Having outbound or external links in your content is often a marker of good quality content. It can positively affect your brand reputation and your search engine ranking. Firstly, let’s first define what an outbound link is. A link or URL in a webpage is a piece of content that an user can click on and browse or be redirected to on to another webpage. Anybody who has browsed the internet should already be familiar with the concept of a link.
An outbound link is a link that points to a webpage that is outside the domain of the current page. So, if I create a link to google.com from one of my pages in lostsaloon.com, then that is an outbound link or an external link. The same link would count as an inbound link for google.
There has been many different theories, which has evolved about the effectiveness of the outbound links in terms of SEO. It was long been believed that creating an outbound link has several disadvantages:
- lost visitors: The visitors on your page can click on the outbound links and leave your website instead of browsing on your website. This can reduce teh time spend by visitors on your site.
- link juice: The search engine indexer will pass a part of your page rank or link juice to the page that you link to. So, the more inbound links you have the better you ranked in the search pages, but more outbound links reduced your ranking.
- page rank: The Page Rank used to be all the rage not so long ago. The outbound links were known to reduce your own page rank for some reason.
All of these caused content creators to create nofollow external links which was said to preserve the Page Rank. The concept of page rank has since been deprecated by Google. SEO is strictly a black box, there are several theories about how webpages or content is indexed and how the rankings are determined. It is very unlikely that any of the major search engines will divulge the exact algorithm that is being used. Moreover, these algorithms change over time anyways.
Having said all that, is it worthwhile to create outbound links, and should you make an extra effort to create them? There are several advantages to creating outbound links, most are indirect in nature. This means it is highly unlikely that you will see an increase in ranking or traffic immediately. However, persisting with creating genuine external links when appropriate can improve your SEO in the long run.
The main reason or advantage of creating outbound links is that it builds reputation for a brand and website. Outbound links with in your page content gives the impression that it is informative and genuine. The positive effect from the increased reputation of the content will happen both with the visitors of your website and the also search engines. This can in turn creates a positive feedback effect where you will rank higher in search engines that can drive higher levels of traffic to the content.
There are several different things you should keep in mind while creating outbound links.
- Relevant Links: The links that you create should be relevant to the overall content of the webpage.
- Informative Links: The links or the content that it links to should add value to your own content by complementing your own page content or website.
- High quality Website: You should link to other high quality websites. Stay away from link farms and websites with shady content. This is true for both inbound and outbound links.
- Good anchor Text: Provide an informative anchor text while creating links. This will help both your visitors and search engines.
Also, if you are worried about visitors leaving your site, you can create outbound links that will open in a new tab or window. This will keep your content open in a current tab that the user can come back to. Now, what is an ideal number of links that you should create on a page?
Obviously, it will depend on the length of the content on the page. The more content you have on the page, you have the opportunity to create more outbound links. There is no hard and fast rules as to how many links you should have. As long as the links are relevant, informative and of high quality you can create as many as you want.
Generally I recommend that you have at least one outbound link for every 300 to 400 words. So, if you have a webpage with about 1000 words, you should have at least 3 outbound links. You can have other internal links in addition to the outbound links as well.
It is also a good practice to check your outbound links periodically to make sure they are still relevant and not broken. Over time it is not uncommon for the links to be broken, as other websites shutdown or change their URLs and content. Probably the one thing that is worse than not having outbound links is having broken links. A periodic check for broken links that you can usually automate using some simple scripts, will ensure that it is still valid.