One school of thought seems to have dominated the debate about whether to link out or not link out for a long time: the belief that external links can cause more harm then they do good. When you’ve put time and energy into optimizing our site, increasing your rankings, and driving traffic to your pages, why would you want to risk losing that traffic by redirecting it to another site, especially if that site belongs to a competitor?
As a business trying to build your online presence, you’ve most likely done quite a bit of work to get visitors to your site; you don’t want to loose them, hurt your rankings, or help your competitors, at least not too much. Although there does seem to be some correlation data between the numbers of times you link out and your rankings, the negative effect is negligible and doesn’t guarantee that writing off external links entirely is a smart move by any means.
Now, however, this negative view of external links is being replaced by another, more positive one. More than ever, businesses are realizing that, if done correctly and in moderation, external linking can actually enhance your site as well as help your rankings.
How can external links help your site?
First, each external link is like a form of automatic outreach. To put it simply, every time you link to another site’s page, they know it and they may even take your links as incentive to return the favor. Whether your competitors tweet about one of your articles or even link back to your site on one of their pages, you’re external links have the potential to bring you as many links as you put out.
What’s more, linking out can help your rankings by giving Google contextual signals about your site and your products. If you’re linking to sites, articles, and services relevant to your business—like us linking to another Internet marketing blog for example—Google may take this into account as a reinforcement of what exactly your page is all about. If external links are to completely unrelated sites, however, this behavior can be indicative of spam-like behavior. That’s why having well-planned external links and the appropriate anchor text are essential.
One last thing to keep in mind if you want to make the most of an external linking strategy: although linking out can have noticeable benefits, linking directly to your top competitors—other sites ranking on the first page or the biggest contender in your market, for example—can often be a big mistake. You want to link to relevant sites, not drive your consumers straight to the door of your stiffest competition.