External Backlinks: Are External Links Good for SEO?

An external link or outbound link are important components of a website’s SEO efforts and its overall SEO ranking. Whereas, as a digital marketing expert you should look to build external links back to your web page (in other words an inbound link or backlink.)The semantics of the language can get confusing for new webmasters.

Link building can help increase a website’s domain authority. It is considered an essential practice of off-page SEO.

What are external links?

Referred to as an outbound link, an external link denotes a hyperlink that directs users to a webpage or resource located outside of the specific website. This stands in contrast to an internal link, which connects to URLs within the same domain. Occasionally, backlinks or inbound links are referred to as external incoming links.

To make things a little more clear, lets look at a few of the different terminology around external links:

  • Outbound links / Outgoing links: A link that points from your website to a third-party website. Used in content to build context and cited sources
  • Inbound links: A link pointing to your website from another website. These are the reverse of an outbound link. Additionally, they are known as backlinks.
  • Internal link: An internal link is a link on your web page that points to another page on the same domain
  • Nofollow link: A nofollow link contains the HTML tag: rel=”nofollow”. The tag tells the search engine to ignore that link and not crawl the other website, or pass authority (also known as ‘link juice’) to the website the link points at
  • Dofollow link: Dofollow links are backlinks that point to a particular website. They tell search engines to follow the link and associate the page to the website. They also pass link value on to the website, helping the backlink profile and domain authority of the web page receiving the backlink.
  • External Backlink: Is a link that points to your website from another page. They are also called external links or inbound links, depending on if you are placing the link in your content, or if your website is receiving the link.

What are external equity links?

External equity links encompass those external links that transmit SEO signals like PageRank and anchor text, factors employed by Google in its page ranking algorithm. Generally, these links are devoid of a “nofollow” attribute.

These signals are then used by search engines to help them develop authority and trustworthiness to rank pages. Most often, these are links that are ‘dofollow’. Whereas, if the external link contains the ‘nofollow’ attribute in them they wont pass on link juice, associate the particular page to the other page, or have the spiders crawl the other web page.

How are external equity links measured?

As discussed, equity links pass Google’s PageRank or ‘link juice’ on to the web page it is pointing to. Both internal and external links can pass ranking power to another page. By passing link equity on to another page you are helping to boost the ranking performance of that page.

Let’s look at how external equity links are measured.

  1. Is the link relevant? If you’re linking to an article about how to bake your grandma’s secret muffin recipe from your page about traveling in Nepal, the link is probably irrelevant — and Google will know. Irrelevant links offer little authority or value.
  2. Is the linking site authoritative? Links from established websites yield more link equity than links from new websites that are just starting out.
  3. Is the link followed? No-follow links tell search engine crawlers to disregard them and not pass link juice on to them. As a result, link equity will not be passed. However, a link with a nofollow tag doesn’t indicate that it has no value to the receiving site, however.
  4. Is the link crawlable? The crawler is informed to disregard a page if it is blocked by the robots.txt file. This means no link equity will be passed on to the target page.
  5. How many links are located on the page? While there is no precise rule about the ideal number of external or internal links on a page, if the backlink to your site is one of hundreds or thousands of links, it probably will not be as valuable. Additionally, if your link is lost among the numerous other links on a page, it’s unlikely a user will notice and click on it, reducing the referral traffic and value even more.

What does an external link look like?

Below is an example of what an external link looks like. The link is wrapped in a <a href> tag. Additionally, you will notice the anchor text portion of the tag as well.

“<a href=”http://www.example.com/”>Link Anchor Text</a>”

Anchor text is a great place to optimize for keywords. Anchor text is the user facing text that the hyperlink or external link links from. For your external link SEO strategy (and internal linking strategy!), you will want to try to at least use partial match anchor texts in your links. Keep in mind you usually do not have control over this, unless you are partaking in backlink building yourself. That being said, it is an SEO best practice to use anchor text that fully matches your target blog posts title or keyword.

To optimize external links, you can use descriptive keywords in the anchor text portion of the link that reflects the same topic the target page is targeting for their webpage.

Actually, if you do try to use the same keywords every time, it can trigger spam detectors, and get your site penalized. Thus, you should use a variety of anchor text, which enhances the context and usability – this is especially important for readers and search engines.

Are External Links Good For SEO?

External links hold significant importance for the SEO of the recipient domain since prominent search engines like Google perceive them as indications of trust in the linked page. Each such endorsement implies that the content on the linked page is trustworthy, valuable, and beneficial.

Overall the importance of external links can be looked at from two different perspectives. One, from a website using an external link, and two, from a site receiving an external link (or backlink from the receivers point of view.) This is an important distinction because they benefit the site differently.

