You’re probably writing a new blog post right now and wondering if it’s even worth linking to other sites.
Ever wondered what role outbound links play in the success of your blog?
Here’s the truth:
Links in any shape or form are building blocks of a great search experience.
They help Google spiders crawl the web and index the best content for users.
So if your post doesn’t have outbound links, it would keep search engines from properly indexing your blog.
I know, the statement above doesn’t make a lot of sense right now.
That’s why I’ll be discussing in this post the benefits of having outbound links in your blog and how to do it the right way.
The Ultimate Guide To Outbound Links SEO
- 1. What are Outbound Links?
- 2. What Makes Outbound Links Special?
- 3. How to Add Outbound Links in WordPress
- 4. Inbound Links vs Outbound Links: What’s More Important?
- 5. How to Use Outbound Links the Right Way
- 6. Audit Your Current Outbound Links and Fix the Broken Ones
- 7. Best Outbound Links Checker Tools
- 8. Conclusion
What are Outbound Links?
Outbound links (also known as external links) send a reader from your site to a different website.
Normally, bloggers use outbound links to back up claims and stats, verify facts, or point readers to content not available in their blog.
Now, there are two kinds of outbound links:
Dofollow links pass link juice from your site to the targeted pages while nofollow passes no link juice.
So why am I talking about juice all of a sudden?
Okay, so picture this:
Imagine websites as water containers.
The most popular and authoritative sites like CNN are huge containers with water filled to the brim.
Websites that aren’t as authoritative don’t hold as much water.
Now, think of links as the faucets.
Whenever you link away from your blog, you turn on the faucet and drain a bit of water from the container.
The water coming out of the faucet goes to another container or website you’re linking to.
So, when you have a link from a site like Backlinko, for example, you get more water compared to a link from a lesser-known site.
And it works both ways. You also transfer link juice to your outbound links if they are dofollow links.
This is precisely what happens when you use the dofollow attribute for your outbound links!
You give away some of your power to another site!
However, when you use nofollow links when pointing to another site, you don’t let the juice escape your site.
Here’s a visual representation of what I’m talking about:
Woorank goes into greater depth about link juice, especially when using the nofollow and dofollow tags.
We’ll get into how both affect your blog’s SEO performance later.
For now, let’s focus on the value outbound links, in general, brings to your blog.
What Makes Outbound Links Special?
At this point, you’re asking yourself:
“So I’m sending people away from my site? That doesn’t sound right!”
While the statement above isn’t wrong, it’s the incorrect mindset for approaching outbound links.
The purpose of linking out to another site is to give value to your readers.
If you’re keeping them on your site by deliberately not linking to better resources, then you’re depriving them of that value!
However, that’s not the only reason why you should use outbound links.
Below are other reasons:
1. Establish Authority
This is the top benefit of outbound links!
By including links to relevant, high-authority sources in your industry, you can boost your own authority and reputation in the process.
You can think of it as a form of an alliance:
You are telling readers that you operate in the same circle as the biggest brands in your industry.
Therefore, linking to those websites turns you into an authority and an expert.
The purpose is to help readers understand the value of keyword in the title.
The link, therefore, serves as a backup to my claims and adds credibility to the article as a whole!
Aside from case studies, you can also link to statistics from reputable sites to help your content.
2. Improve Your Content’s Relevance with the Topic
Search engines learn about your site from your links.
Think of them as providing hints to crawlers about:
- The industry you’re in
- The problems you’re trying to solve
- The competitors you face
- The relevance of your page to users
For instance, you have a blog about weight loss and you link out to pages about diet plans to help you lose weight.
The pages have a strong correlation since both talk about weight loss.
As a result, you help search spiders associate your blog and content with that topic.
This is especially true if the pages you’re linking to are from authoritative domains that are also related to your topic.
Conversely, linking out to irrelevant pages doesn’t add any value to your content.
In essence, you trick readers by pointing them to pages that have nothing to do with your topic!
In this case, think of links as signboards on a highway.
Irrelevant links are similar to flashing the wrong traffic sign on the road.
This will trick the driver into taking the wrong direction or entirely missing their destination!
So, what does this tell you about linking out?
