A very long time ago, in an article, I explained the concept of internal link building and how if you used it correctly, you can really see some amazing boosts in SEO. On that same article, I very briefly covered external ones, and only defined them and after a long time, I realized I should cover this topic as well because it has it’s own separate strategy and understanding. So let’s start with the following:
What is an external link?
In my internal link building article, I explained it rather clearly so I’ll paste the image of the definition here:
But in addition to that, let me add an example:
Suppose we use an imaginary site. Let’s call it, Vitaliyscoolpage.com
Now on that site, let’s say I write an article. Then on it, I send people to a video or an article that’s on a completely different page outside my site. That is also an external link.
If on my page, I send people to Google, YouTube, Facebook, and any page that leads people somewhere away from my site, it’s considered external.
So let’s answer the question: Do external links actually hold good SEO benefits?
The answer is yes. In fact, Google themselves point to using them when writing content on your website. If you visit the official Google blog, specifically this page (by the way, this is another great example of sending people outside my page), you’ll see the following paragraph:
Basically what Google is saying here is that if you write content, by providing “evidence” through showing people information on other, credible websites, you basically boost your own authority in the eyes of visitors and Google themselves. And in a way, that’s what I just did. I made a point about SEO and proved my point by citing a credible source (Google).
And on a side note, I should have underlined the word “citations”in the image above too because its basically another way of saying proof when citing sources.
By doing this type of stuff, this shows them (Google) that:
- You are aiming to provide people with as much valuable information as possible.
- You are not money oriented, meaning you aren’t just trying to send people to affiliate offer and it’s about sending them where they get more good information.
Both these things signal that your site is doing well. But that doesn’t mean you can just write small content and do nothing but send people to credible sites, that’s not how SEO works, you need to write extensive content yourself (see more on article length).
So let me give you several examples of how external linking could work:
1) Suppose I have a blog that deals with science and I am writing an article that explains my thoughts on a recent scientific discovery that was made and my position on it, including a hypothesis, predictions, ect…
It would make sense for me to do the following things when writing my article:
Link to a news site (a credible one) where similar information about this was released.
2) Imagine I’m a history enthusiast and I write about the history of World War II. Within that article, it would help to provide “citations” to pages such as Wikipedia and other similarly authoritative sites that further explain certain details about the war.
Perhaps I have a section in my article that talks about Winston Churchill. I can make the name itself, of that person, anchor text and send people to a Wikipedia page that shows the history of Winston Churchill and that would be considered a high quality external link that is both relevant to my content and informative to my readers.
And on that note, you may have noticed me mention the term “authority websites”. What are these?
Well these are basically the highest looked upon sites from Google. They are the pages which when, releasing new content will typically land on the first page of Google. Some authority websites include:
Facebook, Wikipedia articles, News websites, official government pages, ect…
The other side of the topic: When it’s not good to use this strategy…
Typically this strategy is not so good to use on any site which seeks to make money. If you do have a site which you’re aiming to monetize of, you really have to do the following:
You must keep people on your page and only provide links to affiliate websites/products so when a person clicks the it and visits/buys the product, the website owner can make money.
When a website owner links to…say one of the above authority sites I mentioned, they are not affiliate pages, they are just informational websites, meaning…they won’t make money, but they will get SEO points.
And then this will happen (very often in fact):
However, an unfortunate and very likely scenario to occur is that when people go out of your site, they aren’t going to come back. This is not true 100% of the time, but it happens often enough to really affect profits.
From my personal experience, when I visit a page and it attempts to send me elsewhere, I rarely ever go back to the original page. By the time I realize I’m on a completely different page, I’d already left the original one and probably don’t even remember what the name of it was.
The fact is, people who visit websites and for that matter browse the internet, have short attention spans. It doesn’t take a lot for them to become distracted and leave somewhere else.
Finding the balance (for website owners seeking to make money only):
Note: If you are the type of person who is simply making a website seeking to help people out and have no intention of making money through it, go about the external link strategy above and your site will likely do well with SEO, but you should also consider adding a donation button so people can at least give you something if they like your page.
Now if you are seeking to make money, odds are, affiliate marketing and/or selling your own services are the likely 2 options you’re going for. In that case:
1) Externally send people to authority sites ONLY when necessary. By that I mean, if you’re writing an article which is say a tutorial, and one of the best ways to get people to follow the tutorial is to send them to a site that further helps them do this, then in that case, provide the “bridge” to that page.
For example, in the donation page I just provided above, I provide 1 external source to a page within that article where people can make it (a donation button). In that case, this is a plus for SEO because there’s no other way they’d be able to follow my tutorial without that additional help I gave them. Otherwise, they’d have to find it themselves. By doing what I did, I provided better relevancy.
2) When it comes to the whole topic of being an affiliate and sending people to your offers, follow this strategy. The strategy here doesn’t exactly have good SEO benefits, but if you use it the right way, you can definitely not inhibit your SEO and at the same time make money.
3) Stick mainly to internal approach, not external one. These ALSO help with SEO, trust me. But at least with these, people will be on your page and not someone else’s. Again, read about my strategy for doing this here.
In fact, after doing that, look at THIS article again. There is:
- 1 external link.
- Several internal ones.
- Not a single affiliate one, unless you visit this page.
And this type of strategy works very well for me and I recommend it for you as well (only for sites trying to make money). I would say my site utilizes both the second and third strategy above and in very unusual instances, the first one, like in this article, but here it made sense.
My final thoughts:
Overall, from an SEO perspective there is absolutely nothing wrong with sending people to other pages away from your site. In fact, sending them to other pages which don’t give you any monetary value out of it is a plus in Google’s eyes as I mentioned before.
But it’s a trade off. Better rankings on the front end, but potentially more lost traffic on the actual site on the back end (because they may leave the page itself).
That’s why, based on my experiences in this, depending on what type of website owner you are, and your goals, this strategy may or may not be suitable for you and I certainly hope I explained it clearly enough in this article.
My strategy is more of an overall beneficial SEO approach that gives you good rankings, and also helps keep people on your page until they are ready to buy something you recommend to them.
If that strategy confuses you, you may want to seek some great SEO training here from which I personally gathered just about all of my knowledge and success from.