How To Use Links Properly

26 June 2007

How To Use Links Properly

The World Wide Web as we know it owes a great deal of its success to the humble hyperlink. Hyperlinks, which are usually referred to simply as links, are everywhere on the web. Without them - well, we'd have to call it the 'World Wide Repository of Random, Unsorted and Unclassified Documents'.

How To Use Links Properly

What is a URL?

Before we examine links, it is important to first understand URLs. A URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is an address which identifies a resource on the Internet. To locate resources, you need the following information:

  1. Protocol (e.g http) - how to fetch the resource
  2. Username & password (e.g. sunburnt:passwd) - optional information for authentication
  3. Host (e.g. - the name of the computer where the resource resides
  4. Port (e.g. 80) - optional information about how the access the resource
  5. Path (e.g /images/logo.jpg) - the location of the resource on the host
  6. Query (e.g ?search=red+cars) - more optional information used to fetch the resource

Put them all together and you get a URL in the following format:


Most people would be familiar with URLs for web documents which are actually created using the generic pattern described above. For example:

Absolute vs Relative URLs

The above examples describe absolute URLs. An absolute URL always begins with a protocol (e.g. http://). A relative URL is any URL which is not absolute. They can only be used in contexts where they can be resolved.

For example, if I have a document at, I can create a link in this document using the relative URL /articles/recipes which will be resolved to

Types of Links

Links enable us to conveniently refer users to other resources. Different terminology has been adopted to distinguish between the types of resources linked to:

  • Internal links direct the user to other pages on the same site.
  • External links direct the user to a different site.
  • Anchor links direct the user to a specific section of a page.
  • Backlinks are links to your site, from other sites.
  • Email links prompt the user to write an email to a specified recipient.
  • Javascript links cause some script to be executed in the browser (for example, to open a popup window)

Tips for Utilizing Hyperlinks

  • Don't CLICK HERE. Not only does this look terrible when overused (see below), but it tells search engines nothing about the content on your website - unless you are targeting the terms click and here! If you must use the words 'click here' in your link, use it as the start of a verb phrase.

  • Use verb or noun phrases for links. A descriptive phrase is far more likely to encourage users to traverse your links. Use verb phrases for call-to-action links ('Contact us today for a free quote'), and noun phrases in elsewhere, including titles ('Rain continues as big chill looms') and mid-paragraph.
  • Make links readable when printed. If you've created your links according to the two guidelines above, you should be able to read a printed version of your document naturally.
  • Send external links to a new window. By setting the target of external links to _blank, the page will open in a new window or tab. This will make it easier for visitors to return to your site after they have viewed the content at the external site.
  • Use absolute URLs in email. Email clients can't always be relied on to know where a document comes from, so a relative URL like "/home/about" may not be resolvable. It is better to always use absolute URLs when sending documents by email.


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Comment posted by: pinsssddi, 11 years ago