How to Use External Links Effectively on Your Site (And Why It Matters)

Including plenty of external links on your WordPress site can help to improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). However, it’s important to use those links in the right way. Linking to the wrong types of sites can actually harm your page rankings.

On the other hand, using effective external links can help add value to your site, drive user traffic, and promote engagement. You can even track your links, so you can demonstrate your marketing influence when asking other sites to let you write a guest post or trade backlinks.

This article will explain the benefits of including external links on your website, and provide some advice for doing so effectively. Let’s get to work!

Why You Should Be Using External Links

Before we explain the best practices for implementing external links, let’s review the reasons you should be including them in the first place. There are many benefits to using external links, such as:

  • Catching the attention of other sites. Most sites track their referrals. If you link to them, they are more likely to notice your site and even visit it to see who you are. This can improve your reach, especially when you’re just starting out.
  • Adding value to your site. Collecting and linking out to helpful resources can make your site more valuable. Instead of having to Google information for themselves and slog through search results, visitors will be relying on you to point them in the right direction. This can also increase time spent on your site. ‘Dwell time' can boost your SEO, since it’s another sign that visitors find your site worthwhile.
  • Improving your page rankings. While linking to spammy sites can harm your site’s rank, the opposite is also true. Google ranks your pages based on expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Linking to high-quality sites can help improve your placement.

As you can see, these are some advantages well worth pursuing. In the next section, we’ll explain how to achieve them.

How to Use External Links Effectively (4 Key Tips)

There are a few simple techniques you can use to maximize the effectiveness of your external links. Let's look at four of the most important.

1. Only Link to Credible Sources

As we mentioned earlier, you should only link to trustworthy, high-value sites. This means you'll want to do a little research before adding a link to your content. Look for trust markers such as a low ratio of ads to content, and a well-designed, active site.

You'll also need to consider the quality of the content itself. For example, is it organized, well-written, and relatively typo-free? In addition, it's best to link to recently-published articles when possible, since Google values fresh content. You can filter your search results to only show articles from the past year, which will make selecting the right sources easier.

2. Don’t Link to Your Own Competitors

While external links are valuable, you'll want to avoid linking to your competitors’ sites. That may drive away some of your business, by introducing your visitors to other options. Besides that, your competitors would have no incentive to return the favor and link back to you.

If you do come across valuable content on a competitor’s site while looking for links, you can make a note of it and consider covering a similar topic on your own site. That way, you'll be encouraging traffic towards your (hopefully better) content. You can also add this research to your target market analysis.

What's more, you can link to other businesses that synergize with your own. For example, if you offer a backup plugin for WordPress, you probably wouldn't want to link to another developer offering a similar tool. However, you could link to an SEO optimization plugin or a web design blog, both of which should be valuable to your target audience.

3. Keep Relevancy in Mind

Next up, it's important to only link to articles that are relevant to the topic you’re discussing. Relevance is one of the most influential factors when it comes to determining page rank. Users should be able to reasonably predict what type of content will be on the page you’re linking to, before they visit it.

You can make that happen by using appropriate anchor text to show readers exactly where they are heading. Anchor text is the word or phrase that a link is applied to. For example, if you’re linking out to a definition of “anchor text”, it’s better to put the link on the words “anchor text” than simply using a vague phrase like “click here.”

4. Use Tracking Scripts

Finally, remember to use tracking scripts on all of your external links. This can help you monitor clicks, and see the amount of traffic that you’re driving to other sites. Tracking scripts are especially helpful for affiliate websites, but any site can benefit from this technique.

For instance, you can use tracking data to ask for a link trade with a bigger site. You can collect analytic information on the amount of traffic you’re driving to another site, and present it to them. Then, you can ask for them to return the favor, such as by letting you write a guest post or linking back to your own site.


Using high-quality external links on your site can demonstrate to search engines that you offer useful content. It can also help you promote engagement and provide additional value. If you track your links and prove that you’re driving a high volume of traffic to other sites, you may even be able to ask them to return the favor and link back to your content.

Four easy ways to use external links effectively include:

  1. Only linking to high-quality sources
  2. Avoiding links to your own competitors
  3. Using relevant links with optimized anchor text
  4. Implementing tracking scripts

Do you have any questions about using external links on your site? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Categories: Content Marketing
About John Hughes

John is a blogging addict, WordPress fanatic, and staff writer.


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