It has long been assumed that your preferred approach to opening links has an impact on SEO performance.
If you include external links on your website, you have the option of choosing where they are opened. You can take the user to the target page in the current window or have the browser open a new window to display the page.
But what has always been debated is which of the two works best for SEO. Personal preferences aside, is there any SEO benefit (or harm) by choosing one option over?
The answer, it makes no difference whatsoever.
Google’s John Mueller has gone on record to say that whichever approach you take, it has no relevance on SEO.
Mr Mueller’s clarification came in response to a worried website owner’s inquiry on Twitter:
“I’m guessing that “It doesn’t matter” is headed my way, but someone asked and I couldn’t find anything definitive: Does links opening in the same vs. new window have any SEO impact?”
Mr Mueller responded with a succinct and unambiguous response:
All of which means that it is purely a case of personal preference and has no bearing on your site’s SEO performance. But in terms of the user experience, which of the two is preferable?
Windows vs. Tabs
Assessing whether a link should open in a new window or the existing tab is predominantly a judgment call. Of course, internal links should always open in the same tab or window. There is really no reason to open a new tab for every internal link clicked as it would soon become unbearable for the user.
With external links, the most common approach is to fire up the target page in a new tab or window. In some instances, this may not be the preferred option for the user. They may have every intention of exiting your site entirely, so there is no need to keep the current tab open.
But when it comes to the general performance of your website and the user experience, there are valid arguments for opening external links in new tabs.
Examples of which include:
Time on Site
When you open external links in a new tab, the existing tab stays open. This in turn means that the user in question spends more time on your site. Time on site is an important metric that can support a website’s SEO strategy.
If your external links take the user away from your site, it could have an adverse impact on your overall bounce rate; something that could have a negative impact on your SEO performance.
If there are forms and fields to complete on your website, opening external links in new windows is the way to go. For any given reason, a visitor may click on a link while filling the fields. If this link opened in the current tab, the data entered would be lost, and the fields would have to be completed again.
Page Loading Times
After directing a user away from your website within the same tab, they will need to press the ‘Back’ button to return. At which point, all of your site’s on-page elements will need time to load once again. Not the end of the world if your page loading times are on point, but a big deal if they are not.
Always remember that today’s web user simply is not willing to put up with slow or sluggish site performance, something that counts double if they have to endure the pain of waiting for your pages to load more than once.
Holding Onto Their Attention
There is also much to be said for simply keeping as many eyes as possible on your pages for as long as possible. By directing traffic away from your site, you run the risk of being forgotten about entirely. They could become so distracted with whatever they find that they forget why they looked you up in the first place.
To a degree, this can be prevented by opening external links in new tabs. This way, you will still be on their screen and subsequently much more difficult to forget.
If in Doubt, Let Them Know…
The whole thing is more a case of personal preferences than anything related to site performance.
You can avoid any irritation or confusion by including (opens in a new window) any links. You cannot please all of the people all of the time, so it is entirely up to you to decide which way you go.
Craig Upton supports UK businesses by increasing sales growth using various revenue streams online. Creating strategic partnerships and keen focus to detail, Craig equips websites with the right tools to increase traffic. Craig is also the CEO of iCONQUER, a UK based seo company and has been working in the digital marketing arena for over a decade. A trusted SEO consultant and trainer, Craig has worked with British brands such as FT.com, DJKit, UK Property Finance, Serimax and also supported UK doctors, solicitors, builders, jewellers, to mention a few, gain more exposure online. Craig has gained a wealth of knowledge within the digital marketing space and is committed to creating new opportunities working with UK companies.
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