Why External Links Are Important For SEO? If you’ve heard of SEO in the past, you’ve probably also heard of a type of links we refer to as External Links. Mystified and thought to help your pages rank, there has been a lot of incorrect misinformation about them – and some statements are outright dangerous for your SEO.

Because of that, let’s demystify External Links and explain them in a simple way. With that, we’ll also give you some of our tried-and-tested tips on how to structure your External Links the right way for maximum SEO effect.

When working with External Links, you can, of course, manually navigate to each of your pages to find them. Ultimately, however, this process can be very time consuming and messy. Without further ado, let’s break down External Links and see just why you might want to have them on your pages.

What Are External Links And How Do They Differ From Other Types Of Links?

External Links are regular links that point to other resources that are not on your own website. Those could be other pages, PDFs, images, etc. The only difference between an internal and an External Link is the target you’re linking to from your own page. If you link to a resource that’s hosted on your website, the link is considered internal – and if you link to a resource that’s not on your site, that’s considered an External Link.

The interesting thing here to note is that often as a synonym for External Links you’ll hear the term “Outbound Links”. Now, while it’s perfectly fine to use these two interchangeably – as they refer to the same thing, remember that “Internal Links”, on the other hand, is not the same as “Inbound Links”.

This can be quite confusing so let’s briefly break it down:

  • External Links are all links that point out of your website to other websites
  • Internal Links are all links that point from one of your pages to another one of your pages
  • Outbound Links are all links that you point out of your website to another website
  • Inbound Links are all incoming links from other websites to your website

Great, now that you understand the differentiation and see that Internal Links can bring value to your website, let’s check out exactly what makes External Links so valuable.

What Makes External Links Great For SEO?

Why External Links Are Important For SEO?

The reason External Links are seen as beneficial to SEO is because of how Google treats them. External Links technically tell Google that you want to provide a better User Experience and, therefore, link to other authoritative and important resources with the goal of helping the user learn more about a relevant subject.

It is in a way a “reciprocity” SEO factor. That is because you try to help the user by recommending other high-quality resources, your resource ultimately becomes more authoritative and higher-quality itself.

Additionally, External Links are regarded as a great Search Engine Optimization tip because they are so easy to create. Often, when we create content, we reference other people’s work – and we can simply insert “a source” to that content and therefore pass PageRank value around. Because External Links are structurally the same as any other type of link (that is, it requires a simple <a> tag, they can often be created in a single click in some major Content Management Systems like WordPress.

How Many External Links Should You Have On A Page?

Once you start learning about External Links, one question that often pops up is how many should you actually feature? If External Links are equal to higher rankings (because you provide more value), does it also translate to more External Links equal even more rankings – or is there a “golden ratio” for that, too?

Well, in reality, we can discuss and test back and forth until we find an ultimate ratio. However, that’s probably not a satisfying enough answer for a post like this. Therefore, to make things simple for you here’s a simple rule of thumb you can follow if you’re in doubt.

  • As a general rule, try to either add or limit the number of your External Links for about every 300 words of content on your page.
  • Alternatively, as an easier rule, you can remember to add just around 2-5 External Links per blog post you write.

Once again, it’s important to point out that there are no concrete rules on exactly how many External Links you should add – but we found this to be the optimal margin.

Also, keep in mind that Internal Links are a very important factor as well – and they should have priority over External Links. That is if you have to choose between using an internal or External Link on any given page, always consider that the Internal Link will actually pass a value to that important page you have on your website – and prioritize that.

To make things easier, in fact, you should have your Internal Links structure laid out upfront in a spreadsheet where you can easily see the topic for each post. If your website architecture is well made, you likely won’t have trouble adding Internal Links because your content will be structured in topically-relevant “SEO Silos” – where each subtopic is positioned under its parent folder in your website’s folder structure.

Now, because we’re touching upon the technical side of things and starting to talk about website architecture, let’s address another common misunderstanding when it comes to External Links and the way your website is set up. We’re, of course, talking about External Links in the footer – and if they count towards the total count of Internal Links.

Footer Links – Do They Count As External Links?

Yes, footer links do count as External Links and they do add to the total count of External Links on each of your pages. However, things are slightly more complicated than that and the social media links you’ve featured there aren’t really hurting your rankings in any way. Allow me to explain.

Your footer links are present at the bottom of your page – the footer. Now, the way we humans “read” where the footer is is visual – by deconstructing the page in our heads and seeing where the main body of the page ends – and where the footer begins. While machines (computers, crawlers, etc) can’t do just that, they can still understand where the footer starts (that is, at least the smart ones like Google’s algorithm can) by inspecting the code of the page. Every page on your site is structured in <div> tags – which delineate where each of the “boxes” for the different parts of your content being and end.

Now, it’s no secret that Google places less value on links that are outside of the main body of the content on each of your pages. Additionally, the further down a link is – even in your main body of the content – the less value Google gives to it.

But your footer is both outsides of your main content body – and is very low down on the page. Well, naturally, here we can conclude that these links receive some of the lowest value on your site. In other words, while footer links do count towards the total “Outbound Links” count for each of your pages, they are very much down prioritized compared to any other links.

Additionally, your footer links are often not contextual – for the very reason that they are not placed in any particular part of the content that can give them that context. This is an additional reason for Google to lower the priority and PageRank value these links pass around.

However, if for some reason you have many External Links in your footers, it is always a good idea to follow as many of them as possible. This can come as a safety measure if you’re worried you’re leaking too much PageRank value.


We hope this post helped you to find out Why External Links Are Important For SEO?

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