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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.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.