For a long time, webmasters feared putting external links on their websites. They believed that any outbound link would reduce their PR, cause visitors to leave and never return, or even get them penalized if they accidentally linked out to a “bad neighborhood.” Now, there has been a paradigm shift. It is now considered good SEO practice to link to other websites from your own.
Before you start linking out, here are the top 7 external linking mistakes you can make.
Mistake #1: Not having any outbound links
When you put external links on your website, it helps Google better understand what your website is about. And what is SEO? It is all about helping search engines better understand your site! If your page is about gardening and you link to an article about compost, it gives Google more information on how to rank you properly.
Furthermore, search engines have started to put much more emphasis on user metrics in their algorithms. They know that external links are a sign that your website is offering valuable information to users, especially when the links are related to your topic. As Jonathan Hochman says, zero outbound links is a bad idea - “When you have no outbound links, the search engines may consider your site to be an inferior resource.”
Mistake #2: Not linking because you are worried about helping the competition
If you are a local florist based in London, then you probably don’t want to link to other florists in London. Why send leads to the competition? However, aside from these very obvious examples, it is good practice to link to relevant, related websites – even if they are your “competition.”
SEO is all about building authority. And how can we build authority in any industry? We do it by building relationships with powerful players. Creating that connection with other bloggers is an important part of maintaining your blog. It helps drive traffic, get social shares, followers, backlinks, and support. And one of the best ways to build relationships is by linking out to fellow bloggers.
Instead of hoping that web users will never discover your competition (whether through an external link or search), you should work on creating a great user experience and meeting user needs. Then you won’t have to worry about whether your competitors exist.
Mistake #3: Allowing Unmonitored Links
Google can tell a lot about your website by what you link to. If you link to relevant pages which are valuable to your readers, then it will help your SEO. By contrast, if you link to irrelevant pages which are not valuable to your readers, then it will send signals to Google that you are likely spam. This will hurt your SEO!
It is up to you to make sure every single link on your website is valuable to users. This means monitoring all links that go up – including those in blog comments. It is still okay to allow blog comments with links, but set your spam controls carefully and screen everything before posting.
Mistake #4: Not linking to references
Anyone can make a website and blog, and write anything they want. In fact, one of our colleages used to know a girl who worked as a travel blogger and wrote detailed reviews of hotels and restaurants. She did it all from her living room without once visiting the destinations she wrote about! So, it is no wonder that web users are suspicious about anything they read online. One of the simplest things you can do to improve your credibility and build trust with readers is to link out to references.
Do you mention a scientific study which found beer helps you lose weight? Then link to it!
Do you mention current events? Then link to the newspaper article you learned it from!
These reference links are the types of outbound links that are going to build credibility and help your SEO!
Mistake #5: Linking out when you could be linking in
Linking out is great but, if you can link to a page on your website, then always do this instead! Internal links help you structure your website so search engines can tell which pages are most important. Do you find yourself frequently linking to the same page on a competitor’s website? Then maybe it is time that you included this information on your own website so you can link in instead of out.
Mistake #6: Linking only to affiliate links
A lot of webmasters make their money from affiliate marketing, and they find all sorts of clever ways to get their affiliate links in all over the place. A lot of bloggers go way overboard with it – like recipe bloggers who use affiliate links for every single ingredient in their recipes (do people really buy salt and flour online?!).
Having an affiliate link in a post isn’t bad for SEO. But having the majority of your external links be affiliate links is. Google can identify affiliate link parameters and will think you are spamming.
Mistake #7: Not checking to make sure links are still working
This is one of the worst external linking mistakes you can make, and one which is incredibly common. Webmasters will create a page with links in it, then never check the page again. But what if the website you linked to goes offline? Or what if the webpage URL changes? Instead of getting sent to the valuable resource they were expecting, when users click your links, they get an annoying error page.
As we talked about in our post on how broken links destroy your website, broken links are bad for your reputation, takes away from user experience, and hurts your SEO! No, you don’t have to spend hours each week manually checking each link on your site to make sure it is still working. You can easily fix broken links with Monsido's web governance tool. In addition to detecting SEO errors and opportunities, the tool scans your website for any broken links and then sends a report right to your inbox so you can fix any issues before they affect user experience and SEO.