In theory, links are one of your WordPress site’s most basic elements. And while many webmasters just insert basic links and forget about them, there’s actually a lot you can do to improve their effectiveness through link optimization.
After all, links aren’t much use if no one clicks on them. By putting some thought into how your links appear and function, you can improve their chances of attracting attention from visitors. What’s more, many of the most beneficial strategies for doing this are quite easy to implement.
Why it’s important to optimize your WordPress links
Chances are, you have at least some links included on every single page of your own site. However, you may never have considered why those links are so important.
There are two basic types of website links – internal and external. Internal links point to other parts of the same site, and are crucial for providing navigation and helping visitors find what they need. Internal links also improve your site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO), helping to make it more visible.
External links – links pointing to other websites – are just as useful. They provide additional value and resources to your audience, of course. And just like internal links, they also play a key role in your content’s SEO.
In other words, links matter. Without them, visitors won’t understand how to use your site, and search engines won’t know how to recommend it. However, just including these two categories of links isn’t enough. In order to maximize their benefits to both you and your audience, you’ll need to put some thought into how you use links on your site.
Three ways to implement link optimization on your WordPress site
At this point, you may be wondering exactly what we mean when we talk about ‘optimizing’ your WordPress links. While there are a lot of strategies to help you accomplish this, we’re going to introduce you to three of the simplest and most effective techniques. Let’s start by putting some thought into what your links actually look like.
1. Make your links ‘pretty’
As websites have gotten larger and more complex, URLs leading to specific pages have become much longer. It’s not unusual to see a link in your browser that stretches longer than the URL field itself.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with a longer link, messy or hard to understand URLs can lead to a reduction in ‘link trust’. In other words, when they see or hover over a link, people want it to be clear where the URL will take them. Otherwise, they’ll often find it less trustworthy – and therefore be less likely to click on it.
However, what we would not recommend is using generic link shortener tools, such as Bitly or TinyURL. These tools replace your URL with a short string of random letters and numbers, which is anything but clear. Instead, you’ll want to shorten your links in a way that makes them more attractive and easier to understand.
Enter the Pretty Links plugin:
As the name suggests, this tool helps you create ‘prettier’ links. Unlike most link shortening tools, it enables you to customize exactly what each link on your site looks like.
To use Pretty Links, you’ll want to install it, navigate to the new Pretty Links tab in your WordPress dashboard, then select Add New Link:
Here, you’ll enter the original link in the Target URL field. Then, under Pretty Link, you can create whatever URL you’d like to use instead:
You can also choose a redirection type for your link, and even give it a title. Once you click on Create, you’ll be able to use your new ‘pretty’ link anywhere you’d like, and it will lead people right to the original page.
Finally, it’s worth noting you can also use the Pretty Links plugin to track your links. This way, you can experiment with different types of shortened URLs, and see which ones are clicked on most often.
2. Customize the way links function on your site
While our first link optimization strategy focused on appearance, this one is all about function. While in a basic sense links all work pretty much the same way – you click on them and they open a new section or page – there are actually some tweaks you can make to customize their functionality.
For an example of how this might work, you can check out the WP External Links plugin:
With this tool, you can make a number of changes to the ways links work on your site.
We should note that it’s been a little while since WP External Links was updated, so you’ll want to test it out thoroughly. However, it’s a popular and well-reviewed plugin, so it shouldn’t give you any trouble.
After installing the plugin, there will be a new section in your dashboard called External Links. There, you’ll see a number of options:
In a nutshell, these tabs provide you with a lot of ways to change how your links act. For example, under the initial External Links section is a drop-down menu where you can set how external links will open in the visitor’s browser:
The Internal Links tab is just about identical, but enables you to tweak the function of links that point back to your own site. This separation of settings is handy if you want your external and internal links to behave differently.
In the remaining tabs, you can even exclude specific links from these general settings and customize them separately. All in all, this plugin gives you a huge amount of control when it comes to link optimization.
3. Create a link library
This last technique is admittedly not one that every site will need. For some types of sites, however, it can be very beneficial.
A ‘link library’ is a page on your web site containing lots of different links. Its focus is on organizing those links in a more effective way than simply listing them out. For example, similar links will typically be grouped into sections or categories, and there are often features that enable users to easily sort links and find what they need.
If you find yourself needing to display many links in one place, therefore, a link library is an ideal solution. You can use it to organize internal links – such as your site’s pages or blog posts – or to create useful collections of external links for your visitors.
To get started, you’ll need to install the aptly-name Link Library plugin:
Next, the first thing you’ll want to do is navigate to Links > Link Categories in your WordPress dashboard:
Here, you can create a category for each type or section of links you’ll include in your library. Then, you can go to Links > Add New to add in all the individual links, and set a category for each one:
Then, you can head to the Link Library tab to set up your library page. There are a lot of options here, and you’ll want to check out the plugin’s documentation for information on each one.
However, you can also simply use the default settings, which will enable you to add a basic link library to your site quickly. Under the Library Settings section, you’ll see a list of shortcodes you can include on any page you like:
Just save the shortcode on a new or existing page, and your library will be good to go! It might look something like this:
We encourage you to read up on all the plugin’s settings, and tweak your link library until it’s set up just right.
Adding plenty of internal and external links to your site is a great start, but you won’t want to stop there. You’ll also need to optimize and organize those links carefully, if you want them to be as effective as possible.
In this post, we’ve outlined three ways you can perform link optimization on your site. You can: