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External link

An external link, also known as an external backlink or external hyperlink, is a hyperlink that points from one domain to a different domain. Unlike internal links, which connect pages within the same website, external links connect a user from one website to another. These links are fundamental to the web's interconnected structure, allowing users to navigate between different sources of information and websites to reference each other.

Internal links are hyperlinks that direct readers to another page on the same website, facilitating navigation and improving the site's SEO by distributing page authority throughout the site. In contrast, external links (or outbound links) direct users to a different domain, which can be beneficial for SEO as they may pass on link equity and help establish the credibility and authority of your website.

A few other types of link classifications are:

  1. Inbound vs outbound links. Both internal and external links might be classified by link direction. For example, if page A contains a hyperlink to page B, this link is considered an outbound link for page A (that is, the one going from the page) and an inbound link for page B (going to that page).
  2. Text vs image links. Another possible classification considers how the link is formatted. If a link uses clickable text, also known as anchor text, it is called a text link. While an image link uses a clickable icon or image.
  3. Footer vs menu vs content links. And finally, we can distinguish between web links by their placement on the linking page. I.e. whether the link is placed within the page’s main content or it’s included in the page’s navigation menus or footer.

An example of an external URL could be a link to a reputable news article or a research paper that provides additional context or evidence for the content on your page. For instance, linking to a study on www.researchsite.com from your health blog would be an external link.

In SEO, an external link might be used to reference a statistic or a related piece of content that supports the information on your page. For example, if you're writing about SEO strategies, you might link to a page on www.seoauthority.com that discusses the latest trends in the industry.

An outbound external text link from https://mywebsite.com to https://anotherwebsite.com should be formatted like this[1]

<a href="https://www.anotherwebsite.com">anchor text</a>

An outbound external image link, in this case, will look something like this:

<a href="https://www.anotherwebsite.com"><img src="mywebsite.com/image.png" alt="text describing the image"></a>

There are plenty of SEO tools to use when you need to find the list of external backlinks. 

One of these tools is Google Search Console - a free tool designed by Google to help webmasters adjust their websites for Google’s search algos. If you have the website’s Google Search Console account at your disposal, you can browse to the Links section to see a big portion of the inbound external links the website has:

The Links report in Google Search Console

Unfortunately, the tool's unable to show all of the inbound external links, it only shows a sample of them. So, for the full list of backlinks, you will have to resort to other backlink checker tools

For the full list of outbound internal links, i.e. the external URLs that your website links to, you’ll need to crawl your website with special SEO spyder software.

Checking outgoing links in WebSite Auditor

Yes, external links are generally good for SEO. They can help search engines understand the relevance and authority of your content. Linking to high-quality and relevant sites can improve your site's credibility, and search engines may view your content more favorably, potentially leading to higher rankings. Moreover, external links can also lead to reciprocal linking, where other sites link back to yours, increasing your site's visibility and traffic.

External links are a cornerstone of SEO strategy, offering a multitude of benefits that can significantly enhance a website's visibility and credibility in the eyes of search engines like Google. Here, we delve into why external links are good for SEO, supported by data-based examples and insights from industry experts.

Value to users

External links provide immense value to users by directing them to additional, relevant information that complements the content they are currently engaging with. This practice enriches the user experience, making your site a more valuable resource. For instance, if a blog post about healthy eating habits links to external research or articles on nutritional science, it not only bolsters the post's credibility but also offers readers a deeper understanding of the topic. Search engines recognize this value, considering the quality and relevance of external links as a factor in their ranking algorithms.

Boost in Google's eyes

From Google's perspective, external links are akin to votes of confidence in your site's content quality and relevance. When you link to authoritative and relevant external sources, it signals to search engines that your content is well-researched and trustworthy. This is particularly true when the external links are to sites with high domain authority, as these are considered credible sources by search engines.

Moreover, external links help search engines understand the niche and context of your site, further aiding in accurately indexing and ranking your pages. For example, a tech blog that frequently links to leading technology news sites and research institutions is more likely to be recognized by search engines as a credible source within the tech industry.

PageRank flow

Another example can be seen in the way Google's PageRank algorithm works[2]. Although it has evolved over time, the core principle that links serve as votes of popularity and relevance remains. Pages that accumulate a significant number of high-quality external links are often deemed more authoritative, which can lead to higher rankings in search results.

What are the external linking best practices? 

Relevance: ensuring content alignment

When linking to external content, it's crucial to ensure that the linked content is directly relevant to the subject matter of your page. This means that the external content should complement or expand upon the information you are providing. For example, if your page is about healthy eating, link to external sites that offer nutritional advice, recipes, or research on diet and health. This not only provides your readers with additional valuable information but also signals to search engines that you are connected to relevant and substantive content, which can help with the contextual understanding of your page.

Authority: linking to credible sources

The authority of the sites you link to can significantly impact the perceived trustworthiness of your own site. Search engines use the quality of external links as a signal of your content's credibility. Therefore, it's important to link to sources that are recognized as authoritative in their field. This could include academic journals, government websites, or established industry experts. Check the domain authority of the sites you link to using tools like Moz's Domain Authority checker. High-authority links can lend your site greater credibility and improve your search engine rankings.

Anchor text: crafting descriptive and varied links

Anchor text is the clickable text part of a hyperlink. Best practices for SEO suggest using anchor text that is descriptive of the linked content and includes relevant keywords. This helps users and search engines understand what the linked content is about before clicking. However, it's important to vary your anchor text to avoid the appearance of manipulative practices, which can lead to penalties by search engines. Instead of repeatedly using the same anchor text, use synonyms or related phrases that still accurately describe the linked content.

Open in new tab: balancing user experience and engagement

When you include an external link, consider setting it to open in a new browser tab. This practice can keep visitors on your site longer by not navigating them away from your content immediately. It also allows users to easily return to your site after they've finished with the external content. However, be mindful of the user experience; too many new tabs can be frustrating for users. Use this practice judiciously and always ensure that it adds to the user's convenience rather than detracting from it.

Avoid competitors' sites: strategic linking choices

While linking to external content can be beneficial, it's important to avoid linking to direct competitors or to sites that are vying for the same audience with similar keywords. Doing so could inadvertently boost their search engine rankings or lead your visitors away to a competing service or product. Instead, link to sites that complement your content and add value for your readers without directly competing with your offerings. This strategic approach to external linking can help maintain your competitive edge while still providing value through high-quality external resources.

What are external links?

External links are hyperlinks that direct users from one website to a page on a different website.

What is the difference between internal and external links?

Internal links connect pages within the same website, while external links connect to pages on different websites.

Linking from your blog post to a relevant industry report on another domain is an example of an external link in SEO.

Yes, they can improve credibility, authority, and potentially search rankings when used appropriately.

What are some best practices for using external links?

Ensure relevance, link to authoritative sources, use varied and descriptive anchor text, and consider user experience when deciding whether to open links in a new tab.

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