External vs internal linking for SEO: which is more effective?

Links are an essential part of SEO but it can be difficult to know where to start. in this guide, we'll explain the difference between external and internal linking for SEO to help you get your linking strategy on track.

When it comes to SEO and link building, it can get quite confusing quite quickly. There seem to be endless terms: external and internal links, outbound and inbound links, and backlinks. Knowing which links are most effective and which to invest your time into can feel impossible. 

This guide will help you understand what external and internal links are. Plus, we'll cover which form of links you should prioritise according to SEO experts.

What is external linking for SEO?

An external link, or backlink as it’s also called, is a hyperlink that directs a user from one page on one website to another on a different website. 

In SEO, an external link usually refers to an external webpage that links ‘back’ to your own site (hence the name ‘backlink’).

What’s an inbound link for SEO?

The term inbound link means the same as a backlink. It’s an external link on an external website that directs users to your website.

You’ll need to use an SEO tool, such as Google Search Console, to check how many external links are pointing to your website. This will show you all the known backlinks to your site and the anchor text being used. 

Why are inbound links important?

Inbound links are incredibly important for SEO. Many inbound links signify to search engines that your site is an authority on a specific topic. This will help your site rank better in search engine results pages (SERPs). 

Quality inbound links from relevant sites can also help increase traffic to your site. People might click on an inbound link and be directed to your site. So, you can benefit from this referral traffic. 

How to build inbound links

Building inbound links can take time and effort. Writing high-quality content and linking to other relevant sites in your content can be a natural way to build links. Other sites will want to link well-written and informative content. 

However, relying on other sites organically linking to yours is not enough. You’ll also need to ‘build’ links. One way to do this is to write a guest post on a subject in your website’s niche. This guest post should contain an inbound link back to your site. 

Another strategy is creating helpful lists of resources, tools, or strategies other sites will want to link to. Check out Hubspot’s ‘34 Inbound Link Building Strategies’ for more ways to build inbound links (this is also a fantastic example of a curated and helpful resource list!).

What’s an outbound link for SEO?

An outbound link refers to an external link that directs users on your website to another. So, it’s the opposite of an inbound link or backlink.

Why are outbound links important?

Although directing users away from your site might seem counterintuitive, outbound links can be incredibly effective. Outbound links to high-quality external pages help provide value to your users and allow them to understand a topic more thoroughly. Adding relevant outbound links also helps to improve your SEO by increasing your site’s credibility. 

How to use outbound links

When adding outbound links to a page, you should be careful not to link to a competitor’s site. This could result in driving away potential customers. 

You should also use descriptive keywords in your anchor text. The anchor text refers to the text in the hyperlink that users will click on. You should avoid using generic or irrelevant anchor texts such as ‘here’. A descriptive and specific anchor text will help search engines understand what the page you are linking to is about. 

What is internal linking for SEO?

An internal link is a hyperlink on one page on your site that links to another internal page on your site. 

This includes links in your menus and content. Menu links are called navigational links, and they are needed to help users and search engines navigate your site. 

Internal links in content are called contextual links. These links should direct users to helpful and related blog posts to learn more about a topic. 

Why are internal links important for SEO?

Internal links help search engines find, index, and navigate the pages on your website. If a page has no links, a search engine cannot find it. 

Contextual links allow search engines to understand what content on your site is related. More internal links signal to search engines that it’s an important page with authority. An effective internal linking strategy can be incredibly beneficial to SEO. 

Check out this blog for more detailed information on internal links and why they’re so important for SEO.

How to use internal links

You should use descriptive and relevant keywords in your internal link’s anchor text, much like you would for an outbound link. This will help site engines understand what the page you’re linking to is about. 

Your contextual links should link to similar or relevant pieces of content. When writing a new piece of content, identify existing content about the same or similar topic and link to the relevant pages throughout your content. Have a look at this blog if you want information on the links between content and SEO marketing.

Which type of link is most effective for SEO?

So far, we’ve covered external links (inbound and outbound) and internal links, but which type of links are most important to building an effective SEO strategy?

SEO experts said inbound link building was their third most valuable SEO strategy after content and keywords. This is because external inbound links pass more ‘link equity’ or ‘ranking power’ to sites than internal links. 

Search engines consider inbound links third-party links, giving your site more authority and credibility. This is especially true if the inbound link comes from a highly authoritative website in your industry. Inbound links from low authority or unrelated sites will not help improve your rankings as much as high authority relevant sites.

Links are essential to SEO, and link building should be part of your SEO strategy. However, according to experts, content is still the most important strategy to perfect to improve your ranking. Have a look at this blog on ‘SEO Content vs Links’ for more information on which strategy you should prioritise. 

When to get help 

Link building can be one of the most challenging elements of SEO. If you’re struggling to build links or your SEO strategy is not getting results, it might be time to seek specialist help.

An experienced digital marketing agency can create a comprehensive SEO and content strategy that integrates link-building.  

The team at Logica Digital has over 15 years of experience in SEO strategy and digital marketing. We can help improve your ranking in search engines by using a huge range of link-building strategies. So, potential customers can easily find your brand when searching for your products or services. 

Claim a free digital marketing audit to learn what digital marketing activities can help drive results in your business. Or contact the team today to find out more about what we do.


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Blog written by

Kezia Humphries
Content Executive