Are External Links Good For SEO? When to Use Them.

External links are an important part of the SEO process and the best way to use them is to take existing pages you have and create a few links pointing to authoritative pages like Wikipedia. One or two per page is fine.

This process alone earns you points with Google, but at the same time, while that step on it’s own is good, the whole external linking process can be misunderstood and misused. Let me show you how to properly use it.

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:

what is an external link

But in addition to that, let me add an example:

Suppose we use an imaginary site. Let’s call it, 

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. 

Do external links actually carry 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).

2 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 external links:

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):

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. This increases what’s known as bounce rates and typically lowers the ranking of a website.

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 affiliate linking 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 link 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. 

In fact, after doing that, look at THIS article again. There is:

4) Stick to the 5 main ranking factors Google looks for.

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.

38 thoughts on “Are External Links Good For SEO? When to Use Them.”

  1. I also use external links for a really long time and I think pointing visitors to authoritative sites is the way to go. I think I should do this more often. However, do forums count? I use a couple of forum posts in my niche which basically proves my point. Do you think is this a good idea?

    • Do you mean externally linking to forum posts? It should be fine, but ideally the sites I cited are better because they themselves have more authority in Google and it just gives you more benefits to link to those place. It shows you seek to provide your audience with good content.

      As for how often you do this, I mainly suggest doing this for informative posts, for product reviews and/or reviews you have affiliate links on, don’t do that, stick to only linking to your promotion on those pages.

  2. Excellent information. There is always the urge to throw in too many affiliate links. SEO is such a tricky thing to get right. If you write with the intention of boosting your page views by somehow manipulating the Search Engines, you’re going to lose. It’s hard to outsmart an algorithm. I’ve come to the conclusion that writing helpful content that answers a question or solves a problem is really the only way to get rankings. Your strategies make a lot of sense. I’ll be keeping them in mind as I build out my site.Thanks.


    • Hi Joel, there’s nothing tricky about SEO, you just mentioned the best way to approach it and that’s really the main formula you need to follow. It does take a lot of time to work, but it’s very much worth doing this.

  3. Great article on link building… so many people get caught up with affiliate links that they overlook the SEO benefit. I have to admit though… I had no regard to building external links outside of affiliate offers in the very beginning. However, I now see the value of external links and would recommend your article to anyone in need of a link building strategy. Thanks!

    • No problem Mark, I understand your reluctance in externally linking and you can still grow the SEO ranking of your site without them, it just may happen a bit slower.

  4. Great way to clear up some of my questions. I have been very reluctant to add any external links to my website for that very reason. I am glad to have these notions confirmed by some one else. I look forward to reading and checking out all of the other information you have provided. Thank you.

    • No problem Josh, I hope you utilize external linking intelligently on your site and get some great rankings in the process 🙂

  5. Hello,

    I am a new blogger and I appreciate your page. It helped me learn about internal and external links. This is not really a new concept to me, but it gave thorough details about both. I have yet to learn how to get affiliates, but I am sure I will learn soon. Again, thank you so much for this post.

    My question is, if I simply send someone to say, Amazon, who I am affiliated with, will I earn anything from Amazon? Or lets say, I use another “vendor” that I am NOT affiliated with, will I earn anything monetary there?

    I would appreciate your feedback.

    Thank you

    • Hi Liz, when you are affiliated with Amazon, provided you get the affiliate link of the product you’re sending people to, and they click on it and buy it, yes then you will get the commission. You will not get a commission from someone clicking your Amazon link and not buying anything.

      As for other vendors, you will need to set up either an individual contract or if they have an affiliate program and offer links, get that working with them, otherwise, it’ll be difficult for them and you to monitor if the clicks you’re sending to the vendor are turning into sales (your sales).

  6. I enjoyed reading your post, Vitaliy. You have provided clear and useful information about internal and external linking. The specific examples you give make it easy to understand.

    A common mistake I see (and did this myself early on) is the placing of external links too early on within the content.

    I’ve seen sites that have external links and banners above the fold, even at the top of the page. That could distract visitors away from the site even before they start reading the content.

    I noticed a decrease in my bounce rate and an increase in time spent on my site when I moved external links below the fold.

    As you mention, finding the right balance for your site’s purpose is the key to getting the best result overall.

    Thanks for sharing these helpful linking strategies.


    • Hi Jude, I’m glad you made the necessary changes in the way you organized your links and how you tested it. That is the correct way to approach the topic of conversions and understanding how your incoming traffic reacts to the content they view on your site. 

