Do links really warrant a blog post all their own? When developing content, links are often an afterthought (if to be honest they’re given any real thought at all).
Not only is this approach a mistake, but it can significantly hamper your nonprofit’s ability to raise money, drive volunteers and get site visitors excited about the work you’re doing as an organization.
I don’t think my passion for links is misguided. Let me explain.
A link isn’t merely a gateway to another page on your website. It’s a part of the way you weave your story and direct your visitor’s experience on your site.
An ill-placed link will likely be glossed over, lost amongst your page content never to be clicked. But a well-placed, strategic link can transform a visitor into a volunteer, a casual skimmer into a donor. It can provide legitimacy to your claims and turn a skeptic into a believer. It can guide your visitor along their path to full out support of your cause. It can also boost the number of visitors you get from search engines.
Here’s how you can write better links.
Use a Unique Link Style
First off, make sure your links stand out from the rest of your text. Visitors should be able to easily tell what’s a link so they don’t get frustrated trying to click items that aren’t intended to be clicked.
The most common way to make links stand out is by using a link color that contrasts nicely against your text color.
The folks at CURE do a nice job of making their links stand out by using green text and underlining them. Doing so makes it obvious to visitors what’s clickable.
Use Descriptive Language
The actual text you use in your link (called “anchor text”) should paint a fairly clear picture for visitors what they’ll get if they click. You don’t want a visitor to be surprised by what they find on the other side of one of your links.
Links often draw attention, especially when they stand apart from your other text (as we just discussed above). That means many visitors will likely scan them before committing to reading your content in its entirety. Descriptive language helps your scanning visitor determine what the page is all about.
Oftentimes, using descriptive language in your anchor text is simply a matter of shuffling word order.
If you want our guide for parents on combatting summer learning loss, click here.
Parents looking to support their children over the summer should download our guide on combatting summer learning loss.
When I click the second link, I know I’m going to be prompted to download a guide on summer learning loss. And if I scan the page and see that link, I get a lot more information than if the link simply says “click here.”
If you’re interested, we wrote up a whole blog post on why you should cut your “click here” links.
Use Meaningful Keywords
In addition to your links telling visitors what to expect, they’re also used by search engines. Links within your content to other pages throughout your website (known as “internal links”) give search engines clues as to what your pages are all about.
When developing your links, think about the phrases someone looking for the page you’re linking to would type into a search engine.
For instance, let’s say you’re an animal shelter working to get dogs adopted. You may want to link from your About page to your Adopt a Dog page.
If you love dogs and want to adopt one today, click here.
If you can offer a loving home to one of our pups, check out more info on adopting a dog.
Both links send visitors to the same place. But the second version tells search engines the page on the other side of that link has to do with dog adoption.
Open Documents and External Websites in a New Window
Throughout your site, there’s a good chance you’ll want to link to third-party websites or documents such as PDFs. Whenever you link to something other than another page within your website, you should open the link in a new window.
Doing so helps keep visitors on your website. When they close the new window, they won’t inadvertently close your website along with it.
We wrote another post on why and how to open links in a new window if you want to dive into the specifics.
Think Like Your User
You aren’t a typical user of your nonprofit’s website. You know far more about your organization as well as the inner workings of your site.
Push yourself to think like a website visitor. Use your links to help them out in the following ways.
Use links to back up debatable claims
You may make claims from time to time that are open to debate. Perhaps you’re making a claim predicated on research that many may not be familiar with. Instead of hoping visitors will trust your word, link to a study that backs up what you’re saying.
Doing so will boost your credibility. It will prevent some visitors from questioning the source of your assumptions, making them more receptive to the point you’re trying to convey.
It can also make your content less wordy. Instead of explaining the research at length to prove your point, explain the key takeaways. Then provide a link to the research for those that want more.
Link visitors to related content
Consider what other content a visitor on your current page would potentially find interesting. Instead of making them use your navigation, provide links for that related content.
The World Wildlife Fund does a great job of strategically placing links on their website. For example, they start off their page on pandas by talking about the threats pandas face:
Once they’ve established the problem, they link visitors to ways they can help:
At the bottom of the page, they offer links to related species for those animal lovers that may be more passionate about another type of animal:
By strategically linking to ways to get involved and other related content, the World Wildlife Fund in increasing the likelihood visitors will find information they’re interested in and ultimately lend their support to the cause.
How much consideration have you given to the links on your website? Do you have any other tips for organizations looking to get more out of their links? Post your thoughts in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Paul Lewin