Internal, external, “no-follow,” “do-follow”… this post is all about links. What you need to know, what you need to avoid, and what you need to consider when it comes to the where, when, and why of links in your copy.
As a freelance writer, you’ll need to know the difference between internal and external links in your copy for the internet.
Internal links refer to something else on the same site. For example, by clicking on the title of this blog post, How To Improve Your Writing Skills, you’re clicking on an internal link. It’s good for SEO (search engine optimization) to have a few internal links in a blog post. You don’t want too many, however, such as 20 in a short post.
Internal links are best used when writing content for the internet. You can put them in blog posts or web pages. They help visitors stay longer on a site and make the site easier to navigate. Internal links aren’t really effective in emails, since they don’t drive SEO traffic.
External links refer to something on a different site. For example, if you click on this link, Booked-Out Writer, you’re clicking on an external link.
External links are also good for SEO, but not necessary. Like internal links, you put them in web content. Instead of keeping visitors on your site, however, they take visitors to a different site. You want to be sure that the site you’re referring your visitors to is reputable, and that you’re not sending them to a spam site.
“No-follow” and “Do-follow” links
Here’s a breakdown of “no-follow” and “do-follow” links.
- They’re both external links used in online copy.
- No-follow = unpaid
- Do-follow = paid
Once you have bylines, you’ll get pitched by people who want you to include links to THEIR sites in your content. They’re doing this to improve their SEO. If their sites have reputable sites linking to theirs, the search engines will more likely “think” that their site is also a good site to send internet visitors to.
This practice is generally frowned upon. If they want to pay you to place links but not disclose that you’ve been paid, this is against FTC guidelines for paid/sponsored content, and it’s unethical.
Occasionally, you’ll get pitched with a good resource. It’s fine to include it if it makes sense. It’s NOT fine to accept payment for placing links.
If you have a client who wants you to ask others to include links to your client’s site, you probably need to say no. You definitely need to say no if you’re paid per link, or if you have a quota. Clients who want to do this are almost always being shady. Not always, because many people are taught to do this as a “winning SEO strategy” and they’ve been led astray.
You’ll also have people wanting to verify that your links to their site will be “do-follow.” Stop working with them. They’re putting more effort into trying to cheat the search engines than they are in creating content that’s worth sharing, on its own. That’s not the kind of business you want.
Many editors will run external links but mark them with an HTML tag that says “no-follow.” This means the links will work just fine but they don’t register with the search engines, so they do nothing for SEO.
Your ethics as a writer
YOU as a writer are supposed to be impartial and offer resources based on their merits; you’re not supposed to accept kick-backs. And if you DO accept kick-backs, you absolutely must make it very clear in your content that this is SPONSORED content. This is how to handle the situation both legally and ethically.
If you have more questions on this or other freelance writing matters, you can join us at theinkwellguild.com, which is my free Facebook group for writers. By the way, that was an external link!