If you’ve been blogging for any significant amount of time, you’ve gotten all kinds of advice. Including whether to include links to other peoples’ sites in your post. When I started blogging in 2012, I heard a lot of different ideas about this.
Many bloggers want their readership and social media followers to grow. But they don’t want to develop their inner circle of bloggy friends. In fact, they go out of their way to keep their readers from knowing other bloggers exist (which is impossible, but boy do they try!).
And one of the ways they do this is to avoid using outbound links. Even when they took an idea from another blog.
This surprises me. I see outbound links everywhere. I’ve heard all kinds of reasons why you should include them in your posts.
Out of curiosity, I went to some other bloggers and asked them to weigh in on their opinions. I’ve also taken blogging courses with experts making full-time blogging incomes. They all seem to agree–outbound links are a good idea. Especially if you’re using someone else’s post as inspiration.
But why? Well, let’s go over their reasons.
Photo courtesy of Pezibear
Why You Should Use Outbound Links
1. So you don’t alienate people.
A lot of bloggers get inspiration from each other on Pinterest. Many write about similar topics from their own perspectives. Which is fine! This is how writing works, whether it’s a blog post or a classic novel. Creatives feed off one another.
But if other bloggers find out you’re stealing content and not crediting? You’re in trouble. Blogging is dependent on building solid relationships. If you alienate other bloggers, you lower your chances of growing your audience. And your blog will sink.
It can also alienate your readers. And you won’t even know that they know.
For example, a reader contacted me recently. Another blogger was using my photos without crediting me. Though the reader emailed me, I HIGHLY doubt they emailed the other blogger. Thinking your readers are too oblivious to notice a photo doesn’t belong to you? Definitely insulting and definitely a good way to alienate people.Blogging is dependent on building solid relationships. Click To Tweet
Not giving a link back is like not citing a source on a paper. It’s in essence plagiarism.
–Elizabeth, from Rock-a-bye Parents
2. Readers know other blogs exist.
Something else I’ve seen that I would recommend staying away from? Talking down to your readers.
Sounds like common sense, right? I’m sure you’ve been scrolling through this entire post thinking, “Uh…yeah, duh.” Or maybe you didn’t know all of this and now you do (which would thrill me, because I enjoy teaching other bloggers).
Here’s the thing: your readers’ time is valuable, yes. We all know this. It’s true for bloggers, as well. We all scroll through our Facebook feeds every day and decide whether a link is worth clicking, right?
Your readers are the same way. They’re on their lunch breaks. In 10 minutes they have to pick up their kids from school. They’re looking for something to keep themselves occupied for those few minutes. Your headline sounded promising, so they clicked.
Now your goal is to keep them from regretting that decision. They’ll finish your article before checking out your links. If the post is interesting.
Which is why it’s condescending to say, “Go ahead and check out that link, but be sure to come back here.” As a reader, I saw that line on a blog once and decided not to come back because of it. But she was paranoid that her readers would go off to something she linked to and never come back.Being condescending is a great way to alienate your readers. Click To Tweet
The best practice here? Make your link open in a new window. And don’t treat your readers like children.
Also, the majority of us know how to open a link in a new tab so we can easily come back to what we were originally reading. Using the Internet is not something you have to be a genius to do. (Clearly.)
Freely sharing will not alienate readers. Holding everything close, not sharing, not giving credit to original sources, and speaking to them like children will very much alienate readers.
–Jennifer, from Mama Sketch
3. Outbound links are good for SEO.
Linking to relevant content makes search engines friendlier towards your site. Having other people link to your content does the same. So when someone searches for a keyword related to your blog, you’ll show up higher on the list of search results.Did you know that linking to relevant blogs will improve your SEO? Click To Tweet
SEO is a complicated beast, so to explain it any more than that would need a whole post (so I wrote one!). But you get the idea. Outbound links = more SEO juice.
External links to relevant content improves your SEO.
–Jennifer, from Mama Sketch
4. It gets your blog seen.
It’s counter-intuitive, I know. The assumption is that your readers will go to the site and never come back.
