A content marketing strategy is a great way to build your audience and grow your sales. Using smart strategies, such as integrating external links, can build your authority and improve SERPs.
While other search engines exist, Google is the one most companies use as their gauge for designing SEO strategies. Along with death and taxes, one thing is always certain: Google is going to update its algorithm several times a year as it deems fit. Major algorithm updates by the tech giant can throw any SEO strategy into chaos. That said, one consistency is the use of links in online content.
Links play a key role in search engine rankings
As Google and other search algorithms evolve, one of the key things they still look for is links. Inbound, outbound, and internal links all play a pivotal role in your search engine ranking. There are three basic types of links:
- Internal links – From your site to another page on your site.
- External links – From your site to another website.
- Inbound links – From another site to your blog.
Using a good balance of links you control (internal and external) is important. Inbound links are out of your control, but the better your content, the more likely other websites will link to your content for the authority and value you provide audiences.
The basics of inbound links
Inbound links are arguably the most important of the three. They are like a vote of confidence for your website from a third party. Websites that include a link to your site tell search engines that your page is a trustworthy source others go to for essential advice and information.
While they are critically important for SEO, inbound links are also some of the hardest to obtain. It’s important that good external links come from trusted sites, not artificial links created through fake or spam sites like:
- Social media profiles.
These low-quality inbound links could actually have the opposite effect and harm your SEO if a search engine punishes you and moves your results down the page. In previous years, the above emerged, along with link farms and other ways to manipulate rankings. Search engines became wise to these and other sketchy strategies used to generate traffic.
Google and others now penalize websites using these techniques. With algorithm updates throughout the years, such as Google’s Page Experience, search engines are getting better at spotting artificial links and evaluating page and link quality.
The best way to get high-quality inbound links from trustworthy sources is to create great content and promote it so others will see it, read it, and share it with their own audience. As you get more votes of confidence through these links, search engines will notice.
Examples of good external links for your content strategy
External links lead a reader from your website to a site elsewhere on the web. External linking happens when you link to an outside source that you reference in your blog article.
Any SEO practitioner worth their salt knows it helps to include links in a piece of content. External links greatly benefit your website in terms of building visibility and adding credibility to your content. Just as important is that they add value to the readers’ experience because the links connect them to other valuable information while reading your content. Audiences will see you care about them and want to provide them with the best information possible.
How to identify a high-quality external link
Content marketers should not use just any link though. As with any source of information, there are good and bad examples of external links. Linking to news events, reputable statistics (e.g., illustrating a point you want to make), or additional reading to expand on a topic are all good resources to provide your readers. Search engines know and consider this as they rank pages.
How to identify a high-quality external link:
- The website you are linking to is regarded as a high authority in the industry. A well-respected source will boost people’s confidence in your content.
- The link is not from a direct competitor’s website (at least, not from the same location).
- The link leads to a source known for content relevant to the subject matter.
- The source links to mostly informational websites instead of your competitor companies.
- The site you are linking to has attracted regular readers and a substantial number of visitors.
- The source has valid information that gets fact-checked (e.g., the opposite of Wikipedia).
Once you’ve chosen the links to include, you must take other factors into consideration, such as the number of links.
How many external links should you have in a content article?
External links encourage readers to click away from your blog article, so you must limit these links and set them to open in a new tab. That way, readers won’t abandon your site entirely. Abandoning your site increases bounce rates, which hurts your website traffic. A perfect example of why SEO can be so tricky!
What, then, is the ideal number of external links that you should include in your article?
With Google constantly making algorithm changes, no number can ever be set in stone. Some say 2-5 external links is best, depending on the length of the content. Still, others would not put a limit on the number of external links. Many industry experts, however, advise against linking more than once to the same page.
Based on what we’ve found from our own research, we recommend 1-2 external links for every 500 words of content. Limit your total number of external links to 5 (which would be for a very long article, approximately 2,000 words long).
What is the best way to include an external link in an article?
An external link should be placed within the body of the content. Readers appreciate knowing what they’ll get if they click a link. That is why an external link should be properly emphasized using a concise, relevant, and contextual anchor text. The hyperlinked text within the sentence you are linking from should convince the reader that clicking it leads to additional, valuable information.
What external links should be avoided within the content?
Not all external links are created equal. By all means, take great care including external links within any quality content. Avoid using links that are outdated or “spammy” in nature. Instead of linking to poor-quality websites, link to reputable experts and authoritative sources, such as:
- Journalistic sources (The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, Content Marketing Institute, etc.).
- Reliable sources on .gov and .edu domains.
- Well-established sources such as Pew Internet, Nielsen, and Gartner.
- Experts and thought leaders (but avoid competitors).
To ensure your links retain their quality, perform a periodic link audit to ensure links are still working and current.
Tempesta Media’s philosophy on external links
Tempesta Media writers and editors meticulously check all external links to ensure they do not lead to competitor websites. They make sure each link works. A broken link is not a good thing. No one wants to be greeted by a web page that is inaccessible because it has moved or the target website is offline. A working link leads to a good reader experience and increased traffic.
Finally, no content should be caught linking to outdated sources with information that may now be incorrect or irrelevant. At Tempesta Media, all external links within a content piece are verified to ensure they are accurate and up to date.
Related reading: Now that you’ve learned about external links, want to learn about internal links? Read our blog article: 8 tips on how to incorporate internal links to your content.
Want a strategic approach toward building your online presence?
Tempesta Media offers a number of services to help businesses bolster their online presence, grow their audiences, and ultimately expand their businesses. To get you started, we can provide you with a digital marketing assessment Prova that helps you assess your current strengths and weaknesses and provide many other services to help bring your company to the level of visibility you want to achieve at an affordable price point.
To learn more about our digital marketing managed service solution Performica, contact Tempesta Media today. We’re happy to answer any questions or address your concerns.