Internal versus external links


When you have visitors on your website they expect a pleasant experience so is it better to have your internal and external links open in a new tab?

Does it really matter? As long as the link works and takes users to the right page, everything is fine. Right?

What is an internal link?

Internal links are links that go from one page on a domain to a different page on the same domain.

What is an external link?

If you link out to another website, this is an external link. if another website links to you, this is also an external link.

Open in a new tab or not?

On a platform I am part of the question arose if you should internal or external links open in a new tab or not?

While I am not an SEO expert ,I did my research, and this is what the experts say :

They all agree on this: internal links should never open in new browser tabs, but the same tab the user is on. Keeping users in the same tab helps them better understand the navigation flow of your site. External links, however, should open in new tabs.

The exception would be if the link is unrelated and you want them to come back to the original content (e.g. opt-in landing page linked from a blog post) then we use a new tab.

External links are a different matter… here the opinions differentiate.

Pros

Opening an external link in a new tab allows users to explore the other site as much as they want without having to hit the back button again and again (also called back-button fatigue) to go back to your site.

Every time the user goes back to your website, it uses your site resources to load the page when you open an external link in the same tab.  If the link is opened in another tab and the user wants to go back to your website, they won’t need to load the page again. You save a lot of resources and don’t “overwork” the user and your website.

Time on your site: a user clicking an external link does not mean that they want to leave your site, many times users will click an external link in the paragraph of an article to better understand the article’s context. 

However, your site analytics will show a different story. If your external links open in the same tab, it’ll show that users are exiting your site quicker than they actually are. 

This is because the external link takes users completely off your site when the link opens in the same tab. However, this is not the case of external links that open in a new tab. Their time on your site ends when they manually exit out of your site tab, not when they visit an external link.

You should not treat external link clicks as site exits. The only clear exit from your site is when the user hits the close button on the tab.

Cons

You immediately disable the browser ‘back’ and ‘forward’ button when links open in a new tab. People are accustomed to navigating with them. Plus, on mobile? Multiple tab closing is a kind of pain in the butt.

My answer

Internal links should never open in new browser tabs, but the same tab the user is on. Keeping users in the same tab helps them better understand the navigation flow of your site. External links, however, should open in new tabs.

The way you link matters.

All the best,

Luc

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