“Why would I include links to other sites in my blog posts? I worked hard for that traffic—why would I want to send it elsewhere?”
It’s a legitimate question, and one that clients new to blogging often ask. So let’s answer it.
Why Include Outbound Links in Your Blog Posts?
First and foremost, good evidence suggests that links out to authoritative sites boost your search rankings. Reboot Online did a controlled study of the search ranking of a completely made-up term, using sites they created for the purpose. Half of the sites had outbound links to reputable sites, while the other half had none.
As they put it, “The results are clear. Outgoing relevant links to authoritative sites are considered in the algorithms and do have a positive impact on rankings.”
And that makes sense. Think about it: Google wants searchers to find the information they need—the most accurate, most relevant information. Content with links to high-quality informational sites is likely to be more relevant and helpful than content with no links.
Your Readers Are Smart
Content marketing came about in the first place because consumers got savvy about ads. They developed banner blindness. They got DVRs. They installed adblocking software. They can’t completely escape advertising (see sponsored content), but they certainly know it when they see it, and they take it all with a grain of salt.
What will those savvy consumers think if they see you’re only linking to yourself in your content? The ad alarm bells will go off in their heads, and they’ll be less likely to take you seriously.
And yes, one purpose of your blog is marketing. But holding your readers hostage on your site is only going to confirm to them that YOU ARE MARKETING, not trying to help them find what they were looking for. You may very well be exactly what they were looking for, but they’ll have a hard time seeing that through all the self promotion.
Outbound Links Give You Authority
When we first heard about that study on outgoing links and search ranking, Matt, our sales director, put it very succinctly:
It is an interesting takeaway that the sites which connect people to authoritative sources (particularly when they are external) rank higher in Google’s algorithms. It reminds me of people networking; the person in the room who knows how to find you what you need will become the person you end up going to first when you have a need. Content marketing is about becoming the place where people go in order to answer their questions concerning things we know about. The result is, when they need a solution we are the source they visit first.External links allow us to “know about” many things authoritatively. Inbound marketing/sales lets us curate the ways we respond to our customers’ questions so that our product is positioned in the answer.
That’s what it means to be an authority: people come to you first. And even if you yourself don’t have all the answers, you know how to get them. Using authoritative outbound links in your content shows your readers that you care about helping them find what they need. And what is your blog for if not helping your reader? Customers need to trust you before you can sell to them. Outbound links are just part of being a customer-centric business.
There is just no upside to being a link miser. Sure, linking out might mean temporarily directing some traffic away from your site. But if you truly offer the best information and the most resources, those readers will remember you—and that’s how you build trust in your brand.