Why Relevant External Links Matter: Back to SEO Basics
As a knowledgeable and methodical webmaster and we may be, we know that know that optimizing our website is a constant effort and that the Web is always evolving. Our Naperville Web Design and SEO Team is constantly being retaught and our methods reformulated to appeal to the demands of the search engines. You may have spent several hours adding and updating meta and titles tags, keyword-rich content, H1 header tags on top of pages, multiple header tags within content, title text, quality web content, alt tags for photos, and even building inbound links. One thing you’ve certainly learned through all of this is that in order to rise and remain at the top of SERPs — everything is never enough.
Certainly one commonly overlooked, and sometimes feared, tactic is hosting external links to relevant websites within your own site’s content. Some SEO’s view this as the ultimate sin. You likely know that having authoritative sites that include a link back to your website can help generate traffic, leads, as well as increasing your rankings on SERPs. But you might find your self puzzled considering, “if we’re going back to basics, how exactly would linking out to other websites help?” And with the onslaught of websites that have fallen off the grid post-Google updates (Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird) for suspicion of trying to “game the system” – why on Earth would you want to risk having your website get penalized? Some SEO’s here in Chicago have openly claimed that outbound links are a near and dear friend of the internet devil.
The answer is very simple: user experience surpasses all other aspects of the algorithms. Search engines want you to provide relevant resources on your website that enhance your visitor’s experiences while surfing the web. Your dynamic content and lists of helpful resources will all add a great deal of value to your website in the eyes of your visitors…and the Googlebots.
Spammy vs. Natural Links
So, how can you distinguish between “natural” and “spam” external links and why should you care? Well, what’s useful and relevant to your website’s categories and topics. For example, if your website is geared towards sports, it would make sense to link out to other authoritative and relevant sport sites and pages that can enhance your visitor’s experience; whereas including a link to a dentist’s office would seem out of place (unless somehow the connection is legitimate). Of course, you also want to protect your visitors from sites that involve online gambling, payday loans, pharmaceuticals, or adult-oriented content. Avoid any links from sites associated with known spam content. Additionally, if you ensure that the keywords associated with the site linking into yours are similar to your own, there will be a greater chance of additional weight being placed on them.
External links can also come in several shapes and sizes. Surely one of the more well-known tactics is to develop useful content that contains natural links out to other related sources and websites. Accepting authoritative guest posts is also a way to keep your site updated with unique content. The addition of an authoritative author is that you receive fan traffic from those who are avid readers of the guest author.
They’re Still Votes From The Internet
Obviously, you want quality links coming in, and in doing so, you want votes of approval from the internet as a whole. While yes, Google has clamped down on the weight and power of any specific link, the simple reality is that they aren’t currently able to get a good feel for a website’s overall impact without using link data. Keep them clean, and Google will reward your SEO effort.