External Links vs Backlinks: A Complete Guide


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External links vs backlinks: the ultimate showdown! Which is the SEO superhero? Imagine a battle of web connections, where external links venture out into the wild while backlinks build bridges from far-off lands. 

Short answer: both matter! But stick around to uncover their secrets, compare their powers, and unleash the true potential of these link warriors. 

Let the battle begin!

What Is an External Link?

An external link, also known as an outbound link, is a hyperlink that points from one website to another. 

When you click on an external link, it directs you to a different domain or website. 

Essentially, it leads you away from the current webpage and towards an external source.

Let’s take an example to understand this concept better. 

Imagine you are reading a blog post on a cooking website, and within the content, you encounter a link to a recipe website that provides additional information about a particular ingredient. 

That link is an external link, as it guides you to a separate website outside the original domain.

What Is a Backlink?

On the other hand, a backlink, also referred to as an inbound link, is a hyperlink that directs users from one website to another, but in this case, the link originates from an external source and points to your website. 

In simple terms, it is a link from one website back to yours.

Suppose a popular food blogger includes a link to your cooking website in one of their articles, recommending your unique recipes. 

That link serves as a backlink for your website. 

Backlinks are akin to digital votes of confidence, indicating that other websites recognize and appreciate the value of your content.

Can External Links and Backlinks Work Both Ways?

External links and backlinks differ in their directional flow. 

External links point from your website to external sources, while backlinks point from external sources back to your website. 

However, it is worth noting that reciprocal linking, where two websites agree to exchange links with each other, can create a two-way connection.

In such instances, your website might have both external links and backlinks with the same source. 

Nevertheless, search engines like Google consider the quality and relevance of backlinks as a significant ranking factor, while excessive reciprocal linking may be viewed as an attempt to manipulate rankings.

Do External Links Matter for SEO?

External links play a crucial role in SEO, especially when it comes to establishing credibility and authority. 

When you include external links in your content, you provide additional resources and references for your readers. 

This enhances the user experience by offering them more in-depth information and validation.

Furthermore, external links can signal to search engines that your website is a reliable source of information. 

By linking to reputable and authoritative websites, you showcase your willingness to provide valuable content and contribute to the broader knowledge ecosystem. 

In turn, this can positively impact your website’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Do Backlinks Matter for SEO?

Absolutely! Backlinks hold substantial significance in the realm of SEO. 

They serve as a measure of your website’s popularity, relevance, and trustworthiness. 

When reputable websites link back to your content, it signals to search engines that your website possesses valuable information worth sharing.

High-quality backlinks act as endorsements, signaling that your website is an authoritative source in its niche. 

As search engines evaluate these backlinks, they consider factors such as the linking website’s reputation, relevance, and overall quality. 

The more high-quality backlinks you accumulate, the higher your chances of achieving a favorable position in SERPs.

External Links vs Backlinks: Understanding the Distinctions

When it comes to the world of search engine optimization (SEO) and website rankings, two terms that often surface in conversations are “external links” and “backlinks.” 

These terms may sound similar, but they hold distinct meanings and play different roles in the online landscape. 

In this article, we will delve into the disparities between external links and backlinks, examining the elements of control, acquisition, and the definition of value associated with each.

Control: Who Holds the Reins?

To comprehend the dissimilarities between external links and backlinks, it’s essential to understand the concept of control. 

External links, as the name suggests, are links that reside on your website but direct users to external sources. 

In other words, these links guide your visitors away from your site, placing control primarily in the hands of those external sources. 

On the contrary, backlinks refer to links that originate from other websites and point back to your own. 

This distinction grants you, as the website owner, more control over the destination and relevance of these incoming links.

Acquisition: The Path to Connectivity

Another aspect where external links and backlinks differ is in their acquisition methods. 

External links are typically acquired through deliberate actions taken by the website owner or content creator. 

For instance, you might include an external link to support a claim, provide additional resources, or direct readers to relevant information. 

On the flip side, acquiring backlinks requires an external party to voluntarily link back to your website. 

This often happens when your content is deemed valuable, authoritative, or highly relevant within a particular niche. 

In this sense, backlinks act as endorsements from other websites, vouching for the quality and credibility of your content.

Definition of Value: Weighing the Importance

When assessing the value of external links versus backlinks, it’s crucial to consider the perspective of search engines. 