I actually gain more readers from linking back to other blogs. This is because my link back shows up in their comment section. (It’s called a “pingback.”)
There’s another reason this helps me. When I share someone else’s post, they know about it. They either receive a notification or they notice the traffic coming from my site. And what is it we ALL do when a new site shows up in our referrers? We click the link and see what’s up.
I’ve gotten more traffic and new followers because of this. Because the person whose post I shared did one, or more, of the following:
- They shared my post on social media.
- They edited their post to link to mine.
- They asked me to guest post for them.
- They asked me to co-host a link party.
You get the idea.
Bloggging is not like a regular business. We are competing for some traffic, but we also tend to get ahead when we cooperate with one another. We’re all working together to give our readers the best possible product (our posts). And to succeed, we have to support each other. We have to add to the conversation, not dominate it.Show that you're participating in a conversation, not trying to dominate it. Click To Tweet
Posting outbound links grabs the attention of other, potentially bigger, bloggers. This is important. Getting your voice heard in a world with billions of blogs is difficult. Having someone who’s already well-established like your posts? MASSIVE boost. As Aarn said above, no blog is an island.
Give all the credit you can as often as you can. Linking to other blogs benefits YOU not just the person you are linking to. Generally your trackback link will appear at the bottom of the post you are linking to. I still get traffic everyday from posts I linked to months or years ago because of that reciprocal link.
–Aarn, from The Mart and My Sugar Free Journey
My mother used to tell me that if you close your hand to hold on to something, it’s hard to have it open to receive. Blogging is not like other businesses, we are not in competition with one another. We are a community and if we don’t all look out for one another we collapse.
–Kellie, Sexy Bags N Shoes
5. It gives you credibility.
Writing with authority is one thing. But if you never link to a source, it makes it a bit difficult to take you seriously. No one can possibly know everything. Even if you actually do know what you’re talking about. The best way to avoid this? Cite other sources to back up your claims.
In science, researchers have to provide sources for methods they used. They have to show where they got their ideas. Despite their expertise, they still need to legitimize their work. When people see them cite another paper, they don’t say, “OH! This is how they learned about the method they used, so let’s go read that paper instead and throw this one in the trash.”
No. By citing the other paper, they have given their paper more credibility, as well as the paper they cited. So it reads more like, “Yeah, we know what we’re doing. Here’s the proof.”
Blogging is like that. Your readers can’t take your word for it that you know what you’re doing. You have to show them that this works. You have to show that this idea didn’t come from thin air. That is how you make yourself look like a credible blogger.Citing sources gives you more credibility as a blogger. Don't be afraid of outbound links! Click To Tweet
Example: Imagine a blogger. Let’s call her Jane! Jane has just published a post about how she hid her ugly surge protector by putting it in a decorative shoe box. Later, Jane receives a comment that says, “That will start a fire.” She responds with, “I haven’t noticed it getting hot enough for that.” She thinks the issue is settled.
For some, that answer might be good enough. For others, they might think, “Yeah, how often do you check it?” Because if Jane checked the temperature when she set it up and then never again, then of course she hasn’t noticed! This is where citing another source would be helpful. It’s simple to Google, “How hot does a surge protector get?” (
It’s simple to Google, “How hot does a surge protector get?” (This PDF with safety instructions popped up.) But we all know readers don’t want to spend hours on Google. They Googled one thing, came to your site, and now they’d like to get the information they came for and be done.
To me, not citing sources in a case like that would indicate that the data proves her wrong. That may not be true. The data might actually back her up. However, not citing it has removed her credibility.
Linking increases my traffic and shows that I’m a thoughtful, well-researched blogger.
Korilynn, from One Cheap Utah Chick
The Bottom Line
Don’t be afraid of outbound links! As one of my favorite bloggers put it, “The web was meant to be a place of immense value where sites link to other awesome sites so go ahead and link to other awesome sites.” Use them in moderation to keep from overwhelming your readers and looking spammy. But, as you can see, they get a bad rap for no good reason. Try it out and see how it helps you!
Did I miss something you want to see here? Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share about outbound links? Leave your comments below!