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3e. Establish credibility by offering outbound links.

  • Provide a lot of links to other sites, to establish your own credibility, and usefulness. Example:

We’ve gotten raves from

Time Magazine (August 23, 2003)

Fortune Magazine (September 15, 2002)

Money Magazine (September 20, 2002)

Wall Street Journal (September 21, 2002)

  • Point to particular pages, deep within the other site, rather than dropping the user onto a home page.
  • In describing the target page, identify the owner of the site, so users can gauge the author’s motivation and trustworthiness. For instance:

A good example of a wallet site is Passport.com (Passport is a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft).

  • Describe the content. If the target page takes a position, summarize that idea. Show me why I should go to this page. Example:

Tim Berners-Lee argues that we need to be able to identify content by category, so that software can develop taxonomies. He campaigns for The Semantic Web.

  • Whenever you offer a link to the outside, offer a way for the user to report if the link is broken. Example:

We do our best to make sure that all links work. If you find one is broken, please tell us, by emailing Jonathan Price.

  • Do not change your own URLs. If you must, redirect people to the same page, or the best substitute.

Other ways to make links hot

3a. Make clear what the user will get from the link.

3b. Within a sentence, make the link the emphatic element.

3c. Shift focus from the links or linked-to documents to the subject.

3d. Provide depth and breadth through plentiful links to related information within your site.

3f. Make meta information public.

3g. Write URLs that humans can read.

3h. Make links accessible.

3i. Tell people about a media object before they download.

3j. Announce the new with special links.

3k. Write meta-tags to have your pages found.

Resources on writing links

Taking a Position on Links

Heuristic Online Text (HOT) Evaluation for Links












Strike a balance between quantity of links and quality of links you create. The more links, the more maintenance. …

Do not change your own URLs too often. The more often you change your own URLs, the more often others will have to change their links. …The more dead-ends people experience, the fewer visitors you will have.
NCSA (1996)

Exactly who the publisher of a particular site—and who the sources of information in the site are—may be unclear to users. Therefore, the sources’ motivations, qualifications, and trustworthiness are unclear. All of this causes users to wonder about the credibility of websites.

Users rely on hypertext links to help assess the credibility of the information contained in websites. .. "Links are good information. They help you judge whether what the author is saying is true," one said. While reading an essay, one person commented, "This site is very believable. The author presents several points of view, and he has links for each point of view."
Nielsen & Morkes (1997)

Communicate trustworthiness. … Connected to the rest of the Web with links in and out. Not being afraid to link to other sites is a sign of confidence, and third-party sites are much more credible than anything you can say yourself. Isolated sites feel like they have something to hide.—Nielsen(1999a)

Most Web sites project an unbearable lightness—just so much confetti unlinked to consequence of substance.—Lynch (2000)

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. —Levine et al (1999)

A few hyperlinks to other sites with supporting information increase the credibility of your pages. If at all possible, link quotes from magazine reviews and other articles to the source. —Sun(2000)

Unnecessary links to outside sites may confuse or annoy readers, slow them down, and damage credibility. But when links to outside sites are carefully chosen, and when they are current and functional, they can further a site’s credibility. —Spyridakis (2000)

Make your links as direct as possible. If you can point to a specific area on a Web site that contains the information you are referring to, do so. We want readers to be able to access that information and not have to click through several intermediary screens.—America Online (2001)

See: America Online (2001), Berners-Lee (1995), Levine et al (1999), Lynch (2000), NCSA (1996), Nielsen (1999a), Nielsen & Morkes (1997), Spyridakis (2000), Sun (2000)



Dave Winer includes links to sources of RSS 2.0 feeds, demonstrating that credible publishers are using the technique. (August 2003).


Lynda Weinman, the authority on web graphics, points you to sites that will inspire your imagination, and lend credibility to her own site.  (August 2003)



Audience Fit
If visitors want... How well does this guideline apply?
To have fun If you can stand letting go of your visitors, you'll earn a return visit, or at least gratitude. Outbound links amuse the game players, tease the serious, and build your street cred.
To learn If the other sites have significant information, go for it.  But put the links after your instructional material, as a separate section, a learning experience all its own.
To act Not always relevant, in a call to action, or a FAQ about your own site.  But if you need some credibility, include links to places that vouch for your privacy policy, honesty, or customer ratings.
To be aware Yes, be an honest broker, and link to related sites even if you don't agree with everything they say.
To get close to people Part of sharing is posting links.  Just make sure that you copy the URL completely, so it works.  With long links in email, warn people that the wrapped text may mean only part of the URL is hot. Tell them to copy the whole thing, and paste it into their address box.

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