By using outbound links on relevant pages that wield authority in your niche, you get to do the following:
- Inform search engines that the outbound links are related to your topic
- Associate your blog with the topic discussed by the pages you linked to
- Provide readers with links to useful information outside your blog
All three points help search engines better understand what your blog is about, all thanks to context.
If you keep pointing to weight loss regimens, then Google will assume that your blog is about fitness and developing a healthy lifestyle.
And if you link to sites unrelated to fitness and losing weight, search engines might take a closer look at your blog.
And if you keep linking to non-related sites, there’s a good chance Google may penalize you.
Makes sense, right?
3. Create Great User Experience
Now, here’s what you might not know:
Quality content is what will separate you from your competitors.
Well, you probably already know that.
But here’s another thing:
Linking to other high-quality content provides an instant value-boost for your audience.
If I want to learn more about a subject, Wikipedia is the first thing that springs to mind.
Aside from its well-written entries, there are external links to help you do further reading.
This is one of the many reasons that make Wikipedia great.
It serves you with useful outbound links to further build your knowledge about the topic.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites on the planet.
So what’s the moral of the story here?
By focusing on giving readers what they want and need through outbound links, you can build a loyal fanbase.
When you link to useful content from another site, readers will remember yours for referring them to said site.
If you think about it, by pointing them to a great site, you’re giving them a reason to come back to your site!
And if you keep giving your fanbase value, then you can keep growing your trust and authority in your field.
4. Leverage for Backlinks
Believe it or not, outbound links connect you with journalists, bloggers, and companies.
By building relationships with these people, you can earn backlinks.
It may not make sense at first, but hear me out:
To leverage outbound links for backlinks, you need to start by identifying the influencers in your industry.
They could be educators, thought-leaders, industry experts, and even your indirect competitors who are highly established and well-connected in your niche.
After that, the next step will be to write insanely useful content.
You want to refer to what Corbett Barr called “Writing Epic Shit” that he wrote years ago:
This is a very essential part of the whole process.
It’s a way to demonstrate how your brand can offer them more value once you start partnering up with them.
When writing content, you want to link back to relevant pages on your influencer’s sites.
Once you’ve published the content, the next step will now be to notify the influencers you mentioned and used as a reference in the blog post.
One way to go about this is to get in touch with them via their contact page or use a tool like Hunter to send them an email directly.
Here’s a sample email you can send them:
NOTE: Don’t ask them to link to your content or share it on social media. They will usually do it when they truly like the content.
You can also contact them through social media like Twitter.
The main reason for this is to familiarize your target influencers with your brand. It will be easier for them to decide if you’re really worth the exposure.
Click here to read more about this approach.
How to Add Outbound Links in WordPress
Adding outbound links in WordPress is pretty easy and straightforward.
Here’s a step by step guide on how to do that.
Login to your WordPress admin dashboard and go to Posts >> Add New to see the visual editor.
You can also achieve this by editing an existing page or post.
To add an outbound link, you need to select and highlight the word or sentence that will serve as your anchor text.
Then click the Insert Link button in the toolbar.
Clicking on the Insert Link button will display a popup window.
You will enter the hyperlink in the URL field and the anchor text in the link text field.
You can also make the link open in a new browser tab by checking the “Open link in a new tab” box.
Always use this option for your outbound links.
And that’s it – plain and simple!
We Need to Talk About Nofollow Links
Earlier, we mentioned about the two types of outbound links.
But this is the only time we’ll touch upon nofollow links.
Google first introduced the nofollow attribute in 2005 with the purpose of reducing spam links like blog comments.
If you own a WordPress blog, you’ve probably received nonsensical blog comments filled with irrelevant links from your posts.
Below is a perfect example of this:
This is known as comment spam and it’s one of the primary reasons why Google introduced the nofollow attribute.
Typically, when Google sees the (rel=”nofollow”) attribute on hyperlinks, they won’t give those links any credit.
This is not a negative vote for the website where the comment was posted.
Rather, it’s a way to ensure that spammers get no benefit from misusing public areas such as blog comments, referrer lists, and trackbacks.
Now, let’s look at how to identify nofollow links:
How to Identify Nofollow Links
First of all, every nofollow link must have the rel=”nofollow” HTML attribute.
Below is a typical example HTML code for a nofollow link:
<a href=”https://yourwebsite.com” rel=”nofollow”>Google</a>
Now, there are two ways you can check if the nofollow attribute is applied to any link.
