Follow These Rules When Adding Outbound Links to Your Site

Written by Nick Stamoulis

In the SEO world, all the attention seems to be on inbound linking, or obtaining links from other websites that point to your website. This is for good reason since it’s an important search engine ranking signal (one of the top 3 ranking signals, in fact). However, there’s another type of linking that the search engines are also paying attention to that doesn’t get the same amount of attention from website owners, and that’s outbound linking, or linking out from your site to other sites. Just like inbound linking, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it, and if you’re doing it the wrong way you might just be handed a manual search engine penalty. There are plenty of reasons to link out to other websites on your website so it’s important to follow these rules to stay on the good side of the search engines:

Link to relevant and authoritative sites only

During an inbound linking campaign, the most important rule to follow is that you only want links from relevant and high-quality websites that will pass trust on to your own website. The same concept applies to outbound linking. Think of it this way – don’t link out to any site that you wouldn’t want linking back to you. Many outbound links are reference links used in blog posts. If you’re linking out to a reference, always try and find the original source of the material. For example, if you find some great information on website A and that website references website B as the original source, you should also link to website B, even though you originally found it on website A. That’s because there’s a good chance that the website with the original data/information is a more authoritative site. This is creating a better experience for your readers.

Be strict with user-generated links

The best way to avoid low quality user-generated links on your site (blog comments, guest blog posts, forum comments, etc.) is to not allow them on your site in the first place. However, for some sites it legitimately does make sense to have this option. For those sites, it’s important to be strict and put a manual review process in place as opposed to allowing links to automatically post on your website. User-generated links remain a breeding ground for spammy link practices and you don’t want your site to be guilty of having crappy outbound links on it.

Be transparent about paid links

The search engines don’t like sites that are deceptive. If you are paid for having any link on your website, that link should be designated as such. If you’re only including paid links to make some extra money on the site (and it isn’t the primary purpose of the website) reconsider having those links at all, just to be safe. These types of links (within content, etc.) are different than running ads on a network like AdSense.

As you can see, there are best practices to follow when executing outbound linking just as there are when executing inbound linking. If your website is brand new, you can link to other sites with these rules in mind. However, if your site has aged it’s a good idea to go back and conduct a manual review of your outbound links to ensure they are in compliance and remove or swap out any that are questionable.

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