External links contribute to the perceived authority and trustworthiness of your website.

By linking out to reputable sources, you showcase your commitment to providing accurate and reliable information to your audience. 

On the other hand, backlinks carry immense weight in the eyes of search engines. 

These inbound links signal that other websites consider your content valuable and worthy of reference, which can positively impact your search rankings. 

Backlinks act as digital votes of confidence, elevating your website’s perceived value in the vast sea of online content.

Similarities Between External Links and Backlinks

Both external links and backlinks are essential components of off-page SEO strategies. 

They serve as pathways between different websites, providing users with a seamless browsing experience and allowing search engines to establish connections and assess the credibility and relevance of web pages.


One fundamental similarity between external links and backlinks lies in their ability to contribute to the overall authority of a website. 

When a reputable website links to another website, it signifies an endorsement, indicating that the linked website holds valuable and reliable content. 

This endorsement, in turn, bolsters the linked website’s authority in the eyes of search engines, potentially leading to higher rankings in search results. 

Whether it’s an external link or a backlink, the endorsement carries weight and can significantly impact a website’s visibility and credibility.

Anchor Text

Another commonality between external links and backlinks is the presence of anchor text. 

Anchor text refers to the clickable text within a hyperlink. It serves as a concise descriptor, providing users and search engines with an understanding of the linked page’s content. 

Effective use of anchor text enhances the user experience, making it easier for individuals to navigate the web and discover relevant information. 

Whether an external link or a backlink, the anchor text plays a pivotal role in determining the context and relevance of the linked content.

Topic Relevance

Both external links and backlinks thrive on the foundation of topic relevance. 

Search engines prioritize delivering accurate and valuable information to users, and the relevance of external links and backlinks greatly influences their perception of a website’s content. 

External links from authoritative sources that are topically related to the linked page signal to search engines that the content is trustworthy and comprehensive. 

Similarly, backlinks from relevant websites indicate that the linked page offers valuable insights within its niche. 

In both cases, topic relevance acts as a critical factor in determining the quality and authority of a website.

As we have explored the similarities between external links and backlinks, it becomes evident that they share common objectives: enhancing website authority, providing context through anchor text, and establishing topic relevance. 

However, it is crucial to understand their distinctions to leverage them effectively in an SEO strategy.

FAQs About external links vs backlinks

What is an External Link?

An external link is a hyperlink that points from one website to a different website. 

It directs users to external resources and provides additional information related to the content they are currently viewing. 

External links play a crucial role in enhancing the credibility and relevance of a website by connecting it with authoritative sources and expanding the scope of available information.

What is the Difference Between a Link and an External Link?

A link is a general term that refers to any connection between two web pages, regardless of whether it is internal or external. 

On the other hand, an external link specifically refers to a hyperlink that directs users to a different website. 

While all external links are links, not all links are necessarily external. 

Internal links, for example, connect different pages within the same website, facilitating navigation and promoting user engagement within the site itself.

What is the Difference Between Backlinks and Internal Links?

Backlinks and internal links differ in their directionalities and purposes. 

Backlinks, also known as inbound links, are hyperlinks that originate from external websites and direct users to a specific page on a different website. 

They serve as endorsements and signals of trust from external sources, contributing to the authority and visibility of the linked page. 

On the other hand, internal links connect different pages within the same website, providing navigation pathways for users to explore related content and improving the website’s structure and user experience. 

Internal links primarily serve the purpose of enhancing website usability and encouraging visitors to spend more time on the site.

Final Thoughts About external links vs backlinks

In conclusion, understanding the nuances between external links and backlinks is essential for devising a successful SEO strategy. 

While they share similarities in terms of authority, anchor text, and topic relevance, their origins and directionalities set them apart. 

External links serve as pathways to external resources, enhancing credibility and providing additional value to readers. 

Backlinks, on the other hand, are bridges from external websites, signaling endorsement and contributing to a website’s authority. 

By harnessing the power of both external links and backlinks, website owners can establish their online presence, gain visibility, and ultimately improve their search engine rankings. 

It’s a delicate balance that requires careful consideration and implementation to achieve optimal results.

Julian Goldie

Julian Goldie

Hey, I'm Julian Goldie! I'm an SEO link builder and founder of Goldie Agency. My mission is to help website owners like you grow your business with SEO!

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