Best Practices for Including External Links for SEO

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External links, or outbound links, play an important role in your website’s SEO. Links are what weave the web of the Internet together. Websites are interconnected through outbound links that point to each other – it’s what built the foundation for the Google Search Engine.

So, what are the best practices and techniques for external links for SEO? Before we get to that, let’s talk about what an external link is and how it works.

What is an Outbound (or External) Link?

An outbound link is when a page hyperlinks to another page on an external website as opposed to an internal link that links to another page on your own website.

Internal links are important for a variety of reasons. For one, they send users to relevant pages on your site and also help teach Google how your site is connected via content. Internal links also send “link juice” or “link equity” from one page to another on your website.

External links are also important and function similarly to internal links, as they too convey connection and pass along link equity. In addition, links to external pages are a great way to pack a punch in your content. Providing users with quality information and links to other credible websites that are useful to them will promote a great user experience.

John Mueller from Google even said in a #AskGoogleWebmasters video:

“Linking to other websites is a great way to provide value to your users. Often, links help users to find out more, to check out your sources and to better understand how your content is relevant to the questions that they have.”

Techniques for External Linking

Outgoing links help content creators provide value in a page while simultaneously adding credibility to their website. Here are some simple dos and don’ts when it comes to external linking!


  • Assess the credibility and domain authority of sites before externally linking to them in your content. When you link to sites with higher domain authority, Google associates your page with those authoritative sources which may help your SEO.
  • Use external links appropriately. It’s great to link to relevant content with data points, statistics, or other useful information. It shows Google you did your research and are sharing high-quality sources with your users.
  • Use descriptive anchor text when external linking for SEO in your content. Read our guide to anchor text to find out more!


  • Don’t link to low domain authority websites unless they contain relevant information you need. It can send a signal to Google that your site and the site you’re linking to are related; this might make Google view your site as less credible if you do this often enough.
  • Don’t link to too many sites within one piece of content. Having a ton of outbound links looks bad to Google and users and could come across as spammy. In fact, Google recently addressed this in their newest link spam update.
  • Don’t steal content from other sites and pass it off as crediting them through outbound links. If you are taking big paragraphs of content from multiple sites and pasting them together to create a “new” blog post, just don’t.
  • Don’t use link schemes. Link schemes are when a person tries to manipulate Page Rank using links. You will be penalized by Google for doing this, so avoid this Black Hat SEO tactic.
  • Don’t link to 404 pages. It’s super important that the pages you externally link to are active pages. If you link to a page that is inactive, you are leaving a broken link on your site and giving users a poor experience.

Types of External Links

Dofollow links. Dofollow links are what most outbound links for SEO are. This means Google will count these links as those of which a page wants to pass link equity. In other words, think of a dofollow link as you telling Google, “This page has my stamp of approval; I will vouch for it.”

Nofollow links. A nofollow link has a rel=“nofollow” HTML tag applied to it which tells search engines to acknowledge the link but to disregard the passing of link equity. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines say that all paid links should have a nofollow attribute because they aren’t earned.

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>Link text</a>
(source: Semrush)

Sponsored links. Sponsored links can be two things: an advertisement that shows up near the top of search results’ pages when someone types in a search query or a link placed within content that earns money per click.

<a href=”” rel=”sponsored”>Link text</a>
(source: Semrush)

UGC links. UGC stands for user-generated content such as comments and forum posts. UGC links have a rel=“ugc” HTML tag attached to them that labels them for Google as content you don’t editorially own. It tells Google it is not a form of advertising.

<a href=”” rel=”ugc”>Link text</a>
(source: Semrush)

Ready to Externally Link and Improve Your SEO?

It’s terrific to use external or outbound links for SEO. Internal linking is helpful as well, but external links for SEO hold more weight for search engine ranking. Follow the best practices we went over today to keep your website in tip-top shape.
If you need more help with outbound links, request a free SEO audit with Markitors today!

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