There are more than 281 billion emails sent out every day, and 49.7% of those emails are considered spam. So, it’s no surprise that you’d be suspicious if you opened up your inbox only to find a letter asking for a link like this:

Hey there,

Saw your recent post “Is It Time To Redesign Your Website” and noticed that you’ve shared [name and topic].

Just thought that this piece on [topic and how it differs] I recently published might be valuable to your readers and make a great addition resource to your post.

Would love to get your thoughts!

Thanks, 

As with the vast amount of unsolicited emails, ones that ask for a link can be easy to overlook or simply delete. We understand the concerns that come along with linking to a site you’re not completely familiar with. You may have questions that arise such as: Can this hurt my reputation? Won’t I just be asking my readers to leave my site? Can this have a negative impact on my ranking? These are all great questions, but rest assured that with the right approach, linking to external sites can have a positive impact on your positioning and brand.

How does linking out benefit me?

What you do on your website, as well as off your website, works hand in hand to show Google that your site and the content you’re producing is relevant and valuable to your potential viewers. If done properly, over time, Google will essentially validate the hard work you’ve put in by ranking your site for the keywords and audience you’re attempting to reach.  

However, understanding that your site can’t be all things to all people, adding links to external sources can increase the intrinsic value of your site and the information your audience can glean from it. With quality playing such a huge role in Google’s standards, it’s likely you’ll be rewarded for those practices.

Another benefit to linking out to external sources is that it increases the likelihood that you’ll be linked to. As the former head of MOZ and creator of SparkToro, Rand Fishkin, puts it “When you link out, it creates a signal to other websites and content creators that you’re a willing participant in the web’s natural linking environment and not a closed-off community or purely self-referential, pompous know-it-all.”

How do I know if I can trust the asking site?

Now, there are some key things to look at when trying to determine if you can trust a website. Let’s take a look at three metrics we use when determining the value of a site we’re considering rewarding with a link. Understanding these will also give you a much clearer picture as to how Googles ranking factors work.

Authority:

Determining authority isn’t an exact match as to how Google muckrakes a website (they aren’t the biggest fans of giving up that information, however they have admitted to using over 200 factors), but it’s a well-studied reference based on Google updates and trends that have been seen over time.

How we determine the authority of a site is based on multiple factors such as age, linking domains, number of total links, and quality of backlinks. These all play a crucial role in determining the authority a site is recognized as having.

If you’re in a pinch, and aren’t sure where to start, there are plenty of free tools that can help give you some insight into metrics on any page or SERP.

*Because this isn’t an actual Google metric and merely a predictor of a sites ability to rank, it’s important to remember that there is no real “good” or “bad. So, don’t get worried if you have a newer site that hasn’t gained the traction of, say, Forbes. Relevancy and consumer trust are key here.

Relevancy:

Relevancy can be looked at in a number of ways, but for the sake of this piece we’ll keep it to the site you’re linking to is relevant to your website. It may be in the same industry, niche, or share a similar audience. You want to make sure that you can both share in the rewards given to the links being built. We often see people trade links with sites just for the sake of building links, but the value of a relevant link to a site that shares a mutual segment is going to be the most beneficial to your readers, and ultimately, what you’ll be rewarded for.

Backlink Profile:

The backlink profile of a site is based on the total number of external URLs linking to it. This number, over time, is becoming much less valuable as we know that quality of links is significantly more important than quality. However, it’s still a great metric to reference when considering the growth of a website over time.

Also, because Google doesn’t give us the inside scoop, only suggestions, time has shown that having a healthy number of backlinks is important. This definitely doesn’t suggest a site with 300k backlinks is automatically a great site to link to, but an aged site with good quality backlinks is destined to have somewhat of a diverse portfolio when it comes to its backlink profile ( Just make sure you keep that in mind before you start to disavow all those irrelevant links that I’ve scared you about J)

Here’s a free version of one of my favorite tools to help you out: https://ahrefs.com/backlink-checker

Final Thoughts

You want to get real results from your SEO, and there are so many factors at play that it can seem overwhelming or confusing. Often times you’re left wondering if it’s just some shady practice, someone trying to steal my information. Rest assured there are some simple things you can do to help ease your mind and know the right course of action to take. If you run into a situation and you’re not sure how to approach it, give us a holler! We’re always available to help find the best solutions for your business and website needs.

Meet the Author:

Scott Rehnberg

Scott Rehnberg, Digital Outreach Manager

As Digital Outreach Manager, Scott comes to the table with extensive experience in Content Marketing and Digital PR. His passion for Digital Marketing has afforded him insight into the buyer's journey and how to best reach targeted audiences on behalf of our clients. He specializes in Off-Site SEO, Content Marketing, and Link building, closely monitoring new opportunities for our clients to speak into. When he’s not at work or researching new trends, Scott can be found enjoying time with his wife and children, as well as pursuing new musical ventures.