Do outbound links matter for SEO?

In our plugin, we have a check for outbound links. Is there an outbound link on your post or page? And in case there isn’t one, please add an outbound link to your content! Why do we insist on adding a link like that? Isn’t it true that you should get links to your website, and to your website only? Well… Not per se.

Table of contents

Having a red or orange bullet for the outbound links check? Here’s what this check does and here’s how to solve it.

There are a gazillion types of links. The most common ones are these, we believe:

  • Internal links from one page on your website to another page on your website. They can help optimize your site for search engines, we have an internal links tool for that. And with the site structure course in our Yoast SEO academy, you can learn how to do your internal linking well.
  • And then, there are two types of external links:
    • Links from other websites to yours. We call these inbound links or backlinks.
    • Links from your website to another website. Outbound links, indeed.

The outbound links check in Yoast SEO focuses on the latter: links from your website to another website.

What does the outbound links check do?

The outbound links check counts the number of links you’ve added to your post or page. It counts nofollowed and followed links. Followed means that search engines can follow these links, add value to the article, and perhaps rank it higher. Nofollowed links don’t let search engines follow them through to the other website. That way, they don’t contribute or add value. We’d rather see followed links! That’s why you’ll have to add at least one followed link to get a green feedback bullet. If you’ve purposely only added nofollowed links, your bullet for this check will turn orange instead of green.

Screenshot showing a green feedback bullet for the outbound links check
The outbound links check shows a green bullet in the SEO analysis.

Did you get an orange or red feedback bullet for the outbound links check? Then turn it green by adding at least one followed outbound link to every article you write. Which sources did you consult and which ones gave you the right answer? Refer and link to them, because they deserve it. You’d like others to do the same for you. It goes without saying that you should choose links that are relevant to your visitors. And if you think your visitors might like to learn more about a subject and you don’t want to offer that specific content yourself, send them over to someone who does. If we all link to the sources we consider the best, they end up higher in the search results and we all benefit!

Screenshot showing a red feedback bullet for the outbound links check
Turn this bullet green by adding at least one followed outbound link.

Want to learn more about link building and other aspects of SEO? Our all-around SEO course and other SEO courses can help you with that. You get access to these courses with Yoast SEO Premium, which also gives you access to extra features like an internal linking tool in the Yoast SEO plugin.

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Why we want you to add outbound links to your post

At Yoast, we feel that every page should include an outbound link. We feel so strongly about this because our mission is ‘SEO for everyone’. We very much believe in equal chances for everyone on a connected web. By asking you to add that outbound link, we ask you to connect your website to the next website. And that website to the next website. By doing so, we create a web that expands and expands, from one related website to another. We help Google to connect the dots. We help Bing to get insights on what sites, or rather what pages relate to each other.

By connecting the web, and structuring the web with your help, we help search engines find interesting websites. We help interesting websites rank in Google. With your help. SEO for everyone.

So.. do outbound links matter for SEO?

Outbound links most definitely matter for SEO. Not per se for your SEO, but for SEO in general. Your link helps your neighbor, your supplier, your customer, and of course, your visitor. So we strongly believe there is a good reason we have a check for them in our Yoast SEO plugin!

Read more: Link building from a holistic SEO perspective »

Coming up next!

27 Responses to Do outbound links matter for SEO?

  1. Rewari
    Rewari  • 4 years ago

    I always ingnored the importance of outbound links
    Nice tips. Will consider all these points you’ve mentioned from now onwards

  2. Karl Hindle
    Karl Hindle  • 4 years ago

    Hi Michiel-
    I remember the ReBoot study on this, and I think Rand Fish at Moz did something earlier which Reboot confirmed, that it was good for SEO, and not just the generic touchy-feely user kindness.

    I think the open questions were whether linking out to an authoritative site was more beneficial than linking to one that was not., and when is outbound linking too much.

    Any insight on that?


    • Michiel Heijmans

      I can’t see how linking an authoritative site would benefit you more than any other website. The other way around would make more sense. I can see how a link from an authoritative site would drive more (social) traffic to your site and how that would help your site, but that’s about links to your site, not from your site.

  3. Digember
    Digember  • 4 years ago

    Your last statement is totally correct – outbound links matters for SEO in a generic way. To all the webmasters who own a website, if you don’t link back to an external website, then it won’t gonna cause you any SEO problem or effect. It’s all up to you if you want to give an external link or not. Your external is important, if it takes user to learn more about something related to you’re writing.

  4. Basit Ansari
    Basit Ansari  • 4 years ago

    Amazing article for outbound links and it is really helpful.

