In a recent survey by SEMRush, more than 97% of respondents said content marketing was part of their marketing strategy. This isn’t surprising considering how effective assets like videos and blogs are for driving brand interest. Part of a successful content marketing strategy relies on backlinks for SEO.

Why Are Backlinks Important for SEO?

Backlinks are valuable to SEO because they are a signal to search engines about your content’s quality. The more external sites that link back to you, the more authority your content is regarded with, and the higher search engines rank you in their search results. In fact, search engine leaders like Google have confirmed the importance of backlinks to their ranking factors.

Link SEO works the other way, too. The links you choose to feature on your own site impact your SEO as well. So, to make the best use of backlinks for SEO, it’s important to understand the difference between inbound and outbound links, how each influences SEO, and which strategies you can use to make them better. Today, we’ll explore just that. 

Inbound vs. Outbound Links

Inbound links (aka backlinks) are when other websites point to your website’s content via a link on their page. Outbound links are featured on your own website and point to content on external websites.

So, for example, if someone were to read this blog and find it valuable, they may choose to include its link in their blog covering a similar topic. This would be an inbound backlink for me because it is encouraging users to come IN to my site to read my content.

Outbound vs. Inbound links comparison image

Earlier in this blog, I cited information from SEMRush and Search Engine Land by including hyperlinks to their content. These are outbound links because they are encouraging readers to venture outside of my website to read something similar that may interest them.

When outside websites link to your content, search engines view those inbound links as a verification of your content’s quality. In turn, search engines assume the outbound links you feature on your site are endorsements for other websites’ valuable content.

Are All Links Valuable to SEO?

Both inbound and outbound links are useful to SEO in different ways. While both inbound and outbound links play an important role in SEO, inbound links are ultimately the most beneficial.

High-quality inbound links showcase content as valuable and trustworthy. It’s difficult to earn quality inbound links, so the more you have, the more search engines will reward you with higher page rankings in search results.

Outbound links play a different role in your SEO. When they are relevant to your content and give context to your arguments, outbound links show search engines that you’ve worked hard to create a valuable resource that provides substance around a topic.

More inbound links means other website are passing their own website’s authority onto your website, but it’s about quality, not quantity. Backlinks from linking domains considered high authority hold more SEO value (link equity) than backlinks from website that are considered low-quality or spammy.

Link equity image

Getting More Quality Inbound Backlinks for SEO

Getting more sites to add your links to their content is hard work, but it’s well worth it. An organic way to start creating more opportunities for inbound backlinks is to put out a steady stream of content. Publishing helpful content related to your industry and sharing it on social pages creates more opportunities for people to find it and share it with their networks. As the visibility of your posts expands to new audiences, your inbound backlink potential expands, too. What else can you do to encourage more backlinks from your content? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Include relevant, authoritative outbound links in your content and reach out to the linked sites to ask them to return the favor.
  2. Offer guest posting for sites that you’ve identified to have high domain authority.
  3. Conduct surveys with a large sample size and publish the data you’ve collected. High authority sites looking for quality statistics will be more likely to backlink to your findings.
  4. Create compelling, linkable assets like infographics and post them on your social channels.
  5. Find instances where other websites mentioned your brand but didn’t link to your site. HubSpot explains how to reclaim unlinked mentions in this post.
  6. Consider using free services like HARO to develop relationships with reporters and answer their questions using your informative content.
  7. Consider the pros and cons of a link audit to disavow spammy backlinks.

Making the Most of Outbound Links

You don’t want some website sending people to irrelevant or broken links on your site, right? Well, you also don’t want to be doing that to other people. Quality outbound links provide an important EAT factor for your webpage—expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Employ outbound link best practices to make the most of their SEO potential for your content. Here are a few tips on how to do that:

  1. Make sure outbound links open in a new tab or window so visitors aren’t forced from your page.
  2. Research the content on the outbound site before you link to ensure it’s trustworthy and providing value.
  3. Don’t force links into your content for the sake of it. Only link what makes sense.
  4. Use a site audit tool like Google’s webmaster tools or this free link checker to check your site for any outbound linking issues.
  5. Don’t link to websites competing for the same keyword(s).   
  6. Make sure all outbound links are follow links (not Nofollow!) so SEO value can be passed on.
  7. Aim for descriptive anchor text. For example, if your sentence reads” They wrote an article about how to train your dog,” link the words “how to train your dog” instead of “an article” to give your readers a clear understanding of what they’re about to click on and also help search engines identify the content easier.

Relating backlinks and outbound links to your content marketing supports stronger SEO and provides more opportunities to boost your content in search rankings. As search engines scan for relevant results, they use backlinks and outbound links to validate the quality of your piece. Create a plan for garnering more inbound links and be diligent and thoughtful about which outbound links you choose to feature on your own site, and your SEO will thank you.

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