Knowing when and how often you should develop an outbound link from your blog to another site is a tricky thing. No website is an island (that’s why it’s called the World Wide Web), but obviously you don’t want to lose your hard-earned traffic to another site, especially a competitor. The Internet is full of distractions (so many YouTube videos to watch!) and once a visitor leaves your site there is no guarantee they’ll come back. If they get more than a few back clicks away from your blog, you’ve pretty much lost them until they rediscover your blog another day.
So when should you incorporate outbound links?
The most obvious scenario for incorporating an outbound link is when you are citing/quoting/referencing someone else’s work. For instance, if I mention a recent marketing study in a blog post, I link to that study so my blog readers can read more about it, in addition to the key points I may have talked about. I can’t claim responsibility for generating that report, so I have no right to infer that I came up with that data on my own. Plus, pulling statistics out of thin air doesn’t lend much credibility to the data. Anyone can make up a statistic and claim it as fact, so linking to the published report will assuage any doubts your readers may have.
The same holds true for quoting someone. If you pull a quote from another blogger, you should link to the post you pulled it from. Don’t let the search engines, readers or that blogger think that you’re plagiarizing content and claiming it as your own words! Outbound linking can help defend your integrity as a white hat link builder. You never want to give anyone the ability to trash talk you or your brand and claim that you are stealing content.
You can also incorporate outbound links as additional references for your readers, which is really useful if you are discussing a trending topic and don’t want to rehash background information every time you write about it. If a reader finds themselves in the middle of a developing situation they are unfamiliar with, they can follow those outbound links back to the beginning and better educate themselves to understand the situation. It saves you the time and effort of rewriting the same information again and again for those few new readers and lets you focus on keeping up with the topic as it develops, which what the majority of your readers care about.
Blog owners should never be afraid to link to their own websites, especially if that website is on a separate domain. Why not take your blog readers, who have already pre-qualified themselves as your target audience, and send them to some of the more internal pages of your website? That kind of outbound linking helps spread your blog’s link juice over to your website, raising the SEO value of your site and taking your readers one step closer to conversion.