A Plea To Make Your Links More User Friendly

Have you noticed that it’s harder to find critical contact information these days? If you have a question about an online order, finding a phone number so that you can speak to an actual person is a nightmare at times. Some sites are automatically setting ridiculous default options for you (yay spammy and for-sale email lists!) and opting you in for more headaches.

My latest flipout occurred when my children’s school lunch prepay system wanted $10 to show me my balance, information that is obviously there and easy to display. It’s become very fashionable to totally inconvenience consumers.

What Does This Mean For Link Building?

Well, first and foremost, link building is never, ever, ever something that works well without a site having at least a basic level of usability. As we tell clients, we can rank you and we can get traffic to your site, but we can’t give you the conversions you want if you’re not willing to run a user-friendly site. If a user has to click ten times in order to find the information promised in the SERP description, you’re in trouble.

It’s common sense for PPC to send a user to the most appropriate landing page, of course, and that’s easy to do. With link building, it’s a bit trickier, as it’s not always fully in your control. Webmasters may reference something specific on your site yet link to your home page. If a user follows this link, he or she may become frustrated at not being sent directly to the needed information.

Anchor text may be open to interpretation, especially where brand/URL/site anchors are concerned, again not sending you to the area you to which you expected to be sent.

Webmasters do all sorts of weird things with links, whether they’re hiding something or not, and you’ll see links that don’t look like clickable links, you’ll see links that are not clickable but look like they are, etc. It’s kind of a mess, and most of the time, we’re at the mercy of whomever is linking to us.

The bottom line is that everyone on the web wants to find information quickly, without having to think about it. With so many choices out there, no one is going to waste precious time after the first debacle. It’s too annoying, and we have other things to do.

I am assuming that you are the link builder, not the webmaster, when I say this: put yourself in another user’s shoes, and do everything you can to make your link point to the most relevant area of the site. Don’t expect that users will be smart enough, or patient enough, to want to click around. Expect that you have this one chance to convert, period.

Something that I’m seeing more and more of (just today on Amazon’s site, for example) are the missed linking opportunities.

If you’re going to tell us to visit a page for a deal, then by all means, link to the page please. If you want us to follow you on Facebook, give us a link. Why make me copy and paste, or worse yet, go somewhere and conduct a search? I’m as lazy as anyone else in this respect, and considering that I know how easy coding a link is, there’s just no excuse for this. It all comes down to poor usability.

So do your users a favor and keep an eye on your links.

It’s not difficult to maximize them, honestly. When you get a new link that goes to your homepage but should really go to a subpage, don’t be afraid to email the webmaster and ask for a switch. Don’t insist on it, or be rude, of course, but nicely ask that the target be a more relevant one. This just makes the webmaster look like he or she is better able to send users to the most relevant pages, which is nice for credibility.

While I wouldn’t waste much time going back through all your old links and contacting webmasters to ask for a move to a better landing page/better anchor, I would definitely recommend that you make this a habit for your new links that come in.

This is, of course, assuming that you’re continuing to build new links…and I’m sure that you are.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | How To: Links | Link Building | Link Building: General | Link Week Column


About The Author: owns the link development firm Link Fish Media and is one of the founding members of the SEO Chicks blog.

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  • http://whitelogicsolutions.com whitelogicsolutions

    Hi Julie, I really appreciate your writing but, sometimes webmaster or website owner needs to redirect page to non-relevent page for more clicks, but they also make sure when the user reaches to appropriate page(for which user was searching for), it goes smoothly from there. Being a developer I always try to make thing easier for users but also think about site marketing.

    One more thing I would like to ask about, using onepage checkout is more easy or traditional(step by step) checkout is easy for end users?


  • Julie Joyce

    Excellent point…

    I personally do not really like the one-step checkout thing mainly because I am impatient and had a bad experience with it on Amazon. If you’re not a total spaz, it’s probably ok. I like to have time to think about what I’m buying (sounds silly maybe) and do it step by step but I do see some checkout processes that are so horribly tedious, I just give up.

  • http://www.search-usability.com/ Shari Thurow

    Hi all-

    Wow, redirecting a relevant page to an irrelevant page for “marketing reasons.” Sounds like search engine spam to me. And if you think users/searchers like that and leave with a positive impression of a site that redirects inappropriately? Users become annoyed, frustrated, and even angry.

    Regarding the usability of a checkout process, I warn of giving a personal opinion. Usability isn’t about one’s personal opinion. Usability isn’t about the statistically average user. Usability is about task completion, memorability, learnability, error prevention, and many other things. Here’s an article:


    There is a big difference between actual and perceived ease of use. A one-page checkout can be more inefficient, error prone, inconvenient, etc. than a multi-step checkout. My firm usability tests the checkout process. I would never make a blanket statement about which one is better. It depends.


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