Recently I was talking with a client about plans for his website. He caters to the tourist trade, and we were discussing a page of links to local information.
“I know you don’t want to have links that take people off your website…” he said uncertainly.
It made me think about a book called How to Be a Complete and Utter Failure in Life, Work & Everything: 44 1/2 Steps to Lasting Underachievement by Steve McDermott. In it, McDermott says that people who fail “believe in scarcity… They believe that things, including money, are like a cake — there are only so many pieces, and if I give some away to you, there’s going to be less for me. Successful people believe in the exact opposite — abundance. That there is too much to go around, and the more I give away, the more comes back to me.”
Now, the client I was discussing this with is a successful person, and clearly a generous, abundance-minded person.
Somewhere, though, he’s heard that you don’t want to put outbound links into your website for fear that people will leave and never return.
There are two things you need to think about when you’re deciding this issue.
First, how good is your website?
I wrote materials for a client’s presentation a while back. “I don’t want people looking at the materials while I’m speaking, ” the client cautioned me. I think he was warning me not to make his handouts too thrilling.
There was really only one thing to say: “If you’re a good presenter, you won’t have that problem.” If you’re a bad presenter, of course, you might as well have really thrilling handouts, so they’ll ask you back anyway.
So if it seems to you that people will follow your links and never come back, then you should probably work on that website.
What is your reason for having outbound links?
There may be occasions when you’re doing it as a favor, but usually, the links ought to be for the sake of your visitors. Like everything else on your website.
In this case, the client wants people from far away looking at his website and dreaming of taking a vacation with him. Having a page of useful links for people planning a vacation in his area will encourage those dreams and move them closer to reality.
Having such a page will also cause people to think of his website as the logical starting point for their vacation plans. “We went to the Ozarks,” they’ll say to their friends, “and it was wonderful! Go to this website — they have links to all the information you’ll need.”
He’ll be adding value to his website, making it more appealing to visitors. There’ll be linking opportunities and good word of mouth, and lots of return visits. He’ll also be able to swap links with local businesses, benefiting them as well as his own business.
He’s not going to list his competitors — but he could. I recently added a link for a client to a competitors’ page. They are so confident of their product that they’re willing to list all their competitors, improving their search results and traffic in the process. I think my clients have the best product, but I admire that company’s audacity, not to mention their generosity.
Even if you don’t go that far, you may find that you can benefit a lot from well-planned outbound links. You may not be able to have your cake and eat it, but you can certainly share it and still have plenty for yourself.
Outbound links aren’t necessarily a bad thing. The main thing to keep in mind is that the content on the website should have value. If the link is something that enhances the content and adds value, then it should be okay to include it.