One of the least utilised elements of SEO today is External Linking. The reason for this is simple: There is very little conversation around it. Further to that, some don’t believe it to be an impactful ranking factor at all, but in our own practical experience doing digital marketing in Brisbane and the great region, it definitely is. We have personally engaged in a few experiments around it to test the theory and we were not disappointed. It’s hardly a heavyweight tool when it comes to ranking factors, but if done correctly it can achieve rankings for low to medium competition keywords all on its own or at the very least serve to further increase your relevance as part of the broader SEO approach, particularly when it comes to “Internal Contextual Linking”, which we spoke about last week.
So what is External Linking?
We don’t imagine that this requires a lot of explanation, but just so that we’re clear, external linking is when you place links on your own website to external websites. As with any element of SEO, this is a seemingly everyday part of having a website that is very rarely done with much strategy in mind, usually because most site owners aren’t aware that there even needs to be a strategy. Luckily, making the adjustment is not a highly technical process and can be easily adapted into common website practice for any business. But first let’s get into the why?
How do we think it helps?
At the risk of sounding like something from “Marvel’s Captain Obvious”, search engines are getting much more complex as time goes on. Once upon a time the focus was squarely on your website when it came to deciding how well you’ll rank on their websites, then as time went on and data processing/computing & algorithms got better, it became more plausible for them to put you under much more scrutiny, assessing the neighbourhood of websites that you belong to. Initially this resulted in a much stronger focus on which sites link to you, not the sites that you link to, but over time this has changed.
Our thinking on why external linking is of benefit now is pretty simple: Why would it not be? If you’re linking to helpful external resources around relevant topics then you’re a valuable provider of great information around key search terms. Of course search engines are going to reward this!
How do we know it helps?
If you Google “Social Media Marketing Ipswich”, you’ll see us there in the results. It’s a low search volume keyword and hardly the most competitive term, but it’s got a high likelihood of conversion and we achieved this ranking with one blog that utilised external linking. In that blog we spoke about how best to create content for Instagram by following a fictitious person around the area for a day and talking about what they might see, where they might eat and the activities they might engage in over a 2 day period. Through the course of describing these local landmarks, we linked out to the various websites for these places and businesses.
Prior to writing that blog, we did not rank anywhere at all for this keyword but a scant few weeks afterwards we were on the first page and while there are the obvious ranking benefits of posting relevant content, there are many websites that are more relevant to the local area and with a lot more content around that topic. This is when we decided to drill down on what we thought had achieved those rankings. We then posted blogs around similar keywords for similar areas, one with external linking and another without. It became quickly apparent that it was the additional of the external links that made all the difference as we again started to rank for new keywords around the blog with external links, but although there was definite movement for the blog without the links, it did not hit the first page through blogging alone.
We’ve replicated this process quite a few times now and are 100% convinced.
How you can implement it
This part is pretty simple. It’s a good idea regardless of your outbound linking strategy to keep track of all the links pointing out from your website for general housekeeping purposes. This just ads a little more strategy to it for digital marketing purposes. You can download a relatively great free bit of software called Screaming Frog which will pull all the URLs from your website and create a spreadsheet with all of those URLs and how many external links each has. Once you tidy that sheet up a bit and make it your own, you can then visit the pages that it indicates have links and start mapping the sites that you’re pointing to in that sheet. From there it’s a simple matter of adding a keyword column to the sheet to keep track of the keywords that link is targeting such as “Digital Marketing Brisbane” for example. If you blog regularly then you should be keeping track of the keywords those blogs are targeting, so it’s a simple copy/paste job.
One last very important thing when it comes to implementing these links: DO NOT utilise exact match anchor text. This is when the target keyword is the link. So if you’re linking to someone for information on “digital marketing brisbane”, do not make that text the link itself. This won’t harm you (as far as we can tell), but it will harm the site you’re pointing to. Exact match anchor text is fine if you’re linking internally within your own website, but search engines consider it spammy when they’re assessing the sites pointing to you, so do not do the site’s you’re pointing to a disservice by linking to them in this way. Try to just use junk text like “read more” or “click here”. That will do just fine.
And that’s it from us today! We hope you’ll leave with a few new ideas around how to view your outbound linking strategically and as always if you’d like to know more or have a conversation around your online marketing options in Brisbane or anywhere else then please feel free to get in touch!