Most people know that if you can get links from other websites to point to your own, you’ll rank higher in search engine results. But what about links that go from your website to someone else’s? Is there a specific number of outbound links you should include in each blog post or article you write?
There’s no magic number of outbound links you should include per blog post. However, if you want a rule of thumb to follow, aim for one outbound link for every 230 words you write. Including this number of outbound links is achievable, demonstrates you’ve done your research, and provides useful sources for your reader to look at.
What’s FAR more important than the number of links you include in your article, though, is the quality of the pages you link to. Only link to relevant, high-authority websites that provide accurate information you can trust. By doing this, you’ll improve the quality of your articles, provide a better reader experience, and help satisfy Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines at the same time.
What Is An Outbound Link?
Outbound links are an essential part of search engine optimisation (SEO). They are simply links on your website that lead to other websites. Outbound links help provide more information and resources for your visitors, making your content more trustworthy and useful.
Outbound links are different from inbound links, which are links from other websites to your own. They are also different from internal links, which are links between pages on your own website. Every blog post you write should include a mix of both internal and external links.
Do Outbound Links Actually Matter For SEO?
There’s no hard proof that outbound links increase rankings. In fact, this is what Google’s John Mueller had to say when he was asked about it back in 2015 while filming a Webmaster Central video:
“We would say there’s not any SEO advantage of linking to anyone else’s site.”
A year later Mueller was again asked by a viewer whether or not outbound external links were a ranking factor. His response was similar:
“From our point of view, external links to other sites – so links from your site to other people’s sites – isn’t specifically a ranking factor.”
The main reason Google doesn’t use outbound links as a ranking factor is because they’re too easy to manipulate. Anyone could stuff their article with a number of highly authoritative, popular sites in their niche and expect a quick boost in traffic.
While it may not directly increase your ranking, Google does encourage outbound links as a means to improve the quality of your blog post. In 2019, Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan published a tweet that suggested the value of outbound links is for users, and that SEOs should use them to add integrity to their content:
“I’d think of linking as just part of proper attribution. You’re a journalist. You write a story, you cite your sources. If those sources are online with more info for the reader, that cite should link to them. That’s just good journalism. It should be standard…”
So we can gather that Google values proper attribution and sees linking as integral to content trustworthiness. That’s because outbound links to reputable sources align with their E-E-A-T guidelines and their desire to rank sites that demonstrate experience, expertise, authority and trust. What Google wants above all else is higher quality content… and outbound links, when used correctly, help to deliver that.
Stats Show A Correlation Between Outbound Links And Rankings
Interestingly, there are some studies that suggest outbound links may actually be a ranking factor, despite what Google claims.
In one experiment conducted by Reboot Online, researchers created 10 websites featuring articles about a fake miracle beauty compound called “Phylandocic.” Five of these sites included three high-authority outgoing links – one each to Oxford University, Cambridge University and the Genome Research Institute. The other five had no outgoing links.
After five months, all five of the articles that contained outbound links ranked above those that contained no outbound links for the tracked keywords. While more studies would need to be done to confirm the causation, the experiment concluded that outgoing relevant links to authoritative sites may have a positive impact on search rankings.
How Many Outbound Links Should You Include Per Blog Post?
Regardless of whether or not you believe it to be a ranking factor, there’s one thing almost everyone agrees on – relevant outbound links improve the quality of your blog post. But how many outbound links should you include in each article?
If you look at the study conducted by Reboot Online, the researchers created ten sites in total, each of which had a single 300-word article published on it. Five of those articles had external outbound links and the other five didn’t. All of the articles that had outbound links had the same number – three.
The study didn’t test different numbers of outbound links, so there’s no way of knowing whether or not three is a good number. However, given the articles with three outbound links outranked those with none, we can assume that three is better than zero.
The study didn’t test different article lengths either, which may have affected results. If Google does use outbound links as a ranking factor, it’s possible there’s a preferred content-to-outbound link ratio.
Studies Show A Correlation Between Outbound Links And Rankings
If you look at another study by Northcutt, they found that one average, top-ranking pages contain between 56 and 171 outbound links, an incredibly high number.
The study also looked at the amount of links compared to the amount of words in each article. The top-ranking pages contained, on average, between 30 and 230 words per link. So by that measure, including an outbound link every 30-230 words could have a positive impact on SEO rankings.
Of course, it’s important to point out that this study shows a correlation, not necessarily a causation. After all, there are an estimated 200 ranking factors, and those pages could be ranking high for reasons that have nothing to do with outbound links.
However, it is logical to say that top-ranking pages have high-quality content, so copying what they do (in this case including a lot of outbound links in your blog posts) will get you most of the way there.
Is There A Maximum Number Of Outbound Links You Should Include Per Blog Post?
If you look at Wikipedia, a website that consistently appears at the top of search engine results, they include a LOT of outbound links in their articles. Take a look at this article about bees, which ranks in the top spot on Google for the keyword “bee.” It has 149 sources in its reference list, all of which are linked to using outbound links.
Granted, the article is over 7,000 words long – but that still equates to one outbound link every 47 words! So I’d say it’s safe to assume your blog posts won’t ever have too many outbound links in them.
What’s The Sweet Spot In Terms Of The Number Of Outbound Links Per Page?
The answer to this question will differ greatly from person to person. If you ask me, a good aim is to include one outbound link every 30-230 words. Given the amount of work involved, I’d stay closer to the upper end of the range (one link per 230 words) than the lower end (one link every 30 words).
What’s more important is that the sites and articles you link to are reputable. Not every site has to be Oxford University – but make sure you’ve read the article you’re linking to and it’s written by someone who knows what they’re talking about.
Much like a journalist, you should only include sources you can trust. Sources that improve the quality of your content and the experience of your reader. After all, that’s what Google wants!
There’s no set rule about the number of outbound links you should include per blog post. Some studies suggest to include one outbound link for every 30-230 words of content you write. But given the time-intensive nature, I’d keep it closer to one link per 230 words than one link every 30. The most important thing is to make sure the links you do include are to trustworthy sites!