The first way is to point your mouse to the link, right-click on it, and select Inspect Element.
This will now split your browser window into two parts.
And in the bottom window, you will see the HTML source code of the hyperlink as well as the (rel=”nofollow”) attribute as shown in the screenshot above.
Now, here’s the second way:
Download and install the Nofollow Chrome Extension which will highlight all the nofollow links in a page for you.
As you can see, it’s pretty easy to identify nofollow links on a web page.
Why You Should Use Nofollow Outbound Links
If you’re wondering why you should add the nofollow attribute to your outbound links, here are a few reasons:
1. Links on comments
We’ve already mentioned above that some people comment for the sake of building links to their websites.
As a result, most of the comments are utterly useless as seen from the screenshot above.
Making the links nofollow won’t reward commenters with link juice from your site.
And it will stop spammers in their tracks and discourage them from commenting in the first place.
Here’s an example of this in action:
As you can see, the commenter’s names on this page are all nofollowed as indicated by the nofollow Chrome extension.
And it’s only right that the comment links are nofollow.
Look at their replies:
“Thanks for the information.”
“Thanks for sharing this amazing post.”
If that’s the best that your commenters can do for your blog, then might as well nofollow all of their links!
2. Paid links and sponsored posts
All paid links must have a nofollow attribute.
The reason? They go against the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
Any link you put on your site in exchange for money is a paid link and Google frowns upon it.
This could be in the form of affiliate links or sponsored posts.
Now, I know you can’t possibly stop people from publishing paid links on their sites.
Still, they should give the nofollow attribute on paid links as shown in the screenshot below from the Jeff Bullas blog:
Unfortunately, not tagging paid links as nofollow may result in Google penalizing your site.
3. User-generated content (UGC)
Just like enabling comments on your site, giving people free access to publish content on your blog also gives them the green light to link to almost anything.
Wikipedia and Forbes are good examples of websites that do this.
You’ll notice that they tagged all outbound links on their site as nofollow in fear of getting penalized or not being able to adequately police UGC.
This is also what you should do if you have a platform where people can freely publish UGC.
New Link Attributions Related to Nofollow Links
Related to the last two points mentioned above, Google just released two new nofollow attributes to help search spiders identify the types of links you have.
You can now do link attribution in three ways:
- rel=”nofollow” => A general tag for nofollow links
- rel=”sponsored” => For sponsored or paid links
- rel=”ugc” => For links within all user-generated content
Here’s a handy guide from MOZ that explains these new attributes:
Starting March 1, 2020, Google will begin to treat these new link attributes as “hints” across the board, which means that:
- Google may use them for ranking
- Google may use them for crawling and indexing
Typically, Google disregards nofollow links.
So what’s the point of using these tags then?
Well, unless all of your outbound links are set to nofollow, you really don’t have to worry.
The problem with most site owners is that they want to keep the link juice to themselves.
And to keep link juice from flowing away from their sites, they set all links pointing to other sites as nofollow.
That’s the time when Google will disregard the nofollow tags and index them anyway.
Therefore, there’s still good reason for you to qualify your outbound links to stay within Google’s good side.
How to Add NoFollow Links on WordPress
Here’s the step-by-step process to adding nofollow links on WordPress pages or posts using the Gutenberg Editor.
At the moment, the only way to add nofollow links in the Gutenberg Editor is to do it manually.
Also, you have to add the link first before adding the nofollow attribute to it.
Here’s how to go about it.
The first step is to go to “Posts” from the left sidebar of your admin panel, and then click on “Add New.”
Here, you need to select and highlight the text that you wish to add a link to, and then click on the link icon.
This will bring up a text field below the highlighted text. You can then copy and paste the outbound link directly in the box.
And if you desire for the link to open in a new tab once clicked, simply click on the “down arrow icon.”
This will also bring up a menu, then tap the “Open in New Tab” toggle box to enable this.
Once everything is done, simply click on the “apply” icon to add the link.
Now, to add the nofollow tag to your link, select the block containing the link and click on the “Options” menu at the top right bar.
This will reveal several options, then click on the “Edit as HTML” option to proceed.
This is where you’ll see the HTML code of the link. Just add the rel= “nofollow” tag to the link element, and that’s it.