Use External Links Sparingly

External links are links from your web site to content on another web site. Contrast this with internal links – links from one page on your site to another page on the same site. Unlike internal links, external links can give away some of your “juice”.

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Don't be a link farm! -- Image via Wikipedia

Juice might be called the relative value a search engine is attributing to a given page – some of which can be ‘poured’ into another page by linking to it. It’s great to have lots of different high value web sites linking to your web site, or individual posts or pages on your web site, because they’re giving you juice. But if your one site contains many links to other sites, you may be giving away too much of your own juice, and that can cost you search engine value.

Follow these general guidelines:

  • Keep your external links down to essentials. If you really don’t need to link to weather.com, because anyone can find it by typing “weather” into Google, then don’t.
  • Keep your external links as low on the page as you can (search engines tend to read pages from top to bottom) and keep them on secondary pages where possible, rather than your home page (search engines tend to read web sites from front to back).
  • From a marketing standpoint, evaluate whether you really want to send people off site, if you don’t need to, and whether you really need to compete with Google as a resource for locating general information. After all, when your links break (when some of the addresses or URLs change), do you want to be the person that has to maintain those links? You could let Google do it.

Keep in mind, if you have too many external links, or Google determines your original content consists primarily of links to other sites, Google may treat you as a portal (a site that simply points to other sites), and place you unfortunately low in certain search results. After all, portals compete with search engines – just not very effectively. Before there were meta-search engines like Google, people depended on portals to find things. Now, many of those sites are little better than link farms. You don’t want that kind of disrespect by search engines.

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