Three questions to ask when adding links to your website

Posted on February 21, 2020

 

Inserting links into your site, whether they direct users to another part of the site or somewhere else entirely, is a neat and modern way to get people where they need to be online. In 2020, it’s pretty awkward and old-fashioned to write “go to Engage Web’s website” when you could just say “click here”.

There are things that can go wrong, however, including a high-profile link calamity spotted this week, so ask yourself the following three questions when adding a link to any part of your site.

1. Do they work?

This might seem obvious, but URLs don’t have an autocorrect feature, so they need to have every letter, slash and dot in the right place to get people to the right site.

This week, budget airline EasyJet discovered this the hard way with a faulty link on one of its website’s pages. What was supposed to direct users to a privacy policy actually sent them to an adult site, as one disgruntled visitor highlighted on Twitter:

EasyJet apologised, saying they had got the link wrong by “just one letter”, but with URLs, you may as well be 20 letters out. The safest and quickest way to insert links is to copy and paste them in rather than type them manually, and check them when published to make sure they work.

Another potential problem is that links that worked at the time might not work a year or two later, leaving your site with links that now take users nowhere. If you don’t have time to check them all manually, there are tools that can scour your site for broken links, including free ones like this.

2. Is the URL too long?

Imagine you see an article on Facebook or Twitter and click through to it. You find the article interesting and decide to put a link to it on your website, so you copy and paste the URL from your address bar.

However, because you reached the site in question from a social media site, you’ll probably find that the URL has code added to the end of it. Ideally, you don’t want this code as part of the URL behind the link, as it’s untidy and looks unprofessional, and unnecessarily drags Facebook and Twitter into links you’re creating.

Generally, if a URL contains a question mark, you can delete the ? and the text that follows it and it will still take you to the same site, but do check this before you assume it to be the case.

Some website URLs are just long and ungainly because of the way the site has been put together. If your URL looks ugly, you could copy and paste it into a site like TinyURL to get a shorter equivalent. Previously, Ow.ly would give you an even shorter one, but that site has now annoyingly become part of Hootsuite.

3. Are they necessary?

External links are a good way to direct people to relevant pages and make your site into a good resource and authority, but bear in mind that they direct users away from your site. WordPress and most other content management systems give you an option to make any links clicked open in a new tab, meaning the user doesn’t have to navigate back to your site when they finish looking at the linked one – worth considering if you worry about losing visitors.

We think both internal and external links are an important part of an easy-to-navigate, high-quality website. To find out more about what we can do to make your site fulfil its potential, speak to Engage Web.

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