Marketing quick tip: setting links to open in a new window… or not

by on September 21, 2012

Have links on your website?  I would bet a lot of money that you do.

And you should.

Links to other parts of your site encourage your site visitors to dig deeper into the content you have so carefully created. Not to mention the SEO boost. Read more: Why should I use internal links?

Links to outside sources of content can direct your readers to valuable information that they would find useful, or encourage them to check out your other online presences, such as your social profiles, or the guest blog post you wrote.

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s get into our topic…

Setting your links to open internally or externally

Internally means that within the same window, the page changes into the link that was clicked.

Externally means that a new window or tab will appear when the link is clicked, while the originating page remains intact and ready to be re-seen.

The option to set links to open externally is available in your content management system when you are creating links.

To use WordPress as an example, you highlight what you’d like to link, press the link button and up pops that handy little link window.  The window contains a check box asking:  Open link in a new window/tab. If you check this box, then whatever you are linking would be an external link, opening in a brand new window leaving your website open and ready for a re-visit.

Setting Link to Open New Window

The loaded question – which one should you use?

Have you ever wondered what this meant and whether you should do it? When should you link internally as opposed to externally? Since setting links to open in the same window is a default in CMS systems, you will see links opening in the same window all over the place.

And there is some controversy about whether it really matters…

… but this is my recommended rule of thumb: internal info/internal link and external info/external link.

Simple as pie.  If you are linking to a different spot on your website, well, heck, just keep it an internal link and the customer can surf around your website nicely in one window.  When linking to another website entirely, make it an external link, so they can see what it is you’re referring to, but then can easily revisit your site, the originating site!

By booting someone off your site with an outside link, the visitor might get lost or sidetracked by navigating away from your page, never to return. If you send them away and they end up down a rabbit hole of information, they may not bother clicking the back button however many times to get back to where they were on your site.

I know that this is personally something that has frustrated me alot and I can’t count the number of times I have manually copy/pasted a link to avoid this. In my opinion, it’s a website usability thing. Good usability means setting an external link to open in a new window.

What do you think? Do you agree with me? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Comments, likes and tweets are always appreciated! Did I mention that I LOVE your feedback?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin September 22, 2012 at 8:37 am

Personally I used to hate links opening in a new window but with modern browsers now having tabbed windows it is no problem. I now expect internal links to open in the same tab but external links to open a new tab, seems logical to me.
Kevin recently posted..Why Your Business Needs An Accountant


Martina September 23, 2012 at 10:49 am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kevin!


Teowai September 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I agree with Kevin. Sometime I highlight and open in new tab especially if the link is in the middle of something I’m reading?
Teowai recently posted..Day 18 – Frame within a Frame


Martina September 27, 2012 at 8:44 am

I definitely do that too so that I can continue reading, and then go on to read the page that was linked to. Thanks for your comment!


Jayne September 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Martina, could’t agree more. It is very frustrating as an user to remember to click back to the original site. I have a tendency to click on a link in an article before I have finished reading it.
But more importantly, as you say, you would be nuts to just say goodbye to a visitor to your site and send them elsewhere with the strong possibility that they may never return.


Martina September 27, 2012 at 8:46 am

Hear, hear Jayne! Thanks for sharing your 2 cents!


Simon Gabay October 3, 2012 at 8:55 am

I totally agree with Kevin, it’s less “spammy” or annoying when a link opens in a new tab instead of a new window but I would rather an external link open in a new window than lose a potential loyal visitor! The point is to keep them on your site, recognize your brand as a leader in your niche and sign up for e-mail and/or social media subscriptions.

Another great article, thank you Martina! 🙂


Martina October 3, 2012 at 11:45 am

Thanks for sharing your POV Simon! Cheers


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