Why is the internet called a Web?
It’s because it’s a collection of links, a bunch of pages that are hooked up with one another, as the strands of the web are in this picture. A fly over at the edge of the web will move and its movements will travel through all the interconnections, alerting the spider in the middle.
At this point the story become unsavory, so we’ll drop the metaphor.
The point is that your website is not supposed to be there all by itself like this not-a-web-page. The pages of your site should be linked to one another in ways that let visitors travel easily from one to another, and they should also be linked up to other sites and pages on the internet.
It’s important to do this in ways that are valuable to your visitors, and it’s also good to do it in ways that are valuable to your business.
One obvious way to do this is to have a links or partners page at your website. Pages of this kind can be great, as long as a couple of basic characteristics hold true.
- The links should have a purpose. Sydney painters Courtney & Wise have a links page that serves to increase visitors’ confidence in them. Showing their certifications for fair trade and ecological responsibility, their membership in prestigious groups like the Master painters, and so on helps people feel comfortable inviting them into their homes — very important for painters. Many of the companies linked on this page have also given links to Courtney & Wise. Nothing wrong with that. A page of random links that have no other purpose than to get reciprocal links is pointless, and will look that way, too.
- The links should have value to visitors. The Retreat at Sky Ridge has a page of links to information about Eureka Springs, their nearest town. People planning a trip to this popular tourist destination can go to that info page and find links to lots of useful stuff, so it’s an extra service to customers, and adds value to the site. It’s also likely to bring people back repeatedly, a benefit to the website. FileReplicationPro, a software company, has a page of links to articles that go into more detail on things like real time file replication for Mac Os with mixed servers, which you might care about if you were one of their customers. Helping visitors find information they need is a valuable service.
You don’t have to have your outgoing links on their own separate page. I include links to pages I’m describing so you can go look and see them if you want more details. It makes sense to have the link right there where the question comes to your visitor’s mind.
When you create links at your website, it’s important that they should give enough information that your readers can decide whether to visit that link. The anchor text (that is, the words people click on to visit the link) should tell your readers where they’ll end up if they click. Words like “click here” don’t do that. Neither should you have deceptive links that take people to ads when that wasn’t what they had planned on seeing.
Following these principles will give you and your visitors a positive linking experience. And yet people often hesitate to link out to other pages, for fear of losing their visitors. Don’t worry about that. Just make sure your website is interesting and valuable enough that your visitors will want to return, and you’ll never have to hesitate to link to other sites.