  5. Keerthan
    Keerthan  • 4 years ago

    Hi Michiel,
    Thanks a lot for this informative post, as per my experience the post which has outbound links tend to rank higher than posts without outbound links.

  6. nexvan
    nexvan  • 4 years ago

    What does Nofollow noopener mean in the output link?

  7. nexvan
    nexvan  • 4 years ago

    The output link should be nofollow or is it better to follow?

    • Alessia Martalò
      Alessia Martalò  • 4 years ago

      it depends. Put it in nofollow only if it’s a commercial link or a promotional guest post.

      • nexvan
        nexvan  • 4 years ago

        Hi Alessia Martalò Thank

  8. Tarek Dinaji
    Tarek Dinaji  • 4 years ago

    You need outbound links to help your visitor verify and justify the information you share. But fearful of getting penalized people started to nofollow all of their outbound links.

    It is also a bad for SEO in general I think. Because if you do not feel confident to make a link dofollow why even bother include it into your post?

    Nice article! Keep it up!

  9. Paolo G.
    Paolo G.  • 4 years ago

    Great article. I’ll invest in adding useful content outbound links to my articles.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 4 years ago

      Good to hear, Paolo!

  10. Sharadha
    Sharadha  • 4 years ago

    This post discussed more information about outbound links, got some ideas about outbound links, thank you so much for your informative post.

  11. Eillen Sharma
    Eillen Sharma  • 4 years ago

    Thanks for your amazing post it helps me a lot!!!

  12. Cerrajero
    Cerrajero  • 4 years ago

    ¿Don’t you think the outbound links could penalize the link juice on my site?

    Thanks for the plugin and for these useful posts :)

  13. Stijn Spijker
    Stijn Spijker  • 4 years ago

    Nice article!! Thank you for the explaining and tips! :)

  14. crmnigeria
    crmnigeria  • 4 years ago

    At the onset in my own case, it was a lot of work adding outbound links. But it really pays of at the end of the day. Nice article. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Danielle Petit
    Danielle Petit  • 4 years ago

    Hi Michiel,
    Love your avatar.
    Realy helpfull article especialy for newbie shop builders like me. Thank you fot sharing so much info with us. Thing I am wondering is, I would love to outbound, but most of my suppliers also sell b2c instead of only b2b. I am a little scared what happens ik the customer clicks on the link and see that the supplier has the whole collection instead of like me just a couple. Ans on the big shops like Wehkamp etc. I never see outbound. Tricky.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 4 years ago

      Hi Danielle! Glad to hear we could help :-) I get your concern with this; have you thought about linking to others than your supplier? I see your shop offers fair trade products, so perhaps there are relevant charities, or blogs about a fair trade lifestyle to link to? There are many ways a link can be relevant, you can be a little creative and see what fits your business :-)

  16. Freddy G. Cabrera
    Freddy G. Cabrera  • 4 years ago

    Hey Michiel!

    Helpful information on outbound links. It is important to have them throughout your content. Not a lot of them, but just a few relevant ones.

    This is also a good way to help others in the niche and a lot of times they do return the favor – resulting in a new backlink for you. It is a win-win situation.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    Best regards! :D

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 4 years ago

      Thanks Freddy! You’re absolutely right: everyone benefits from a connected web :-)

  17. Jorge Sheffy
    Jorge Sheffy  • 4 years ago

    I always wondered what the reasoning behind this recommendation in Yoast SEO was. Now I know. It’s actually quite a noble reason behind it and of course, it does matter to an interconnected internet. I’m glad I finally understand and of course always try to link to a source when I use one and provide more information elsewhere when I can’t fulfill the need.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 4 years ago

      Happy to hear that’s been cleared up for you, Jorge :-)

  18. Mark
    Mark  • 4 years ago

    A few years back everyone kept saying about no follow on outbound links. Never knew if this wad good or bad. What do think.

  19. Whitefish Marketing
    Whitefish Marketing  • 4 years ago

    Hi Michiel
    I liked your post on the use of Outbound Links. I completely agree and advocate the use of outbound links to my clients. However we always look to ensure the sites are 1) relative to the industry and 2) of high domain value as well. So in essence the exact same reasons you would choose an inbound link.
    If you have an accounting website, and you link to HMRC, then Google sees that link as both relevant and also sourcing to a high domain authority – which shows you are providing information of high value.
    In turn, Google gives your own page more credibility for the topic you are trying to rank for.
    That’s my opinion anyway.
    Thanks – Chris Surridge

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 4 years ago

      Well said, Chris!