An outbound link is any link on your website that leads to a different website. Do outbound links have any purpose other than driving traffic away, lowering user engagement and limiting conversions? Many publishers and business owners feel this way, and may reason that outbound links are evil or try and do without them entirely. But all is not as it seems, because there are still plenty of great reasons to publish outbound links.
This article discusses methods to tailor your usage of outbound links to make sure that you are getting the greatest benefit for your readers and for yourself.
Trick 1: Let people discover your content again later by opening outbound links in a new tab
How often have you heard the term "down the rabbit hole"? When readers are consuming articles, they may click on outbound links and this can take them away from your website. In turn, they may click on other links on the next page and so-on, until they have visited a dozen related topics.
But what if there was a way to keep the article in front of the user, even after they have followed multiple outbound links, and tempt them to return and continue reading? Here the HTML target attribute comes to the rescue! One effective way that you can improve the possibility of a user returning to your article, is by opening outbound links in a separate tab. When you use this with an attention-grabbing page
<title>, it is even more likely that a reader will discover the tab later and continue reading.
If your content management system allows you to change the
target property of your outbound links, then specifying
target="_blank" will cause any clicks of that link to open in a new tab. You shouldn't use this for internal links, because as your users are browsing around your site, they may become irritated by the number of open tabs and simply close the browser window.
Trick 2: Grab the attention of those receiving your outbound links by making it obvious where they are coming from
If you have non-organic traffic hitting your website, then you are probably interested where it is coming from. This can help you to optimize campaigns and relationships that give you a good return on investment, be it either in terms of time or money. To gather these metrics, people will often use an analytics platform. These tools can be helpful to tell the volume of users that are interested in each article, as well the way that the users arrive at that article, be it either by social media, search engines or directed there by another website.
In recent times, the way that users are tracked between pages has become somewhat invasive. Some sites can insert data into a users' address bar, so that when a user clicks through to an external website their movement can be tracked and the site that receives the click can be notified of your contribution. Others use browser cookies for this purpose. Some popular web browsers are beginning to strip these identifying properties and hide cookies to hinder user tracking.
But as a content creator, attribution can give you power and data to negotiate sponsored articles, advertising, affiliate programs or other benefits from your content. One way that you can ensure that your outbound links report their origin, without invading your users' privacy, is using urchin tracking module parameters on your outbound links. Simply placing an identifying mark, such as
?utm_source=cuedo-com-au onto the end of your outbound links, makes them stand out prominently in any collected analytics, regardless of anti-tracking settings (make sure to change the source to reflect your actual website clearly and follow the formatting rules).
You may find that people will notice the volume of these refferals, and having seen the source clearly in their data, they may reach out to you first.
Trick 3: Place your outbound links in paragraphs in such a way that they have plenty of standalone context
When thinking about the way that search engines scrape your website, you need to consider the correlation between the link text and the link target. For example, if you structure your paragraph so that an inline link is simply labelled "here" or "this", it's difficult to know why we sent someone to that page. In addition to lacking context, the link may be difficult to find by readers when scanning the page for keywords. You should always use the link text to include information about where it leads.
In practice, this can make writing your articles difficult. For example, suppose that you want to write an article about search engine optimization and that you present the reader with an inline link to another article about writing good outbound links. You may structure it like so:
When you are writing content, outbound links can be very important. If you want to learn more about outbound links, click here.
This kind of sentence structure is not optimal because the outbound link doesn't have any context associated with it. Perhaps try turning the sentence around. You may try something like so:
When you are writing content, outbound links can be very important. There are a some great articles that can help you to learn more about outbound links.
If your content management system grants you access to the tooltip for your outbound links, it can also be a good idea to use this to provide additional context in the tooltip.
Trick 4: Build a consistent theme in your content by being selective about which outbound links to associate with your content
When writing an article, a logical progression of ideas is very important to keep the interest of your readers. If your readers can not understand the theme of your article, they can lose interest or become distracted. Keeping a consistent theme throughout your writing can also help with search engine optimization by targeting for specific themes or keywords.
Suppose that you were to write a brilliant article that is entertaining to read and effectively communicates your ideas, but throughout the text you find outbound links that are irrelevant to the main ideas. Not only can the prominence of the irrelevant links distract your readers, but if they were to follow the links then they can quickly become distracted and change topic, making them less likely to return and finish reading your article.
Search engines can also use the quantity and target of outbound links to make associations between the themes of your content and the themes of the target content. Because algorithms are constantly changing, we can't say for sure whether there is a penalty for linking to unrelated content. Nevertheless, search engines are clued into knowing that if an article does not contain related outbound links for readers to follow, then it is effectively a dead-end on that topic.
What about if you must link to an external source, but you know that it does not strongly correlate with the theme of your article? Or perhaps you'd like to link the home page of an external site, but you can't be sure what content the user may find there at any given time. You can use the HTML rel attribute, and specify
rel="nofollow" to control how search engines associate your article with your outbound links. For user generated content, like comments, you can use the
There's no need to be afraid of placing outbound links in your articles! As we have covered, there are many advantages to using outbound links properly. Not only do search engines like seeing a reasonable number of well-placed outbound links, but outbound links can add value for your readers.
Stir your readers to action, by giving them useful and relevant links that feed their quest for knowledge. Use outbound links to gain attribution for the emotions and thirst for mastery that you have stirred up in your readers. Develop strong themes in your articles and build strong associations and credibility for your website.
As you apply this advice to your own articles, we invite you to reach out to our team with any questions or queries that you may have. If you're at a roadblock with any of the techniques presented here, one of our friendly and highly-skilled engineers can offer support tailored to your situation. The first step is to reach out.
Let us know in the comments what tricks have helped you to make the best use of outbound links.