The Pros and Cons of External Linking

July 21, 2011

Stating that inbound linking is crucial for great SEO is no breaking news. SEO gurus from all over the board have long established this. External linking, however, often comes up as a popular debate. Most people tend to stray from external linking since it seems it’s almost been deemed taboo with the increasing emphasis on internal linking. Is external linking something you should be doing on your website? Or is it best to avoid and simply focus all your linking efforts internally? After we watched SEOmoz’s last Whiteboard Friday (and yes, we are externally linking here), we decided to take a look at why external linking can be a bad and good idea for your website.

Most people don’t want to link out to other websites for fear of hurting their search engine rankings or SERPs. One way to look at this is thinking Google will see you’re linking to other websites, which is basically telling Google those other websites are better than yours and have more value, and this is definitely a valid claim. Another argument against external linking is that it can drive traffic away from your site – which is the opposite of what you want to happen, especially after you worked so hard to get it there. Why would you want valuable prospects and clients to exit your site to go to a competitor’s site and take their business with them? The last thing you want people to do is leave your site. This is probably the more common view people have when deciding to link out or not to link out (that is the question).

However, external linking should not be ruled out entirely. It can actually bring your website and online presence many benefits. Linking to outside sites that are relevant can add immense value to your content and really enhance the visitor’s experience. Providing other resources for your visitors to check out can boost your credibility and help your website establish a sense of authority in your industry. Linking to other relevant sites is also an excellent way to reach out to others in your industry. Instead of seeking other sites through email and requesting them to link to you, external linking is a much more natural way to reach out. And chances are, once you link to them, they might even link back to your website too – that’s the culture of the Internet.

Engaging in external linking demonstrates that your website is an active part of the online community. Google is all about the democratic online community and loves to see the users’ interest and satisfaction put first. Linking out to other websites when it’s relevant to your blog post or article helps the online community. However, it’s not the best idea to link out to your direct competitor whom you’re neck-in-neck with on the search rankings or offers the exact same services. It’s best to link out to other sites in your industry that are relevant to your business as resources to help the user in his search journey.

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