A site using an external link:

External links are important because they help the site’s audience find information they’re looking for. When a person clicks on an external link, it takes them to a different website which provides high-quality content on the subject. Moreover, when a blog uses an external link, it helps the search engine understand the content better while crawling the page.

This is a big advantage for companies because it allows them to spread their message to a wider audience. It also helps them build relationships with other businesses and organizations, and makes it possible for them to share resources and ideas that they may have in common with their audience.

A site receiving external backlinks (ie backlink):

When a website ‘A’ uses an external link to target website ‘B’, then website ‘B’ receives a backlink. This is important because it is showing search engines crawling pages that website ‘A’ believes the content is of high-quality, authoritative and trustworthy. And as we know, backlinks are essential to a website’s domain authority score and rankings.

SEO external links best practices

Search engine ranking factor survey showed that obtaining external links is the single most essential component of attaining high rankings. This thought comes from the fact that building backlinks is one of the most difficult metrics to manipulate. Therefore, it is one of the best ways to evaluate the popularity of a website. This idea was first coined by Alta Vista, and subsequently improved on by Google.

Google began implementing search engine rankings, and how to determine them by introducing an algorithm that was first develop by Google’s Larry Page, which can be seen in: The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.

it basically counts hyperlinks as votes for popularity. Whereas, if a page has more external links pointing to it (or votes of confidence), they would be ranked higher and considered more popular. The next step includes the evaluation of content and query being asked, Google would search through relevant sites and display the most popular on the first pages of Google’s results. 

Even though the algorithm is without a doubt more complex today, it is thought to still include the notion of external links as votes. Here are some metrics search engines use to evaluate links:

  • The website’s trustworthiness
  • Popularity of the linking page
  • Considers the relevancy of the content between the source page and the external page.
  • The anchor text used in the link being built
  • The overall number of links to the same page on the source page
  • The overall number of root domains that link to the target page
  • The various variations that are used as anchor text to links to the external page
  • The ownership relationship between the source and target domains

How to Find External Backlinks to Your Website:

You can use Google Search Console to discover external links if your website is registered there. In the “Links” section of the console, you’ll find valuable information about websites that are linking to yours.

Additionally, you can take advantage of various online backlink analysis tools that are specifically designed for this purpose. Notable options include Ahrefs, Moz’s Link Explorer, SEMrush, and Ubersuggest. These tools allow you to input your website’s URL and receive a comprehensive list of the external links that point to your site.

Similar to Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools also provides insights into external links that direct towards your website. This multi-faceted approach will help you gain a comprehensive understanding of the external links associated with your site.

FAQs – External links

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding SEO external links.

1. Are external Links good for SEO?

Yes, external links are good for your website’s SEO performance. External links are important contributors to higher rankings. External links pass on link juice, authority and trust, which are metrics Google uses to rank web pages.

As an SEO expert or webmaster, you should work to build your backlinks and engage in SEO external linking initiatives. This can include, guest posts, releasing PR, looking to ‘steal’ external links from your competitors, as well as other link building tactics.

2. What is the difference between internal linking and external linking?

Internal linking is when you link to another page on your own domain. On the other hand, external links are ones that point to an external website. External links are usually used when you want to cite information from an outside source. Simply, internal links are when you link to your own pages, while external links link to pages on a third party domain.

Both internal and external linking are important and should be incorporated into every SEO strategy.

3. What is the difference between backlinks and external links?

The distinction between a backlink and an external link often leads to confusion among many individuals. To simplify this, a backlink refers to a link originating from a website outside your domain, whereas an external link pertains to a link originating from one of your own pages.

4. Do external links improve SEO?

Yes, external links improve SEO. Outbound links contribute to enhancing your website’s SEO through various means. Primarily, as previously highlighted, they indicate to Google the relevance and credibility of your website. When you connect to reputable and pertinent websites, it demonstrates to Google your expertise and understanding of the subject matter.

Generally, it’s considered good practice to use external links in your posts and blogs as it adds credibility to your claims, and can improve the trustworthiness of your site. Additionally, the external links will be crawled and help search engines understand your content better. Both of these external link factors will improve a site’s SEO.

Therefore, it is a good idea to spend time working on external link building for SEO purposes, both in your content, and in the form of an external inbound link from another website. Whereas, the more external links your website has, the higher your website will rank in search engines. This is because Google takes into account the number and quality of links a website has when ranking them. 

However, it is important to note that there’s no guarantee that all links will be helpful or beneficial to your SEO effort. This is because some webmasters and SEO agencies will conduct link schemes to increase the number of external links pointing back to their site. Therefore, Google values links in different ways, and if they think you are engaging in link building techniques that violate their guidelines, they will penalize your website

To sum it up, external linking is good for SEO, but only if you do it in the correct way. Make sure to use external links that follow Google’s guidelines.

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