In real life, when you want to make a name for yourself in a certain field, you need to count on a respectable person who can vouch for you. This principle also applies in digital environments. If you want to boost your online popularity and take pride in a website accessed by more and more visitors, you should start implementing some of the most effective on-page and off-page search engine optimization (SEO techniques).
The on-page strategies refer to the modifications that are visible on your site, while off-page tactics are mostly represented by Google-friendly link building practices.
In other words, you need both internal and external links to make your website rank higher in search engine results. But is this a matter of quality or quantity? In this case, less may be more, as long as you emphasize quality. According to Google, Bing and Yahoo, your main goal is to have high quality external links that associate you with relevant, respectable sources. What are the best SEO practices involving external links? Let’s find out.
What Are External Links?
External links represent hyperlinks that target an external domain. If one webpage links to your website, this is cataloged as an external link. At the same time, you rely on an external link when you choose to link out to a particular website. In case Website X links to your website, this means that website X is endorsing you. This is how Google sees it; Google factors in all these votes coming from different websites that link to your pages to determine the significance and the relevance of your website.
Analyzing the Ideal Format of High Quality External Links
If you want to come up with an ideal format, it is advisable to incorporate descriptive keywords in the anchor text. These terms should be relevant to your business and should also coincide or be similar with the keywords that the target website is focusing on.
SEO-friendly, well-written anchor texts should be concise and easy to interpret by the human readers and search engines at the same time. Here’s a code example:
<a href="http://www.dianeking.com">Diane King’s Custom Designed Dresses </a>
In this particular example “Diane King’s Custom Designed Dresses” is the anchor text of the link listed above.
This doesn’t mean that you have to stuff the anchor text with the same keywords; as a matter of fact, this technique could be easily catalogued by search engines as spammy. Instead, try to utilize keywords that actually make sense to your readers and allow them (and also search engines) to gain an insight into your content.
Why Are High Quality External Links so Important?
Good external links, coming from high-quality sources can offer you the chance to profit from a privileged position in search engine result pages (SERPs). They are basically an indicator of your authority, relevancy and popularity. Google assesses the value of a certain website and ranks it based on several metrics.
As Moz points out, the level of popularity of a certain webpage is one of them. Since external links are difficult to manipulate via black hat practices, they are considered a reliable indicator of a site’s popularity and authority. The PageRank algorithm created by Larry Page (Google’s co-founder) counted external links and labeled them as popularity votes.
The mechanism was fairly simple: The website that managed to collect the highest number of hyperlinks succeeded in landing on page 1 in Google. Of course, the algorithm now displays a superior complexity, but it may still interpret external links as popularity votes.
Internal Links Versus External Links
Are high quality external links more important than internal links, from a SEO standpoint? Apparently the answer is yes. It actually makes sense: what you say about yourself is less relevant that what others may have to say about you. In other words, external links pass more SEO juice than internal links, but both types of links are very useful when it comes to implementing your winning off-page optimization strategies.
How Do Search Engines Evaluate External Links?
Google, Yahoo and Bing can assess the quality of your hyperlinks. Obviously, not all linking strategies are as good or equally productive. Search engines rely on different metrics to evaluate the quality of your external links. Here are some examples of such metrics:
- The trustworthiness of the website that you’re linking to. (You obviously get bonus points for linking to a well-known source, with a superior page rank and an impressive number of visitors).
- The popularity of the page that you’re targeting
- The anchor text that you’re using
- The number of websites linked to the target webpage
- The relationship between the target domains and the source, in terms of ownership
In this case, the recipe for success seems to be pretty simple: higher value domains=higher value links.
How Low-Quality External Links Can Impact Your SEO Efforts
These days, it is imperative to put quality over quantity, when it comes to counting your external links. Do not try to buy them. Contrary to popular belief, a huge number of external links won’t help you, as long as they don’t appear in a natural manner and aren’t relevant to your business.
Keep in mind that unorthodox link building strategies can get you into a lot of trouble by attracting penalties from search engines and affecting your ranking. So the general recommendation is to avoid unmonitored links and also paid advertising links. The first category of links can turn your website into a “link farm” and expose you to penalties, while the second category can annoy savvy readers and make them avoid your page. Add the attribute rel=”nofollow” to all these links to make sure that you’re not dividing your PageRank with these websites and also to decrease comment spam.
Control Links to Your Website
Want to know who is linking to your webpage and how? Google sheds some light on this matter by offering a few valuable guidelines. By utilizing the “link:” operator, you can check out the list of pages that link to your website. For instance, [link:www.google.com] will show you the collection of websites that target Google’s homepage.
Bottom line, high quality external links are a powerful weapon allowing you to occupy a better position in SERPs, as long as you use it wisely. Link to high-quality, relevant, popular sources naturally and don’t pay for links or resort to any kind of dubious link building strategies that could impact your ranking.