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Outbound links – quick tip

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Saturday September 22, 2007 )

Providing links to external sources to either provide further information to your visitors or perhaps to substantiate a claim or testimonial is a great idea – but by remembering this simple guideline, you won’t give your traffic and perhaps customers away.

People have a tendency to flit around the web – following links here, there and everywhere. Keeping a potential subscriber or customer’s attention is no mean feat.

When you link to an external site, be sure that you set the outbound link to open a new window (target=”_blank”). This way, there’s a greater chance that you won’t lose the person from your site totally. A browser window/tab with your page will still be there once they are done reading whatever on the other sites you link to.

This mightn’t sound too important, but it really is. Sure, the visitor can backtrack (sometimes), go through their history (if they remember the name of your site) or open a new tab themselves by right mouse button clicking on links – but why make things difficult for the person to do so? At times, the person simply won’t be able to get back to your site. Here’s an example:

– I visit a merchant’s site and there’s testimonials from other site owners. I follow a link that doesn’t open in a new window.

– The testimonial owner’s site is on a topic I’m interested in and I become engrossed in that content. On one of the pages there’s a link to another site that I follow… and so on and so on.

– By this time I’ve pretty much forgotten the original site I was on and there’s no visual cue to trigger my memory; i.e. a window open with the orginal site displaying. Even if I do remember that I want to get back to the original site, if I’ve closed the tab I can’t return to it easily.

Thisn’t isn’t just a possibility, it happens to me and others I’ve spoken to about it regularly :)

Sometimes making the most of your traffic isn’t down to complex theories, heavy duty psychology or eye-popping features; it can be the simple things such as how you link to external sites that make a positive difference.


Anchor text and linking
Linking to bad neighborhoods


4 comments for Outbound links – quick tip
  1. Hmmm… but imagine if all those sites did that? I find it incredibly annoying and it’s not valid strict xhtml which I use. Would it not be better to educate uses to right click (or Ctrl click in Firefox) when they *choose*? I understand your point but I’d rather not annoy my users for the sake of keeping a couple of un-web savvy users at my site.

    Comment by Dan — September 24, 2007 @ 11:37 pm

  2. Hey Dan, thanks for your input – I find it incredibly annoying not to have new tabs/windows open up – perhaps I’m in the minority; but I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say “darn, I’ve lost the site I was on” :). There’s not just that, but also when using the “back” option, sometimes the page has to reload – just all time consuming stuff IMO.

    Comment by Michael Bloch — September 25, 2007 @ 2:59 am

  3. I find it helpful not to have a user think about “where I am” and a “new window” makes that possible. While we all start at the same place with little or no knowledge, and progress at our own rates, I think Dan forgets most folks using the inet are not on his level, and are substantially underpowered when it comes to “right clicking” as a working solution for almost anything.

    Comment by Phil from Kansas — September 25, 2007 @ 7:30 am

  4. I agree, Michael, both from my position as a marketer and as a web browser. I find it incredibly annoying when a website doesn’t open a new window when I click a link.

    Comment by Paul — September 25, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

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