  7. Interesting read! I have been working on an affiliate site for a few months now and I was often debating on whether or not I should include external links that were not affiliate links.

    After reading this, however, I can totally see why this would not be best for a site that is looking to make an income online due to having visitors leave the site and forget about it though I do also see how this can help a site that is more of a blog.

    My question is, if I add an image from google on my site, do you think it is necessary for me to include a url to where that image is from?

    • You can do that, but using images you find on Google is typically not a policy I’d advise practicing Arie. You see the thing is, those images may often NOT be royalty free to use and you may run into trouble from the owner who owns that image if they want to take it that far. 

      Personally, I wouldn’t connect an image with an external link to begin with because it’s so huge and distracting, it may have a higher probability of a click from your visitor and that can lead to a negative experience from their end on your site. Make your images link to either a product review with affiliate links or internally to another part of your site.

  8. Vitaliy, thank you for this very informative page. I appreciate your advice not to add external links too soon after building a website unless they are not selling anything, but will add substance to your own site. We all want to start earning from websites we build as soon as possible and its a big temptation to load it up with ads and affiliate links to earn dollars but rushing in too soon may be detrimental and have us poorly viewed by Google. 

    All the best,


    • I would add to this, too many affiliate links do in fact hurt a page, especially when it’s new. I wrote about affiliate links here and a wiser way to use them on your site so Google doesn’t look down upon you. 

  9. This is good post on external links. When I first started with affiliate marketing I was scared to have external links because of what you have mentioned in the post about people going somewhere else and not coming back.

    But now I realize I need to have at least 1 external link in every post that I write to have some sort of authenticity.

    Quick question: Have you ever social bookmarked your page using a Fiverr gig. I believe it gets your post out there and gives it that initial push to be seen by everyone. 

    What do you think?

    • Hi, no I have never done that. To be honest, from what I know about these things, you’re just mass “spamming” your website to people and it’s a way to attract junk traffic, which usually goes 2 ways: 1) You don’t get any clicks and 2) You get uninterested traffic so this push is just artificial and useless. 

      But I also want to quickly comment on your point about having 1 external link per post. This is not necessary. The point of my article was to show that people CAN use them intelligently and situations where it makes sense to do that, which is usually when the site is still new. Today, when I write new posts, I hardly every add external links, only internal ones and if there’s any external ones, it’s only affiliate links. 

  10. This is a great article. I feel like this is one of the best articles I have read on external links. I am working on building my website through SEO and other methods so this helps me a lot and gives me some info to improve my website. I like that you also mentioned the times when it is not good to link to another website. Thanks.

    • No problem Austin, yeah there’s an ideal time to externally link, but that is usually to affiliate products. However, as I pointed out, linking to other sites that help improve your visitor’s experience is always a major positive in Google’s eyes for better ranking.

  11. I’m glad a found this post as I’ve not looked at external linking in this way before.

    I understand internal linking as well as external but didn’t realize I had to be more selective of where I need to link externally. I’ve done this for my Karatbars business and now I don’t know if I need to change all my external links to something that Google will appreciate. What would you suggest I do?

    • If you’re getting daily traffic from Google already, you can either remove the external links or make them the same color/font as the other text to be less visible, and then put focus on sending people through regular, blue highlighted links to where you want them to go, be it your affiliate links or elsewhere (internally) on your site. That way people will easily see the blue links and go there and you will still maintain the SEO weight you’ve gathered from Google from the external ones, but the traffic will now go where you want it to go.

  12. You have some really good information here, Vitaliy.

    I know exactly what you mean about external links directing your readers away, never to return. One of the techniques I use is to always set the link to open in a new tab. There’s still the chance that they won’t come back, but they might at some point notice that the original site is still open and come back to it.

    I like your suggestion about using PPC to direct traffic to your affiliate pages. In those cases, if you really have a lot of affiliate links, you can use plugins, like All in One SEO, to hide the page from Google and get traffic only through PPC so you don’t have to worry about it messing up your overall site SEO.

    Overall, great post. Thanks for posting it.

    • Thanks Andy, I’d like to add to the PPC idea, I do agree with it, but only on occasions where you aim to create a landing page that is going to be doing things that would not be SEO appropriate like putting up way too many affiliate links.

      Other than that, you should in my opinion be setting up pages where you promote affiliate products and NOT hiding them from Google. Despite the strategy for those types of landing pages being such that you only link from it to the affiliate product, if the linking is minimal and the content is good, it makes no sense to hide a perfectly good page from Google to rank.

      I have several pages directly linking to an affiliate product ranked high on Google. Trust me, I send PPC traffic there, but it pales in comparison to the SEO traffic you’d get if it ranks high.

  13. Very informative bit of information. That really just cleared some things up about the external and internal links and the best way to go about using them. I like how you explained the difference between external and internal links and the best times to utilize each. You did a good job of implementing examples on this page and showing how you implemented them on this page. I will definitely take the lesson learned from the article and start implementing them into my site. Thank you for this article!

  14. Vitaliy, you really opened my eyes about when to use internal/external links. The post makes sense and is easy to understand, I commend you for your research and analysis. I hope to be a writer of this caliber some day, I am very new to this and trying to absorb as much as I can. I like the image use and clever integration of links.


    • Thanks Andy, I would not worry about trying to be a perfect writer. I have to admit, though I appreciate your feedback, I am not the best writer and often when I look back on some of my posts, I see that they have massive grammar problems and things I missed the first time I wrote it.

      My advice to get better and more natural at writing is to go with a niche you like, it’s just way easier to organize and articulate your thoughts that way. I just like this business, so it’s easy for me to present my articles the way I do and I do appreciate that it has helped you.

  15. Great info Vitaliy. I’ve always thought we need more than 1 external links but seeing your method only use 1 link, I’m gonna follow your method and increase my internal links instead.

    Anyway, what are your thoughts about linking to a competitor site? I’ve mainly stayed away from that since I don’t want to give them back links, which will increase their seo…

    • Well you’re right, linking to the competitor will indeed inhibit your sales and boost theirs as well as their SEO, so you really have to consider in which situations would this be appropriate…

      The only time I would consider linking to a competitor is only if that competitor and I had some sort of joint venture going on or maybe we agreed to do some sort of guest blog for one another in which the idea is, in fact to link back to one another.

      Other than that, I don’t really see any good reason to do this.

  16. Hi Vitaliy,

    Thank you for taking the time to publish this valuable post. it is most important to gain trust with Google in order to rank well and get indexed. Does this same process work with other search engines as well, for instance Bing and Yahoo?

    What is your approach to the donate button you mentioned as well? Just simply come straight out and ask folks for a donation?

    I’ll stop back to see your response. Again thank you and keep’em coming!

    • Hi Howard, I don’t really know if Bing or Yahoo follow the same approach in ranking sites, but Google is far above them in terms of traffic numbers who trust them and it is for that reason that I believe they may try to mimic their algorithms so my rule is, follow what Google likes first and foremost and let Bing and Yahoo rank you however they want to, you’ll still get most of the traffic through Google anyway.

      Generally though, the search results you get on all 3 search engines differs. But if I rank well for one term on Google and not so well on Bing or Yahoo, one option of “fixing” that would be to do PPC ads on Yahoo/Bing and I find that works very well in combination with SEO tactics on Google.

      Now as for donation buttons, I would not “beg” or directly ask for donations. I would the request into banners and place them on every page of my site, such that it would not interrupt my visitor’s reading experience, but once they finish the blog I wrote, a banner underneath it that basically says that if they like the content and would like to see the site do more, to consider a small donation and link it to the donation page.

  17. Thanks for this information. I am kinda of new to Internet marketing realy focusing on affiliate marketing and monetizing my site. I knew that external links were great for SEO but from what I have learned you want to keep people on your site if you’re trying to make money. Reading that in your article helped drive that point home. I always try to provide as much information as I can about a topic so people do not have to go looking elsewhere.

    • That last sentence really hit it for me Matt, you are 100% right. If you can be the person to provide ALL of the necessary info and products, then people shouldn’t want to find it elsewhere, well said!

  18. Hi, Vitaliy. Thanks for the great and valuable information, learning tips and reminders. It is just nice that many points you marked are also consistent with my conclusions. One more thing regarding Ezine and other article directories. I have about 30 different topic articles in Ezine.

    Honestly, I have not visited there for a year. Many articles are links to already deleted sites. The question is it worth to spend a time to replace links to the active site? As far as I remember the article has to be the related theme. After reading your site’s other posts, Google does not give much importance, so is it a waste of time?

    Thanks again for good points.

  19. Vitaliy, I really enjoyed reading this post and learned a great deal in regards to getting better SEO through external links which is something I didn’t know. I do agree that using external links vs internal/affiliate will be dependent on the goal of the website. Thanks for this article and information! – Amber

    • No problem Amber! Just remember if the goal of the site is leaning towards monetization, use the internal linking accordingly and externally link to affiliate pages.


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