What Is an External Connection?
An external connection is a hyperlink on a domain that points to another domain.
External connections are valuable for the receiving domain’s SEO because Google and other major search engines recognize them as votes of confidence in the linked webpage. And each vote indicates that the content on that page is trustworthy, valuable, and useful.
Pages with numerous external connections pointing to them (also known as backlinks) from authoritative sites have a tendency to rank higher in search results.
Tip: You can quickly determine how many external connections point to your site by analyzing it through Backlink Analytics.
Internal vs. External Connections
Internal connections are the opposite of external connections. They are hyperlinks that point to another page on the same website.
This is what an internal connection looks like on our blog:
However, leveraging both types of connections is crucial for your own SEO.
Using external connections helps:
- Show Google how your content relates to other pages
- Provide value to your readers by offering more information and resources
- Establish relationships with other sites, which can result in exposure, traffic, and backlinks
Using internal links helps:
- Enhance the user experience and navigation on your site
- Distribute link equity (ranking power) among your pages
- Strengthen the relevance and authority of your pages for specific keywords
- How to Build Your Website Architecture for SEO
Are External Connections Beneficial for SEO?
Using external connections (or outbound connections) on your site can benefit your SEO in two significant ways:
First, they provide value to users, thereby enhancing the user experience. A better UX can contribute to improved rankings in various ways.
Second, they may assist search engines in understanding your topic and niche.
When you link to sites that are relevant to your content, you are providing additional context about what your site is about and how it fits into your industry’s broader picture.
Nofollow vs. ‘Follow’ External Connections
Nofollow external connections are hyperlinks that inform Google not to pass any ranking signals to the linked page.
In other words, you do not “endorse” the page you are linking to.
You can add a nofollow attribute to any external hyperlink by including rel=“nofollow” in the HTML code.
“Follow” external connections, on the other hand, are hyperlinks that do instruct Google to pass ranking signals to the linked page.
You do not need to add any attribute to make an external connection a “follow” link. It is the default option.
But why would you want to use nofollow instead of follow external connections?
Well, there are some situations when using it can make a significant difference for your SEO.
You should use the nofollow attribute when you do not want to recommend or associate your site with the linked page.
For example, you may want to link to a competitor’s page for context, but you do not want to pass any authority.
Or perhaps you want to indicate that a link is sponsored or affiliated.
Just know that Google treats the nofollow attribute as a suggestion, not a directive.
- Nofollow Links vs. ‘Follow’: Everything You Need to Know
- What Are the Different Rel Attributes for External Links?
External Connections: SEO Best Practices
Link to Relevant Sources
It is beneficial to have external connections. However, do not add them indiscriminately. Make sure they contribute value to your content and your readers.
Good external connections point to related content that supports your main points and provides context.
For example, you can link to statistics, research, infographics, or videos that substantiate your claims or offer further information.
Google aims to display the most relevant results for any query.
When you link to websites in the same niche as yours, both Google and users can gain a better understanding of your content.
Link to Authoritative Sources
The quality of your external connections matters greatly.
Only link to websites that are credible and professional. If you link to websites that contain clickbait content or low-quality information, you will lose the trust of your readers and Google. This damages your reputation and your SEO.
For example, our State of Content Marketing report contains numerous external connections to reputable sources in the industry.
If you have to link to websites you do not trust, use the nofollow attribute.
Optimize Anchor Text
Anchor text refers to the clickable text that indicates a hyperlink.
It helps users and Google understand the topic or content of the external site or page, enhancing the user experience and potentially influencing how the page ranks.
Therefore, optimizing your anchor text is extremely important for SEO.
Some tips to ensure your anchor text is SEO-friendly include:
- Using relevant and descriptive text (as opposed to generic or unrelated text)
- Being concise (using short, descriptive text)
- Formatting links to make them easy to spot (clearly distinguishable from regular text)
For example, in the image below, the anchor text “disavow file” informs readers and Google that the following page is about “disavow file.”
On the other hand, generic anchor text like “here” is unclear and provides no context.
You can identify and fix anchor text issues on your site by conducting a crawl using our Site Audit tool.
First, enter your domain name and click “Start Audit.”
Next, configure your settings based on the desired number of crawled pages and other factors.
Then, click “Start Site Audit.”
Once the audit is complete, navigate to the “Issues” tab and enter “anchor” into the search bar.
You will see a list of anchor text issues on your site.
Click the “Why and how to fix it” link next to each issue to learn more about it and receive tips on how to fix it.
- What Is Anchor Text? Best Practices for Optimizing Link Text
Avoid Link Schemes
Link schemes involve attempting to use links to manipulate Google rankings.
If Google catches you engaging in any activities that violate their spam policies, you could face penalties.
This could result in your site ranking lower or not appearing in search results at all.
Common link scheme activities include:
- Purchasing or selling links for the purpose of ranking
- Exchanging goods or services for links
- Using automated programs to generate links on your site
- Linking from low-quality directories or bookmark sites
Avoid all of the above.
Additionally, sponsored or affiliate links should contain the rel=“sponsored” or rel=“nofollow” attributes. This informs Google that the links are not intended to influence rankings.
Audit Your Site’s External Connections
Now that you have a better understanding of external linking, it is time to take it a step further.
This involves regularly auditing your site for external connection issues.
If you neglect this task, your site may contain errors that negatively impact your readers’ experiences and harm your SEO.
To begin, open Site Audit, enter your domain name, and click “Start Audit.”
Then, configure your settings and click “Start Site Audit.”
Once the audit is complete, go to the “Issues” tab and enter “external” into the search bar to filter for external connection issues.
Look for the following issues:
- Broken external connections
- External connections with unnecessary nofollow attributes
- Connections without anchor text
- Connections with nondescriptive anchor text
If you are unsure where to start, click “Why and how to fix it” next to any issue to learn more about it and receive tips on how to fix it.
Prioritize issues in the “Errors” list first, followed by “Warnings,” and then “Notices.”
Tip: Click the “Settings” icon on the far right to schedule your audits to run weekly and receive an email notification when an audit is complete.