Links are signposts to both search engines and users. Thoughtful and well-written links make content more accessible, more usable, and more searchable. At the same time, superfluous, redundant, or vague links can push our results down in search engine rankings and hurt the overall accessibility and usability of our websites.



Links Do’s and Don’ts In Brief
  • Link text should be descriptive and able to stand alone.

  • Limit offsite links* (eschew links to Wikipedia entirely)

  • Prefer internal to external links.

  • Use "from this website" and navigate to the desired page when linking internally so the link won't break if the page moves.

  • Avoid redundant and numerous links (Is this link already on the page? Don’t repeat it. Look carefully, it might be in the header or footer.)

  • Don't link bare URLs.

  • External links should always open in a new window.


*Can the user find this information with a Google Search? Don’t include it.


To Link or Not to Link?

The first consideration for good links is whether those links should exist at all. Does the link add anything that the reader could not easily find with a casual search? Does it support your main narrative? Or could it lead your reader down a rabbit hole? Is it redundant? (Every page on our websites link to the home page of Berkeley Lab, so linking to it in the body of text is redundant.) Does it point to a stable, reliable, and non-perishable source, like a DOI (digital object identifier)? Is it absolutely necessary?


Writing Link Text

In the simplest terms link text should

  • Describe the destination as completely yet succinctly as possible, 

  • Be self-contained, able to be read independently and understood, and 

  • Not be “click here.” (Additional reading: What’s wrong with “click here?)


Just like fully-sighted readers, users who rely on screen readers “scan” web pages using landmarks, including headings and link text. To test how readable your page will be to them, just try reading your links out loud. If you could not see anything else on the page, would the link text alone be useful? Imagine if you landed on a page where all the links were “click here” or “read more.”


(Want to know more? Read more about how to write good links.)


Links and SEO

Search engines usually weigh link text more heavily in indexing the page. Text that reinforces the main idea of your page generally moves it up in ranking. However, “link-larding,” that is using an unnecessary number of embedded and/or redundant links, can cause search engines to treat the page with suspicion.


Checklist:

  • Is the title properly filled out? (“Title” or "description" adds contextual information for visually impaired people. It also pops up as a “tool tip” when someone "rolls over" the link with their cursor.)
  • Did you use a proper internal site link so the page doesn't break if moved?
  • Are there superfluous or redundant embedded links?  (Minimize the number of links that take users off-site or that break and must be fixed later. Ask: Is that link essential?)