What is an external link?
An external link is a reference from a website to a page outside its own domain. It refers to the “outside”, i.e. from one’s own website to another. For this reason, an outbound external link is also referred to as an outbound link.
In contrast, internal links point to destinations within a domain.
An external link that points to your domain from another website is also called a backlink or an inbound external link. This is the source of your backlink profile.
What is the purpose of external links?
If you set an external link to a third-party website, this is to be understood as a recommendation for its content. Accordingly, the relevance of external links for your backlink profile is high. For search engines, external links are a very important ranking factor that influences the authority of your page. Because if a page receives many backlinks, many website operators seem to consider the content relevant.
However, a lot of traffic is not enough to spread your content on the web – because users usually only link content if they really consider it useful and informative. Therefore, make sure to create high-quality content.
You publish a recipe for your favorite cake on your baking blog. Of course, you can now link the cake recipe internally within your website. But if external sites also link to the recipe, your readers obviously liked it and would recommend it to other users. By spreading the cake recipe on the web, you get a higher reach and visibility. Google also notices through the backlinks that your recipe is well received. They serve the search engine as a quality feature, which will have a positive effect on your ranking.
Especially links from popular domains are valuable, as they bring you additional trust. Nevertheless, you should pay attention to a natural backlink profile that consists of different link types.
Setting external links – what you should consider
If you set an external link, Google interprets this as a recommendation on your part. Therefore, think before you set an outbound link:
- Does the linked content also offer the user added value or further information?
- Is the content thematically relevant?
- Is the page you want to link to trustworthy?
Only if you can answer these questions with “yes“, you should set an external link. If you link a spam page, this can have a negative effect on your own ranking, because the lack of trust of the search engine rubs off on your own website. This is called the “bad neighborhood” effect.
If in doubt, you can also set the link to Nofollow. This way it will simply be ignored by the search engine bot.
When you set an external link, it is important that you include the absolute path with the full URL of the target page in the HTML code. Also, make sure to use appropriate anchor texts that blend into the text as naturally as possible.
Disadvantages and problems of external links
An outbound link points to an external website – this can lead to problems, because you have no influence on the linked content. For example, page content may change without you noticing. Also, if the linked website changes the page structure, the link may no longer point to the original target and go nowhere. This leads to negative user signals. Therefore, you should regularly check the external links that you have set.
On the other hand, you should also check the links that point to your own site and remove links from spam sites. This way your ranking will not be negatively affected.