Published: 19th Dec 2017 | Words: 1,069 | Reading Time: 6 minutes
Links within a website
A website can’t just look good. Its functionality must match its visual appeal and a large part of this functionality is dictated by your internal linking structure. The text of a link should reflect the page it’s linking to. Link text is a way to say to a search engine and to a user that this is where this link is leading, this is what the page behind it is about. You have to look at using relevant text that can be read to improve your search ranking and give clear direction to users. Well thought out link text can bring you a lot of traffic from keywords as search engines place a good emphasis on link text when they are matching keywords. Search engines follow links to different pages and the better your linking structure the more accessible you make your site. This isn’t done through providing as many links as possible rather optimising the number down so search engines can crawl your links more efficiently.
Plan out your linking structure
You should plan out your link structure in wireframes or similar before you build your site in html. While you can do the opposite and experiment with design, build it, then integrate everything after, this method will more than likely make your user experience suffer or be of less value than if you plan everything out. As with anything planning out your linking structure on paper at the start of a project will always get you a better idea of how things can be put together in different and better ways. It gives you the opportunity to subdivide your links into groups and different sections that can be reflected by the layout of your site pages. Place different relevance across links and pages and build your structure accordingly.
Links per page
You don’t want to provide too many links as you can make things that should be easily accessible hard to find. Your website itself should take a tree like structure with different levels to it and this should also be reflected with your menus and how you link different sections within your site. Sub sections of your site should contain separate groupings pf links which probably should not be available at the top level like on your home page. The optimum number of links per page is really dependent on the size of a site. 100 links per page is a rule that most small to large sites can get away with. Remember when you use less links on a page it is easier to make them to stand out. As things get more crowded on a page it makes it harder to make things stand out and you present users with more options. Presenting users with more options can be a good thing but you can also provide users with too many options.
Highlight important links
Links should be used to direct users across your site, to make your site a place where information and different sections are easily accessible. You want to prioritise your content at the top of your pages and the same applies with links. Place your most important links in easily accessible parts of each page. Highlight and make links stand out to users if they are important. You can do this in a number of ways visually with colures or different font weights or an array of other things.
Optimising your internal linking structure
There are various optimisation techniques you should think about with your internal linking structure. Keep the links to the smallest number possible while at the same time create a sound navigation system. You do want to go overboard providing dozens of links to the same page on one page. You also don’t want the links to the same page very close together. Rather think carefully about where is the best place to place links within a block of text within your page and what’s the best way to lay out your navigation menus. Look at constantly improving the link structure throughout your site.
Group related links
Group links into related blocks. Every set needs a main menu, and this should be easily accessible. You can use clever tricks with main menus so they are always in view such as putting absolute positioning on them and attaching them to the screen so as you scroll, they scroll too. When you group all your main links into your main menu you can look at grouping all your other links into related menus also. You can place less important groupings into the footer of your page or other areas of less relevance than areas at the top of your page. HTML ol and ul lists are the perfect thing to use for menus in most situations.
Links in menus
Menus present you with difficult choices. Because you can build complex sub menus easily with CSS it can be tempting to overdo it with the size of your navigation menu. You may be tempted to place multiple nested sub menus. Nested sub menus can give you powerful ways of displaying lots of information but for small sites complex menus are not needed. Balance choice and ease of access when providing users with options.
Optimising your links can be an ongoing process and if you really want to dig into which links get clicks and which don’t attract clicks, set up link tracking in Google Analytics. You can manually place html code on each link on your page to track them or you can use Google Tag Manager to automate the process. Either way if you do set up you can use the data to re-structure your linking system based on user behaviour. If a link doesn’t attract any clicks at all you have to ask yourself the question what is the point of it being there. If it’s a link to something you really want to direct users to, look at how this would be better be better highlighted.