Google has been devaluing two-way backlinks.
2. Don’t – use the nofollow tag unnecessarily
The “nofollow” attribute is something that used to be added to links if you didn’t want search engines to award any authority to the site you were linking to. It was common when Google used PageRank to show the value of the site and people would go link crazy and try to keep as much of that PageRank in their site as possible.
Now link building is more PR based and naturally earned, things have changed. You should only use nofollow tags for specific links such as adverts or paid links, blog comments, potentially unsafe content or password protected content. If you have a link to a resource or site but are not sure whether you trust it enough to link to without a nofollow attribute, reconsider whether you should be linking to it in the first place.
If you’re linking as part of a sponsorship deal, this needs to be disclosed as part of advertising regulations anyway. For a more in depth resource on how and when to use nofollow attributes, try this Search Engine Journal post.
3. Don’t – link in your footer.
Using site wide links causes duplicate linking issues which search engines might see as spam.
Each time you create a new page or filter type pages are created by the system, the links multiply and you end up with more than you intended. The same goes for widgets you might be using that provide external feeds to things like podcasts and social media.
So, while placing links can be a tough task to navigate, it should come naturally as part of creating great content. Be open to linking to other websites, make sure those sites are relevant, authoritative and safe, and don’t overuse the no follow tag. Want to understand how you can tap the outlink gold mine as part of your brand’s organic search strategy? Just enter your email in the field below and we can discuss how it’ll help build your brand and boost your rankings.