The internet, as we know, is a collection of resources connected together using hyperlinks.
These hyperlinks, more commonly called links, are the glue that keeps things together. They also enable internet users to navigate around the web.
So I could sit on my computer somewhere in Alaska and access a whitepaper located on an Australian server. But that’s not the only thing links are used for, there’s more.
You see, links to and from a website speak volumes of that website. They tell you about the keywords that people find most attractive in your website.
They also tell you what countries constitute the largest segment of your audience.
And more importantly, links tell Google how important and trustworthy the content on your website is. In fact, you could get penalized by Google for having an association with the wrong links.
If you’ve understood the impact that links have on your SEO, this article would be an interesting piece for you.
To set the ball rolling, let us classify these links before finding out how they help or harm your website.
Different Link Types
A basic understanding of links is a prerequisite to knowing the different types and how they function.
So, a link is the clickable part of any web resource that directs you to another resource on the internet.
In order words, when a link is clicked, it takes you to a resource on the same or different computer. Resources that contain links are web posts, eBooks, images, buttons, and podcasts.
Every link has a destination, which is where it takes a person after the link is clicked. Incidentally, it is the destination of a link that differentiates one link from the other.
Links can be broadly classified into 3 types – Inbound, outbound, and internal links.
1 – Inbound Links
Inbound links are hyperlinks that link to your web resource with origins from external websites or web resources.
Inbound links come from external sources, while your website or web page is the destination.
Inbound links can be used in any of the situations below:
- Your website contains original information with you as the main source. It could be breaking news, research findings, or a comprehensive infographic
- When your website contains some debatable information that people are talking about
- When you are a trusted authority in your niche, industry, or academic field.
Inbound links affect your site the most when it comes to SEO. Each link has a vote that is used to rate the value of the link.
Google uses the quality and quantity of inbound links in ranking websites on its SERP (Search Engine Results Pages).
The more the number of quality inbound links, the higher your chance of a better search ranking!
So, inbound links actually add great benefits to your site if they are found to be good links. Google classifies some links as spammy for which it penalizes offenders.
2 – Outbound Links
These are links from your website or domain to other web resources or websites. Outbound links are usually used to reference authority sites or link to the original source of information.
Outbound links may not be as weighty as inbound links, but they do have their importance.
If you quote a piece of data on your website, it is expected that you provide the link to its source. It helps your readers access the source directly and read from it if they need to.
Your content comes across to your audience as trusted because you linked back to the data source.
Also, outbound links are an indication that some form of research was made before publishing your content.
Just the same way inbound links affect the destination site, so those outbound links from your site affect the destination site.
3 – Internal Links
These are links from one part of your website to a different part of the same website. Internal links could be from one-page section to another, or from one page to another page.
It uses the anchor tag to connect different parts of a page together. Internal links are useful for helping users easily navigate a website or a web page, while the text it links to is referred to as the anchor text.
Internal links may not carry much weight when it comes to SEO, but they sure do have their value.
More about Inbound Links
Since these are the links that affect your SEO the most, we will spend a little more time on it. Inbound links have two main categories, according to Google, and they are natural and artificial.
While natural inbound links are encouraged, artificial links are what Google tries to prevent.
Natural links, more commonly called organic links, are a vote of confidence, trust, and authority on a site. It means that readers have found your content resourceful and decided to link back to it.
Building natural links takes quite some time, running into months or years. I guess that’s why some webmasters opt for the faster artificial links.
Artificial links, on the other hand, are links that you pay for or receive in exchange for something else. Producers and merchants could offer to give you free products in exchange for inbound links.
Whether it is an exchange for money or favor, it is still classified as artificial links. And when Google finds a website with artificial links, it lands the big stick on the website.
Artificial links could also come from sources you know nothing about. It could be someone just trying to be mischievous, or a competitor trying to get you into Google’s black book.
That’s why a monthly site audit is necessary to help you locate these toxic links.
That said; let’s look deeper into each of the outlined links to identify their benefits to your SEO efforts.
The Benefits of Inbound Links to SEO
Google has been pretty consistent with its algorithm updates.
One of those updates that really impacted the SEO space was the Penguin update. It allowed Google to place more emphasis on the quality of each inbound link.
With this update, webmasters and SEO practitioners had to shift focus, first to the quality of the links, before quantity.
