Even if you’re brand new to SEO-optimizing your blog posts, you’ve probably heard that it’s good to include links in your posts. While it’s definitely true that high quality links can make your post more authoritative and useful to your readers and help give your search engine results a rankings boost at the same time, there is more to it than just linking to whatever posts seem relevant.
One of the main details to keep in mind is that there is a big difference between internal and external links, and they serve different purposes for your content strategy. Both are important and useful, both to your readers and to helping you get those search engine results you need, but they are useful for very different reasons.
Now let’s break it down in detail.
What are external & internal links, exactly?
Including links in your blog posts is important for the same reason that you used to cite your sources in a bibliography when you've written school papers: they show that your content is credible, as well as built on knowledge and research beyond your own life experience or common sense.
Links also provide a more in-depth experience for your readers, leading to complementary or related information that doesn’t duplicate the information in your blog post but instead adds additional layers of meaning and context. Incorporating links in a smart, deliberate way underlines the credibility of your blog and can improve your reputation for thought leadership.
- When you link to a site outside of your own web domain, this is an external link.
- Other examples of external links include linking to an article or study you reference in your blog post, or to a service that you are reviewing.
- Internal links are links within a post that lead the reader somewhere else on your own, same website.
- For example, you may link to another post on your blog, or to your “Services” or “About Us” page.
- A link to a landing page for a specific product can also be an internal link (if it shares the same domain).
What are the benefits (& possible drawbacks) of each type?
Both external and internal links offer unique benefits for your content marketing strategy, as well as potential drawbacks if not used in a thoughtful way.
When it comes to external links, the main benefits include:
- Linking to authoritative (i.e. high quality and well trusted sites) external sites increases your digital footprint and, as Rand Fishkin says, ups "the potential to attract important, relevant, valuable eyeballs when we link."
- Linking to external sites can build relationships and expand your reach. For example, if you are a siding company and you link to a trusted home improvement advice blog in a post, their SEO manager may notice the new influx of traffic from your site. While this doesn’t always happen, when it does it can lead to that company reaching out to you, linking to your site when appropriate, or otherwise beginning a mutually beneficial connection.
- Your willingness to include valuable external links demonstrates that you care about your readers. Instead of wanting to greedily hold onto every second of their attention, you provide them with the resources they really want and need to fully explore the topic, and generously include external links to accomplish this.
One potential drawback of external link: the need to occasionally check to ensure all links are still up-to-date and active. There is also the possibility that if you use links in an unnatural way, such as anchoring links to irrelevant, unrelated keywords, your use of links may hurt your SEO more than it helps. Luckily, this can be prevented by following a few simple best practices, which we’ll cover in the next section.
What about internal links? Well, they are just as useful, but for different reasons:
- Internal linking makes your site way more useful and user-friendly. Instead of having to search through your blog archives or heading to the main website menu to find the link they need, it’s already there in your content, right in the spot and moment where it’s most relevant for the reader. With plenty of well thought-out internal links, your site is easy to navigate and helpful, making website visitors more likely to come back, navigate your site easily, and engage more actively (and positively!) with your brand.
- Internal links also boost your SEO. When outside sites link to your site in an organic way, Google sees your site as more valuable and makes sure it appears higher in search results. While not quite as powerful, judicious use of internal links can have a similar effect. It simply is a helpfulness measure for search engines.
- Internal links lead to people spending more time on your site and decreasing your bounce rate.
Drawbacks of internal linking include the fact that they take time to do well, since what internal links really do are create a meaningful, logical, easy-to-follow internal architecture for your entire site. Like external links, if your internal links don’t make much sense in context, or don’t provide real value to your visitors, you may be seen as less trustworthy and more spammy.
What are some best practices for linking?
- Periodically (once a quarter or so), spend a couple hours checking your links and updating any broken links you find to new links that are active and relevant. When a website visitor finds broken links, their experience diminishes in quality (usually exponentially) and they get the impression that the information on your site is less trustworthy or outdated. Plus, a broken link is a missed opportunity to link to a worthwhile, interesting source instead.
- Provide the best user (/reader) experience possible. Create a site that is easy to navigate and a pleasure to read. Incorporate links in a way that makes using your website easier, instead of cramming as many keywords and links as possible into every blog post. Readers get turned off when they feel like they’re just being used as part of your SEO strategy. Using links to boost your SEO is smart, but it should also be done in a subtle, mindful, and deliberate way.
- Be sure to link to sites that are authoritative and trustworthy. If you link to sites that are unprofessional, sensationalistic, or considered simple clickbait, you undermine your own credibility and probably hurt your search engine results too. Once Google associates your site with a less savory one, it's hard to undo.
How do I implement these link types into my BlogMutt content?
If you’d like to start including more links in your BlogMutt posts, you have a few options of how to best express these needs in the BlogMutt system.
You can include external and internal links that you’d like included in your topic descriptions, or include them in your company's “Other Information” section if you wish to use the same links in multiple posts. If you choose the latter option, just be sure to update this from time to time to include fresh new links (maybe in consort with your periodic broken-links check). Another option is to let our writers provide you with great content, and then add a few links to each post yourself before publishing.
Another small detail that’s worth mentioning: if there are sites you’d specifically like to avoid linking to (such as a competitor’s website), feel free to mention that in your “Other Information” section as well.
The simple fact is that the more information your content writer has, the better they’ll be able to match their writing to your SEO goals.