We wrote about making links about one year ago. Most of what I said there is still true, but with the arrival of WordPress 3.1 there is a really awesome new bit of functionality for making links; particularly links that are internal to your site. I think users are going to like this.
Those of you that have already taken a look at WordPress 3.1 may have noticed some changes to your WordPress installation, including the presence of an admin bar, on the front end of your site, when you’re logged in. If you’ve made a hyperlink lately, you’ll also have noticed a new and improved linking interface! Before I review the new internal linking mechanism, I want to cover some other important issues.
Usability best practices and SEO
There are some basic best practices around making hyperlinks that are important to try to adhere to. When you turn text (or an image) into a link, don’t overlook the importance of giving your link a title. It’s called the Title attribute. This attribute is read by robots and screen readers and is data, controlled by you, about your link. Making true and descriptive titles for your links will make your links, and therefore your content, more accessible and transparent and meaningful. This is also true when you choose anchor text that is descriptive. So instead of making “click here” the anchor text for the link I made above, I chose “making links.” Don’t make the title the same as the anchor text. No new information means no new meaning. It’s also kinda helpful to remember that people browse your content, and your links, with a really wide range of devices and software and you probably have no idea how those titles are going to show up for everyone. So make them helpful.
Put another way: by making the anchor text and the titles more meaningful and transparent, you indicate to the powers that be that you worship web standards and this will improve your SEO.
Just a few more points. Web users generally expect links to take them to new pages. Don’t break their expectations without giving them a heads up. So if you want to link to a PDF make sure you signal to people that they’re about to click on a PDF. Same with emails and “mail:to” links. Don’t make a link an email link without making sure that users won’t be surprised by what happens when they click there. Same goes for links within a particular page: this is more common on FAQ’s or tables of contents. As long as users understand that these are special contexts, they will be less surprised by what the links do. The guideline is: try not to surprise users.
Internal linking with WordPress 3.1
Okay! Back to WordPress! The new feature we really like is the new ease with which you can search and link to internal pages and posts! When you’re writing a page and post, select some text and click on the link icon (chain link). The “Insert/edit link” interface looks slightly cleaner and there is an option called “or link to existing content”. Toggle that option. Here’s a screen shot I took while making the hyperlink (above) for this post.
Instead of having to navigate to the post, that I had written a year ago, I simply searched for it in the linking interface and I was given five options to choose from. I found the one I wanted and the link automatically filled in the very important Title attribute.
The ease with which WordPress users can now link internally to their own pages and posts means, hopefully, that you can spend more time writing and linking effectively, and less time copying and pasting and switching between browser tabs.