SEO Glossary / External Link

External Link

Also known as an outbound link, an external link is a hyperlink that leads to a page or resource outside a particular website. It is the opposite of an internal link, which links to URLs within the same domain.

Backlinks or inbound links are sometimes called external incoming links.

External links create connections between websites, allowing users to navigate from one to another easily. Google’s John Mueller put it this way:

Linking to other websites is a great way to provide value to your users. Oftentimes, links help users to find out more, to check out your sources, and to better understand how your content is relevant to the questions that they have.

In terms of SEO, an external link on one site counts as a backlink to another site, and backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors for Google. External links pass link equity and help linked pages rank higher.

Some webmasters and even SEOs believe that linking to reputable websites can increase the authority and trustworthiness of a page in the eyes of Google. Even though there is no evidence, many SEOs tend to link to websites with high Domain Rating like Wikipedia or Forbes.

Many people believe that their own websites will lose valuable “link juice” when they link out to other websites. That’s why they either make external links “nofollow” or forgo external linking altogether. However, no evidence supports that theory.

What we do know is that linking to websites and pages, where relevant, makes your content more helpful and provides a good user experience to your visitors. So don’t be afraid to link to resources when they deserve this.

On the other hand, sending link equity to your competitors’ content via external links is probably not a good idea.

Link schemes are deliberate attempts to manipulate your search engine rankings with links. A few common link schemes include:

  • Buying or selling links to increase SERP rankings
  • Excessive link exchanges
  • Creating links on your website using automated programs
  • Low-quality directory or bookmark website links

If Google suspects that you are placing links on your website for profit or participating in other link schemes, you can get a penalty.

The links inside a sponsored or affiliate article should have the “sponsored” or “nofollow” attributes.

You should use descriptive anchor texts on all outgoing links so that your readers understand where the link will take them. Descriptive anchor texts improve user experience and help search engines understand the context of the linked page.

Spend a bit of time every month or two to audit the external links in your content. The page you linked to some time ago could be deleted, resulting in a broken external link on your site.

Having broken links on a website is not critical, but they can negatively affect the user experience on your website.

Redirecting external links can be more dangerous. For example, at some point, you placed a link to a very detailed and helpful bicycle maintenance guide on your website. A year later, the linked domain expired and was purchased by a black hat SEO only to redirect it to a gambling website. As a result, your site links to an irrelevant website, and you don’t even know about it.

Tools like Ranktracker's Web Audit can help you identify and fix broken external links on your website.


Yes, external links can hurt a website if they are a part of a link scheme. Unnatural links from a website are one of the reasons for a manual action (penalty) from Google. This includes selling links, excessive link exchanges, and ads with dofollow links.

Internal links are any links that send readers from one page on a website to another page on the same website.