When you write a legal blog post, you’re bound to include links to other sites and pages. Some of these are external links, taking your reader to a page that is not on your law firm’s website. Others are internal links, bringing your reader to somewhere else on your own domain.
Depending on your content management system, you should be presented with two options for your links – you can either have them open in the same tab, or in a different one. Unfortunately, in some circumstances, marketing professionals disagree on which option is the best to use for your legal blog.
Here’s what you need to know.
The Problem: Opening Links in a New Tab or the Same Tab?
In a nutshell, here’s the problem: Click this link to see what a professionally-written criminal defense blog post looks like. Now click this link to read about anchor text and how it helps your site’s search engine optimization (SEO).
Both of those were internal links, but the lesson is the same. The first link is what you get when you have a link open in a new tab. The second link is what happens when you have the link open in the same tab. The important facts are simple and straightforward: When you have a link open in a new tab, your page stays open in your reader’s browser, whereas a link that opens in the same tab moves your reader from your page to the one in the link.
External Links Should Open in a New Tab
One thing that marketing professionals agree on in this: If your link is an external one, it should open in a new tab. This helps your SEO, and it also helps your readers, enhancing their user experience, which increasingly has been found to circle back around and help your SEO, all over again.
You score SEO points by lowering your bounce rate – the percentage of viewers that come to your site and leave after only looking at one page. Search engines see a high bounce rate as an indicator that your site is leaving viewers so dissatisfied that they leave immediately.
When you include external links in your legal blog posts and have those links open in the same window, it brings your viewers from your site to the other one. This can drastically increase your site’s bounce rate, hurting your SEO.
Additionally, when you link to an external site from your blog post, it’s often done to refer to outside sources to support what you’re saying, or to point your readers at another primary source, like a news story, a case, or a statute. Readers typically don’t want to leave your post for those sources – if they click the link, they often just want to refer to it quickly before returning to your post. Opening the external link in a new tab gives them what they’re looking for. Their subsequent actions on your page – like the time they spend there and how far down the page they scroll – are noted by search engines as indicators that they’re getting what they’re looking for, which will help your site’s rankings in your targeted search results.
Internal Links Are a Different Story
Unfortunately, none of the reasons to open an external link in a new tab apply to internal links. Your bounce rate is not affected by how an internal link opens. Additionally, marketers are split as to what users prefer when they open an internal link, so it’s difficult to tell which option maximizes user experience. Some internet users are not very savvy, and could become confused or suspicious when a new tab opens. Others, though, are unfazed by the sight of dozens of open tabs at the top of their browser’s screen.
How Legal Blogging Pros at Myers Freelance Handle Links
At Myers Freelance, we always have the links on our blog posts – both internal and external – open in new tabs. External links opening in new tabs is clearly a better option, and we care about our readers’ experience on our site, so we open internal links in a new tab for consistency’s sake.