While links may not be the most important metric for search ranking, it does affect how your site ranks.
So, how does this piece of information benefit your site’s ranking?
First and foremost, you’ve got to ensure that the anchor texts for your inbound links are focused on your brand as against too many of those links focused on your keywords.
Google can certainly tell if the inbound links are procured just to give a boost to your keywords.
It is expected that many more links will feature anchor texts related to your brand, not just keywords.
Also, inbound links have to originate from related sources. By this, I mean that the source of the link must bear similarity in niche, context, or industry. There is no basis for two different pieces of content to establish a link with each other.
When this happens, it clearly means that the link is an artificial one.
Finally, we spoke of cleaning up your inbound links at least once every month. You can have these links removed, or disavowed to prevent Google from using the links in determining your PageRank.
The Benefits of Outbound Links to SEO
Outbound linking was a practice that we were taught to avoid, unless you want to “share” your PageRank with the linking site.
So SEO practitioners did all they could in order to avoid giving out those links. One school of thought argued that outbound links were a bad business move. They figure out that these links could channel potential customers to other sites.
And so outbound links were avoided like the plague.
However, all that has changed now, with Google reassuring everyone that outbound links don’t divide or reduce your PageRank. Instead, it projects your site as a useful resource that is willing to direct others to authority sites.
So, using outbound sort of links turns your site into a mini Google, directing traffic to the source of the original information.
Using outbound links to boost your SEO will include the following:
I – Use outbound links only when necessary. You’ve got to be modest with the number of outbound links coming from your site.
There are times when this is unavoidable as you may need to give credit to a different source. However, it shouldn’t be turned into a party where links are shared at random.
Don’t forget that the emphasis on link building is going the natural way. And any activity that seems artificial will attract a red flag from Google.
II – Use nofollow links sparsely. Nofollow is an attribute that is assigned to link tags, which tells search engines not to assign credit to that link.
By including rel=nofollow in the HTML “a” tag, you can link to another site and yet Google wouldn’t include the link when ranking the site.
Sites like social media networks, blog comment sections and forums usually have nofollow on their links. You can also include nofollow in your outbound links, but you’ve got to be smart about it.
III – Maintain a relationship with other webmasters of similar interests.
If a site is in the same niche and has a nice reputation, by all means, link to it.
The Benefits of Internal Links to SEO
Internal links are so vital that they form part of your on-page SEO strategy. They help your site’s visitors navigate from one piece of content, or from one web page to another.
A typical example of a website that uses internal links quite well is Wikipedia. Each page is filled with multiple links that connect resources together.
However, I would advise that you apply moderation in your use of internal links on your site. At the most, 3 to 4 links are enough to get the job done unless more links are needed.
It is only with internal links that you have full control over the source and destination of the links.
I have highlighted some of the SEO benefits of using internal links below.
I – keep the site’s visitors staying longer with a well-planned design of your internal links. The connected links will make for easy movement around the content and pages of your site.
This results in a lower bounce rate for your site, a positive metric for search ranking.
II – Build a great site map that Google can easily crawl.
That’s because search engines crawl through the web using links to connect different web resources.
Using internal links to organize your content makes it easy for the crawlers to search deeper for content.
Through these links, the crawlers are able to navigate your website and discover which pages are the most important.
III – Direct the visitors to older posts. With proper linking, you can give your visitors more reading options.
And one of such options could be to read posts that have been published in the past. Through this, you can repurpose the old posts and even get them to rank in the present.
Links may not be the most important factor that affects search ranking, but that doesn’t mean they have lost relevance because Google still uses them.
And if Google says that these links are important, you had better take them seriously.
You will, however, need to understand how to optimize the usage of links for SEO benefits. So we looked into the 3 different types of links, which are inbound, outbound, and internal links.
Of the 3, inbound links have the heaviest weight on your SEO efforts. However, outbound and internal links also affect your search ranking as you would have found out from this post.
The most important take-away from this is to ensure that these links are built naturally. Anything outside this is an invitation to Google’s penalty.
While inbound links are relevant to SEO, it’s important to note that content creation plays a more significant role in what constitutes higher rankings on SERPs.
However, content, at its best, should be maximized to ensure that it impacts your search ranking positively; otherwise, the other side of it may spring up.