High-quality links—both internal and external—are crucial to search engine optimization. But when it comes to SEO and the user experience, you might find yourself asking: Should I open links in a new window or not?
Depending on your perspective, whether you are viewing it from a marketing point of view or a web design point of view, there are different best practices when it comes to link creation. SEO Design Chicago is here to explain the difference between internal and external links, the advantages and disadvantages of opening links in new windows, and how to open links in new tabs.
What Are Links and Why Are They Important for SEO?
There are two types of links that you can include on your website—internal links and external links. Internal links take you to another page on the same website, whereas external links take you to a page on another website.
Links from other websites as well as links within your own website are important for SEO. There is a direct correlation between the quality and quantity of links to your website and how much search traffic your website receives. Therefore, when it comes to small businesses, more links lead to more search traffic, which ultimately results in more customers for your business.
What Is the Difference Between Windows and Tabs?
In the early days of computers and the internet, if you wanted to open a new web page separately from the one you were currently browsing, it would open up in an entirely new window. These windows were hard for users to manage. When the new windows opened, they covered the user’s earlier window. Oftentimes, this left the user confused and wondering how to get back.
Nowadays, however, tabbed browsing has enhanced the user experience. Tabbed browsing allows a user to browse multiple web pages within a single window. When a new tab opens, users can still see their earlier tab at the top. Additionally, switching tabs is easy for users. The tabs are neatly arranged, so users can reduce desktop clutter.
The tabbed browsing experience has become the norm. Therefore, when we discuss whether to open links in a new window or tab, we are referring to opening a new browser tab, not a completely new browser window.
Best Practices for Internal Links
The best practice for internal links is to have them open in the same tab or window. This is standard practice across industries and users have come to expect it.
If you decide to open an internal link in a new tab, be sure to tell the user about it by putting the phrase “opens in a new tab” next to the link.
Having internal links open in the same window can reduce your bounce rate and exit page percentage. This can increase your page’s overall value and authority. Ideally, you want users to stay on your website for as long as possible, so opening internal links in the same window will keep your users on your site.
Best Practices for External Links
Regarding best practices for external links, there are several considerations to keep in mind. The general consensus is that it is best to open external links in new tabs.
Time on Website
From a web development perspective, opening external links in new tabs is ideal because visitors remain on your website for longer periods of time. Opening external links in a new tab could improve engagement metrics like bounce rate and time spent on the site.
Clicking the Back Button Multiple Times
Opening external links in the same tab can create back button fatigue for users. When the user goes to the external website and clicks around, they may need to click the back button multiple times in order to get back to your website. This can be detrimental to the user experience.
On the other hand, opening an external link in a new tab gives users the opportunity to click through the other site as needed without having to hit the back button repeatedly to return to your website. They simply click on the tab your site is on—no need for the pesky back button or having to deal with long wait times.
Websites With Many Advertisements
If your website has a lot of advertisements that take a long time to load, it is best to open external links in new tabs. That way, the user does not have to click the back button and wait for all of the design elements and ads to load. This slows down the user flow and inhibits their content consumption.
Often, users will click an external link within an article to help them better understand the article’s content. They don’t necessarily want to leave your website without finishing the article. However, if you choose to open external links in the same tab, your website analytics will show that users are exiting your site quicker than they actually are.
To avoid inaccurate analytics, open external links in new tabs. This way, the external link will be in a new tab while your website will still remain open in another tab. The user’s time on your site ends when they close your site’s tab, not when they visit an external link.
Remember that when users click external links, they don’t necessarily want to leave your site. Do not treat external link clicks as website exits. The only clear exit from your website is when the user closes the website tab.
Data in Forms
If you have forms on your website that you want people to complete, you should open those pages in new tabs. This keeps your users from needing to type everything into the form after clicking the back button.
Audio and Visual Considerations
You may have videos or audio playing on your website that the user may want to keep active, so it’s best to open links in a new tab.
Downloading PDFs or Other Files
For links that lead to PDFs or other files that need to be downloaded, it provides a better user experience to make them open in a new tab.
How to Open a Link in a New Tab
If you are editing the HTML directly, then the most common way to make the link open in a new tab is to add the target=”_blank” attribute to the link. Here is what that looks like.
Editing the HTML this way can potentially cause security issues, so we recommend that you also add rel=”noopener” to the link, which looks like this:
If you’re using WordPress, all you have to do is add a link via the editor. Just make sure you check “Open link in a new tab” before you click the “Add Link” button. WordPress will automatically add the required security attributes to the links, so you don’t need to worry.
Here is a visual of the steps to add links in WordPress.
Users can choose to open links in new tabs on computer browsers by right-clicking the link and selecting “open in a new tab.” Alternatively, they can hold down CTRL in Windows or CMD in Mac when clicking on the link.
Smartphone or Tablet Browser
To open a new tab on a smartphone or tablet, simply long press on the link.
Managing Links for SEO and User Experience
Managing internal and external links effectively impacts your website’s SEO and user experience. Generally, internal links should open in the same tab, while external links should open in new tabs. If you choose to open external links in the same tab as your website, it will affect both you and your users. You’ll get inaccurate website analytics and your website must work harder. Your users will have to work harder and slower as well.
In today’s world, links dominate the web, and making sure your links open the correct way is as important as linking to the right page.
SEO Design Chicago offers web development and design services to help you create an attractive and effective website for your business. We can also help you with SEO and link building so that your website gets more backlinks and increased credibility. Contact us today to get started!
- What is the difference between internal links and external links?
- Why are links important for SEO?
- What are the best practices for using internal links?
- What are the best practices for using external links?
- How do I open a new tab in my browser?