Frequently Asked Questions About Outbound Links

Posted on June 20, 2013 in

An outbound link is a hyperlink that points to exterior (target) domain from your the current (source) domain. Also known as external links, they are yet another essential component to mastering the beast we call SEM. Unfortunately many people do not understand their value and/or abuse them in their copy. We’ve provided the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions to help you better understand just how much value outbound links add to your site.

Why do I Need Outbound Links?

If you’re new to SEO, you may be saying to to yourself, “Why do I need outbound links? Won’t that take attention away from my site?” The answer is yes you need them and no they won’t. The Internet is known as the “World Wide Web” for a reason. It is an amalgamation of every website everywhere. This web of interconnected content is created through outbound links. If your site doesn’t have external links, the Google bots might think that there is something fishy about your site. Even commercial super-sites like Nike and Coca-Cola employ outbound links. Outbound links lend credibility to your pages and connect you to the rest of the web. Plus, they create a better and fuller experience for your reader; which may help encourage them to frequent your site and buy your products.

What is Anchor Text?

External links are structured around the anchor text, which is the clickable text associated with your link. Let’s say that someone who was writing about online marketing  strategy wanted to reference RankHammer; they would do so in the following HTML format:

Example: Anchor Text for Outbound Links

Let’s break this down a little bit.

  • <a opens the anchor text code.
  • href=” “> refers to URL you wish to reference in your anchor text.
  •  RankHammer will be the clickable anchor text associated with the link.
  • < /a> closes the anchor text code.

Anchor text is great because you can use it to associate keywords with outbound links, giving more value to both your keyword and the link. The more variations of your keywords you use in your anchor text, the higher the likelihood of boosting your authority in the algorithm.

 Where should I anchor outbound links on my page?

There are two things that need to be mentioned here. First of all, the links in your copy are typically given the most value. Links in footers and sidebars, while important, are not given as much importance as those in your text. Secondly, Google recommends that you have fewer than 100 links per page, with a few exceptions. Google can only index so many kilobytes of data per page, so if you have an excessive number of links, there is a chance the bots won’t even be able to index or follow them; not to mention that too many links can seems suspiciously spammy and create a poor user experience. So the moral of the story is, put your most important outbound links in your copy and don’t overdo it.

What is rel=”nofollow” and when should I use it?

rel=”nofollow” is a meta tag you can add to an outbound link that tells Google not to crawl the target page. It is often used with “noindex” as well, telling the bots not to index that page either. When this tag is applied, Google does not transfer PageRank or anchor text between pages. In essence, applying “nofollow” helps alert Google as to which pages have crawl priorities.

There are a couple of occasions in which rel=”nofollow” should always be applied to your external links:

  1. Paid and sponsored links are required to be marked “nofollow” as mandated by Google. In doing this, you are marking a paid online relationship, much the same way a paid relationship in print is marked “advertisement”. 
  2. External links leading to registration forms. Google can’t sign up for your email list or enter a giveaway, so there is no point in indexing these pages because Google can’t read them.
  3. Comments sections can sometimes be breeding grounds for spam. In case someone posts a comment with a bad link on your page, you should always apply rel=”nofollow” to comments sections to protect the integrity of your site.

How do I get external links pointing to me?

While earning outbound links should not be your main focus, it should definitely still be on your radar. When other sites link to your domain, it boosts both your PageRank and link juice. In order to get to this point, the best thing you can do is write a quality copy. Share your knowledge and expertise. Talk about things you know, and things your readers are interested in. Writing relevant content shows both the algorithm and your viewers that you’re a legitimate source for information; making them more likely to reference you in their content.

By Kelcey Piper

Kelcey Piper studies Marketing and French at Baylor University. She has a passion for SEO and inbound marketing, and is the SEO strategy intern at RankHammer. Kelcey loves snow skiing, cycling, and cooking. Check out her personal food blog:

  • nealymincher

    Really great blog post, Kelcey!

    • Kelcey Piper

      nealymincher Thanks Nealy! Hope you’re well.