As a knowledgeable and methodical webmaster, you know that optimizing your website is a constant effort and that the World Wide Web is always evolving. You may have spent several hours adding and updating Meta and titles tags, keyword-rich content, H1 header tags on top of pages, 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 — all is never enough.
Certainly one commonly overlooked, and sometimes feared, tactic is hosting external links to relevant websites within your own site’s content. You may already 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, if we’re going back to basic, how exactly would linking out to other websites help you? 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?
The answer is very simple: user experience. 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.
Natural vs. Spammy Links
So, how can you distinguish between “natural” and “spammy” external links? It all depends on what you feel is 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. For more information on Googlebots and how they ‘see’ your site, check out our creative video on How Google Crawls the Web.
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. Other examples of external links can be found in:
- Resource Lists
- Unlinked Brand Mentions
- Press Releases
- Blog Feeds
- Other relevant News and Updates