Don’t take shortcuts on your internal links

We all know that it’s sensible to have a consistent way of presenting your website’s URLs (page addresses) to the world, because it’s important to consolidate the way pages are referred to for the benefit of search engines. So, for example, although bmon.co.uk and http://www.bmon.co.uk/ will take you to the same page, it would be nice if every external link to our home page used an identical URL. Things can be consolidated at our end (and indeed they are), but it does no harm to eliminate the need for that, by encouraging other sites to use a consistent URL in the first place. So when you fill in a form to go into a directory, or when you put the website address on a letterhead, do you use “http://” or not? Do you use “www” or not? Do you put a “.html” or a trailing slash on the end? It’s useful to have a policy. There are probably a dozen URLs for our home page, but I always try to quote just “www.bmon.co.uk”.

This is also an issue internally. Every page on your site will have links to other pages on the site, but are you always being consistent? To see how your own site has been set up, you’ll have to look at the “source code” for the page in your browser. With most browsers you can do this with a right-click on the page (Ctrl-click on Macs). Every time you see “a href=”, that’s a link. Now, one thing you can do internally within a site is to drop the domain name completely. So if I was linking from www.bmon.co.uk to the “about us” page, I don’t need to link to “www.bmon.co.uk/about/” …I can just link to “/about”.

If you’re trying to keep the code behind your web pages as slim as possible, that’s not a bad idea, but it’s not a massive advantage, and may well be outweighed by another factor, which is this: other websites steal your stuff. You might not be aware of this, but there are millions of junk sites out there, grabbing bits of text from here and there. Your content (particularly the main body copy) may often get picked up by these sites, and while it’s of no particular interest, presumably some people find these sites, or the owners wouldn’t go to all that effort. Now, if your links don’t have the domain name in them, when they’re reproduced on the junk sites, they won’t work. To be honest, it’s not the greatest reason to include the “full path name” in every link on your site, but it might make a small difference. So particularly when it comes to “inline links” (i.e within the main text paragraphs of the page), you might want to set a policy of quoting the full URL. I’ve seen some very odd sites sending visitors my way over the years.

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