The Motive Web Design Glossary
A reciprocal link is where website [A] links to website [B], which in turn links to website [A].
Reciprocal links and search engine ranking
Reciprocal links can improve a website’s search relevance ranking, moving the website up the list of results on a search engine results page (SERP).
reciprocal links can improve a website’s ranking in search engine results
The more quality incoming links a website has, the more likely that it will be considered an authorative source of information.
A search engine assigns a ‘quality’ weighting to an incoming link by considering factors including:
- the credibility of the website providing the link (i.e. its search engine relevance ranking),
- the words used in the link text (label)
- the apparent relevance of the destination webpage (content) to the referring website
If the link is from a website that provides information on a similar topic, then link may be considered to be of higher quality.
When to add outbound links
…the quality of the destination website will reflect on the organisation providing the link.
The quality of the destination website often reflects on the organisation providing the link—unless the website is clearly a search engine or directory).
- Users may assume that an outbound link is an endorsement (even when a disclaimer says otherwise).
- Users may be unaware that they have linked to a different website, despite a change in look-and-feel, register, etc.
Guidelines for adding outbound links
Place outbound links on relevant content webpages
A user is more likely to follow a link when it relates to their current task. Add outbound links to background, complementary, or equivalent information to the webpage content.
For example, Motive glossary entries include links to related tutorials, blog entries, alternative definitions, etc.
Avoid clustering outbound links on a separate ‘Links’ webpage
- ‘Links’ webpages may not be visited, unless they are promoted through the use of an appropriate call-to-action.
- The label ‘Links’ may be too generic to be considered a meaningful destination.
- Relegating external links to a separate webpage prevents the link text from being factored into the search engine relevance ranking for content pages.
Use surrounding copy to create context
The Motive Web Design Glossary provides information on how to write hypertext.
Add an author or source attribution after the link text
There are many factors to consider when writing hypertext (Motive Web Design Glossary).
Differentiate outbound links
Outbound links can be differentiated from internal links by using a different colour and/or supplementary icon. Although, unless the user is aware of the significance of the visual treatment, the effectiveness of this approach may be limited:
- Colour-cues may be overlooked, as not all websites use the same link colours.
- Colour-cues for external links compete with the more commonly-understood visited- and unvisited-link colours. Too many different link colours can be visually overwhelming (the end-effect often described as a ‘fruit-salad’).
- There may be too few external links on a single webpage for the difference between internal and external links to be perceivable.
- Icons, at a scale that is relative to the text-size, may not be noticed when a user scans the webpage.
- The user may misinterpret the meaning of the icon.
For example, icons are also commonly used to indicate that a link will open in a new window; a user may believe icons of a similar size, style or location also indicate that the link will open a new window.
- Icons tend to draw more attention to the exception than the rule: unless a website is a portal or constructed for advertising purposes, outbound links should be in the minority, adding an icon to a link makes it a larger target, and potentially more attractive to click.
Add a title attribute to the anchor element
A title attribute is displayed as a tool-tip when the user moves their mouse/focus over the link. The title text can be used to provide an expanded description of the destination webpage.
Caution: Users may not notice the title attribute, or click the link before the title text can be read. Users browsing with Internet Explorer under Windows may also be desensitised to this type of information display, as tool-tips are used to display image alternative (alt) attributes.
title="Link to the Motive website">
Motive Web Design Glossary
Sample link with title attribute: Motive Web Design Glossary
Link with title attribute: The title text is shown as a tool-tip when the cursor is over the link
(Mac OS X Firefox screen grab)
Separate outbound links from the main content of the webpage
If outbound links disrupt reading, list them along-side or underneath the main copy with an appropriate heading, such as ‘Further reading’.
Use keyword from the (visible) content of the destination webpage in link text
Using the first main heading, or the nearest anchor text on the destination webpage as the link text reassures the user that they have linked through to the correct page.
Provide sufficient information for the user to make an informed decision
If the link text alone is not self-explanatory, provide enough information about the content of the destination webpage for a user to gauge its relevance to their task.
- If possible, link directly to a content webpage, rather than to the homepage or gateway page.
- If the destination website uses frames, link to the nearest meaningful entry-point and provide instructions (if required), on how to ‘find’ the content.
- When linking to a blog, ensure that the URL of the webpage is a permalink (the most recent entry may currently be displayed as the blog’s homepage, but will be displaced as newer entries are posted, ‘breaking’ the link).
Don’t open new windows
Prefer opening both internal and outbound links in the same browser window. Opening links in a new (pop-up) window can disorient the user, and also prevents them from using the browser Back button retrace their steps.
anchor, deep-link, hyperlink, link farm, PageRank, referrer, trackback
References and further reading
- Google’s new link filter (Wayne Hurlbert, WebPro News)
7 Apr 2005:
Many search engine optimisation professionals believe that Google has implemented a dampening filter for new incoming links. The alleged filter is thought to depress the link popularity boost and the Google PageRank transfer of newly added links.
- Reciprocal links: the glue behind the web (Edwin Hayward, Internet Goldrush)
Motive Web Design Glossary Trivia