The Great Link Debate: Should Your Blog Use External Links?

Including links in your blog posts is a hot topic in the blogging world. Some experts say links help make your content better. Others argue links can hurt your search engine rankings. So what’s the right strategy? Let’s explore the pros and cons of using external links in blogs.

What Are External Links?

External links go from your blog post to another website. For example, if you mention a study from Wikipedia, you could link the word “study” to the Wikipedia page.

Why Add External Links?

Add Value To Your Readers
Add Value To Your Readers

Here are some benefits of including external links:

  • Shows Credibility – Links show you did research to write the post. They credit sources and show you’re backing up claims.
  • Adds Value for Readers – Links let readers learn more about a topic by visiting other quality sites. This makes your content more helpful and engaging.
  • Gets Referral Traffic – Sites you link to may link back to your blog, sending you new readers. This helps grow your audience.
  • Shows Authority – If big brands like The New York Times [link to example NYT article] link to you, it looks impressive and influential.
  • Improves SEO – Quality links signal search engines like Google that your site has valuable info and good reputation. This can improve search rankings.

Clearly, external links have some great upsides! Next let’s look at potential downsides.

What Are the Cons of External Links?

However, there are a few arguments against using too many external links:

  • Loses Authority – Overlinking sends signals that other sites are better resources on a topic. This can dilute the authority of your own content.
  • Leaks “Link Juice” – Each outbound link passes some of your site’s power to rank well in search results to another domain. Too many leaks will lower your SEO.
  • Distracts Readers – Excessive linking interrupts the article flow and may cause readers to lose interest. Stick to the most essential links.
  • Shows Lack of Expertise – Relying too much on external sources makes it seem like you don’t know the subject well enough on your own.
  • Devalues Own Site – If your content works well without links, it appears more self-contained and valuable to search engines.

The bottom line is links help, but too many can water down your authority. Moderation is key.

Best Practices for External Links

Link Authoritative Sites
Link Authoritative Sites

The smart approach is to be selective but take advantage of the benefits of excellent external links. Here are some best practices:

  • Link Authoritative Sites – Choose well-known, trustworthy sources like Harvard Business Review [link to HBR example] or relevant .gov sites. Avoid sketchy or low-quality sites.
  • Link to Cite Facts – If providing statistics or other facts, link to the original source. But paraphrase – don’t copy content.
  • Limit Links Per Paragraph – Stick to 1 or 2 links per paragraph max, ideally varying anchor text. Too many links will disrupt reading flow.
  • Vary Anchor Text – Don’t over-optimize by repeating the same anchor words. Vary terms so links seem natural.
  • List Further Reading – At the end of long posts, list a short selection of relevant resources for readers who want more.
  • Give Context – Briefly explain why you’re linking out, so the relevance is clear.
  • Balance Internal Links – Pair useful external links with links across to your own related content.

Following these tips will allow you to strategically include quality external links without hurting your site’s capabilities.

The Verdict: Links in Moderation

So in summary, our vote is to include external links, but be selective. Aim for authority sites relevant to the topic at hand, limit links per paragraph, and vary anchor text. Avoid “link schemes” and focus on what truly benefits your readers. Then enjoy those referrals and SEO boosts!

What do you think – should blogs use external links or not? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About External Links in Blogs

Adding external links in your blog posts can be beneficial, but also carries some risks. Here are answers to common questions about the best practices for external linking.

What are the benefits of external links?

Some potential benefits of external links include:

  • Provides credibility by citing sources and evidence for your claims
  • Enhances the value for readers by enabling them to learn more through relevant sites
  • Can lead to referral traffic when linked sites link back to you
  • Indicates authority and trustworthiness when linking to well-regarded sites
  • Positively impacts SEO as search engines see them as recommendations

What sites should I link to?

In general, you should aim to link out to high-quality, authoritative sites that are relevant to your blog post topic. Some examples include:

  • Well-known media sites like the New York Times
  • Trusted organizations like Harvard Business Review or .gov sites
  • Influential companies or experts in your industry
  • Academic institutions and scientific journals

Linking to poor quality or completely irrelevant sites can have the opposite effect.

How many links should I include?

There are no absolute rules, but aim for moderation. Too many links may dilute the authority of your own content. As a general guideline, include 1-2 links per paragraph at most, varying the anchor text. Avoid packing links in densely.

Where should I place external links?

Links can be included naturally within paragraph content where relevant to cite a source. You can also list further reading/resources at the end of longer posts. Ensure links fit into the flow and context.

How do external links impact SEO?

Quality outbound links show search engines that your content is well-researched, current and adds value. However, over-linking can leak too much “link juice” and indicate your own site lacks authority. Striking the right balance is key for SEO.

Should I link to competitors?

Be cautious about directly linking to direct competitors, as this will help their search rankings. Consider paraphrasing their content and linking to other sources instead. However, competitor links may sometimes be appropriate if highly relevant for the reader.

What’s the conclusion on external links?

In moderation, strategic external links have benefits for credibility, reader experience and SEO. Just be selective, link to reputable sources, vary anchors naturally, and balance with internal cross-linking. Avoid excessive linking and focus on crafting great content.

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