Imagine if, every time you referenced a movie or anecdote, you could give someone a direct line to exactly what you’re talking about during your conversation. That’s links on websites. Links have been putting the “web” in “world wide web” since the days of Geocities websites, but linking comes with its own set of rules and online etiquette.
What is a Link?
On the internet, every website address is unique, and every page inside that address has its own unique identifier. By sharing these addresses, we’re giving each other exact directions to the pages we want to share online. When you copy the text of a URL and share it with someone else, you’re linking to a web page. This can be done in many ways, but today we are going to talk specifically about putting links into the text of a website.
In WordPress, you can use the Link button in your text editor to add a link. When you do this, WordPress adds a bit of code to that text in the background, so that the website knows what words to turn into a link. Then you paste your URL, click OK, and voila!
Once text has been made into a link, website visitors will see the linked text as a different color, and they will be able to click it to visit the page you’re directing them to. You should use links when you want someone to visit a specific page on your site, or on another website.
When you link to another page on your own website, it’s called an “internal link”, and when you link to a page on another website, it’s an “external link”.
The Benefits of Linking
Linking can be beneficial in a lot of ways. First, it helps you communicate with your audience in a clear, straightforward way. By putting links on your site, you minimize confusion. You’ve directed your visitors to exactly where they should go.
Linking within your site helps your visitors learn everything you want them to know about you. In the case of a blog, you can link to blog posts that expand on something you’ve written about previously to reinforce your point, like if I wanted to remind you about the importance of blogging for ecommerce businesses.
Linking to other websites helps visitors understand where you fit into the market. Usually, you won’t link to your competitors’ websites as this is expected! However, you may link to the websites of vendors and suppliers, the way Anderson-Vreeland does on their trade associations page.
Where to Put Links
For this section, I’m going to divide your website into two parts: “Site pages” and “blog posts”. These are two very different parts of your website, as far as linking goes.
If you have a marketing or business website, most of the links on your site pages are going to be to other pages within your website, with minimal external linking (linking to other websites). What are site pages? All of the pages in the menu of your website is a good metric. They’re usually the pages to talk about who you are and what you do, and the information on them doesn’t change much. External linking on these pages is usually limited to things like government documentation, suppliers, vendors, or business partners.
Your blog is another story! On a blog, your platform is much more flexible, and in content like these, your readers are expecting some engagement with the “outside world” in the form of external links. Here, you can link to other relevant blog posts, tools you like to use, or just anything you feel like discussing on your blog.
When to Thank Someone for a Link
Sometimes, someone will link to your website, too. Links do not require permission, so you don’t have to ask someone if you can link to them, and they don’t have to ask you, either. If someone talks about you in a blog post or something else, it may be polite to thank them on social media, or with a quick email! Generally, though, you don’t have to say thanks – but if a link brings you business, it’s just a nice thing to do.
How to Check Your Links
There aren’t many fool-proof ways of knowing all of your links. The easiest way to see what other websites people are finding your site linked on is through Google Analytics. Under Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals, you’ll see the visitors coming to your site through links.
There are many more complex ways to see all of your links, but the links that are going to bring most businesses the most value, are the ones that bring visitors to their site.
So, How Often Should You Link?
This is a good question to ask yourself, as the answer really is that it depends:
- If you are building a list of resources, or a tutorial like my Google Analytics Guides, you’re going to include a lot of links to help readers continue learning.
- If you’re writing a marketing blog post, you want to keep the reader on your own site in order to establish trust and convince them to contact you!
- If you’re writing a re-cap about attending an event, it’s in your best interest to link to everybody you met up with while you were there - and ping them on social media once the post is published.
While most of these decisions are done on a case-by-case basis, it’s important to always remember that above all else, the Internet thrives on links. Don’t be afraid to use links to your marketing benefit!