The Importance of External Links in SEO and Ranking

19 September 2014
Published: By: Becky Dudley

External links are pretty self-explanatory. Essentially, an external link is a link that either points someone to your site from another site, or points someone to another site from your site. The amount of potentially relevant traffic this can create is why it is used a lot for Search Engine Optimisation.

As with anything in this world, there are two sides to the story; external links can be both good and bad. They can drive a ton of traffic to your site, although getting caught on a bad external link can be seen as “spammy” behavior by the search engine, consequently burying your site in the ranks. To make this a nicer experience, I’m going to give the good side and the bad side.

A lot of SEO experts would swear that external links are incredibly important to ensure that elusive high rank, and in some ways, they are completely right. For as long as search engines have been around, there have been algorithms that calculate the popularity of a site by external links. If the external link sits on a site that is trusted and considered “reliable” by the search engine, then that’s considered a ‘good link’. In turn, a good link means that you basically have a better chance of ranking for whatever search term is relevant to your site.

So that’s the good part. The bad part is that for a while now, a lot of people have been exploiting this concept and buying external links. It used to be that buying a bulk of external links on other websites gave you a good chance of ranking, but as you can tell, this skewed the game a little. It meant that a high-ranking site for any given search term could potentially contain bad or irrelevant content, but the initial algorithm of the search engine favoured the site, solely because of its external links.

Eventually, however, the search engines bucked up their ideas and created algorithms that preferred the sites with external links that were considered more ‘natural’, and by that I mean links that belonged to sites that are deemed by the search engine as sites that are there to provide something good to the community.

Due to this, it’s now more important than ever to accrue natural external links. When it comes to obtaining external links, it’s crucial to keep in mind the factors that apply when the search engine is analysing the domain that the links belong to. The factors worth considering are:

  • The trustworthiness of the site
  • Popularity – Is it popular, and is it for the right reasons?
  • Is the site relevant to the content on your site?
  • The text used in the anchor tag that your URL sits in

All of this is going to be nothing but positive for your ranking. It might also be helpful to adapt the mindset that search engines look more at what others say about you, than what you say about yourself.

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