How to maximise external linking for better SEO

For years, newsrooms and publishers have overlooked the key benefits of external linking. But now, they are harnessing their power to write better content and boost search engine rankings with a few simple steps.

Many people worry about linking out to other websites from their own articles in case they lose readers off their page. However, this fear has been widely disputed.

Even back in 2013, in a study on the changing culture of hyperlinking (yes, we are externally linking here), Nieman Lab contributor Mark Coddington describes a “cultural resistance” to linking in newsrooms due to a desire to keep readers within an organisation’s website. 

But he goes on to explain, “Deep-seated resistance to linking has [in fact] begun to fall away, largely because of two factors: the infusion of the Web’s cultural values, and a concerted effort by particular editors to institutionalise linking by incorporating it into the workflow of writing for the Web.”

It’s true that external linking should be a key part of every publisher’s search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy in an online world. Top SEOs claim that external links are the most important source of ranking power and should not be underestimated.

But where do you start when it comes to constructing an efffective external link-building strategy? What’s the best practice?

In this piece, we’ll guide you through the different types of external links, why you should be utilising them in every article to write better content, and how you can access quality links with just one click. 

What is external linking?

Unlike internal links which point to other pages within your own domain, external links are hyperlinks that point to external sources. Similarly, if another website links to you, this is also considered an external link directing visitors to your site.

Read more about the importance of internal linking in our blog post Why you Need to Focus on Internal Linking to Boost SEO.

Inbound links, backlinks, inlink they all essentially mean the same thing: another website is linking to your domain because it deems it a useful source. These are the most difficult links to acquire and, therefore, search engines view them as a key indicator of a source’s credibility and relevance to searchers. This makes them highly valuable for SEO.

As Google explains, web crawlers assess an article’s usefulness “…by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.”

Simple, right?

LOYAL TIP:

You can use Google Search Console to see how many external links your website has received. This can be a helpful metric to help you write better content. 


 As the name suggests, this is essentially the reverse of an inbound link. An outbound link points from your website to a different website. So, an outbound link for your website is an inbound link for another website.

There are two types of outbound links:

  • Nofollow links

These tell search engine crawlers not to associate your site with the page you’re linking to. “Links marked with these rel attributes will generally not be followed,” explains Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

  • Follow links

These links will be crawled by search engines and can pass on SEO value – otherwise known as “link juice”  – to your article. No doubt this will happen naturally, but make sure they are trustworthy websites you wish to be associated with.

LOYAL TIP:

You can create a nofollow link quite simply. Add a rel=”nofollow” tag into the source code once you have embedded the link into your piece:

<a href=”http://www.domain.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Anchor text</a>

As you can control them, outbound links are a key area to focus on when link-building within articles. For this reason, we’ll focus on this type of external linking when diving into explaining why and how you should be linking.

Three key benefits of linking out

  • Outbound links add value to the reader experience

    What really makes great content shine? Its ability to provide readers with as wide, and as well-informed a picture of a specific topic as possible. External links are a great way to embed extra resources – case studies, white papers, related articles – into the body of an article and help you write better content and add value to a reader’s experience.

  • Your piece will climb search rankings

    The links you embed can help search engines gauge the quality of your content. For example, low-quality sites are more likely to link to a far greater amount of equally low-quality pages, while great content typically links to other great sources. Therefore, search engines will favour an article with quality external links.

  • Linking out encourages links in

    Instead of seeking other sites through email and requesting them to link to you, external linking is a much more natural way to reach out. And chances are, once you link to them, they might even link back to your website too – that’s the culture of the Internet.

A lot of publishers overlook external linking because sourcing quality links to support an article can be a repetitive, time-consuming process. However, missing them out can be incredibly damaging to SEO and frustrating for readers.

Fortunately, technology can help speed up this tedious task, putting credible sources right at writers’ fingertips, meaning that they can concentrate on the important stuff. Writing.   

For instance, our one-click journalism research tool is designed to eradicate the repetitive research work that can go into finding highly-relevant external sources to link to. 

one-click-research@2x

Once downloaded on the Google Chrome Web Store, LOYAL can be used within a working Google Doc. Within seconds, it retrieves the most related articles from an extensive range of trusted sources using NLP, with the added benefit of quick-glance sentiment analysis and tags.

What makes LOYAL different to traditional search engines is that you can run an entire article through the app to find highly specific sources without guessing keyphrases to search for – it makes linking effortless.  

Just copy and paste the link into your article to embed sources, as you write. 

Three things to avoid when external linking

  • Irrelevant links

This goes without saying, but is definitely worth highlighting. You should choose links that are relevant to visitors and add depth to your article. This will help Google to connect the dots and understand which pages relate to each other.

  • Writing non-descriptive Anchor text

Just like with internal linking, the anchor text (the clickable text in the HTML hyperlink) for external links should be as descriptive as possible. You want your reader to have a clear idea of what the page they’re about to click on is about.

Aim to include a range of natural keyword variations and natural language pointing to your target page. Using the same target keywords can be a red flag for spam detectors, so it’s always best to mix it up and enhance context and usability to your users. 

LOYAL TIP:

If you’re looking for a better understanding of search engine optimisation, check out Google’s SEO Starter Guide for a handy overview.


  • Manipulative linking

Linking out to bad places or to good places for bad reasons can have a negative impact on search engine rankings. It can give the impression that you’re a spammy website. Instead, try to focus on adding real value to your reader’s experience. In turn, this will naturally help you write better content and drive up your SERPs. 

By paying a little attention to external linking and embedding good habits into your workflow, you’ll naturally increase the value of your articles and reap the SEO benefits. 

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