Links policy

A link takes a website user from one web page to another within a particular website, or to a different website, via a click of their mouse or a tap of their finger. Links are vitally important to help users navigate a website and find the information they want, to ensure Google returns our content highly on search engine results pages, and to qualitatively improve the user experience. 

Where links are concerned, quality - useful, relevant, embedded links - is more important than quantity - do not pepper your page with irrelevant, broken or unhelpful links. 

Some of the pages you might want to link to include: 

  • school or department content at Birkbeck 
  • content on the main ('corporate') Birkbeck website (www.bbk.ac.uk), such as student services and information for prospective and international students 
  • courses and/or modules offered by Birkbeck 
  • handbooks and syllabi for courses and/or modules 
  • the website/homepage of an external organisation, university or funding or professional body 
  • a research centre, institute or group (these may have a presence on the Birkbeck website or have their own, external website on, for example, Wordpress, or the website of another organisation or university)  
  • a blog post or blogging site 
  • social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc) 
  • a personal website. 

Read our file management guidelines if you are planning to upload or replace a file (ie PDF or Word document) online. 

Why you need to stop using 'Click here' as your link text

  • Links are important to two audiences: your web visitors and Google:
    • It's helpful to understand that people skim read web pages and items that grab their attention are headings, bullet points and links. Your links need to tell people exactly where they are going; if you use 'Click here' as your link text, you're not telling your visitors where they are going next. 
    • More importantly, screen readers - where a program reads the page aloud to a user with accessibility needs - can be set to only read out the links on a page (some users prefer this to listening to the entire page). If you don't use contextual links (see below), you are making it more difficult and complicated for users with accessibility needs to make an informed decision about what page to go to next. 
    • Google uses vastly complex algorithms to determine where your page appears in relation to specific keyword searches. Although the algorithms comprise hundreds of unknown factors, we do know that links are one of the factors that can help Google determine where to place your information in its index. If you use the words 'Click here' as your link text, you've wasted an opportunity to get your content indexed correctly. 

Writing good contextual links

  • A contextual link is a clickable link, found on a web page, which makes sense within the context of that page. 
  • A contextual link is usually a form of words with a link embedded within it - eg 'Find out more about our courses'. 
  • You should aim to provide contextual links that: 
    • are meaningful: your link text should tell people where the link is going to take them. For example, 'Book an Open Evening' will take visitors to our Open Evening booking form and 'Read more about Professor Catharine Edwards' will take visitors to Professor Edwards' staff page. By providing meaningful link text, you have helped our visitors decide where to go next. This is also very important for software that reads pages aloud for visitors with visual impairments. 
    • are unique: your link text should be unique - don't use the same link text for two separate destinations. 'Book an Open Evening' should take visitors to our Open Evening booking form, not a page describing what happens at Open Evenings (if that's where you want to direct visitors, then you could say 'Find out more about our Open Evenings' instead). 
    • include keywords: keywords are absolutely critical to the visitor experience, as they use them to find your content, then look for them in the content when they get there. They also enable Google and other search engines to index your content, so they are more likely to be returned for relevant searches. So, for example, we know that entry requirements are important to our visitors and they search for them using 'entry requirements' as a keyword. If you are including a link to entry requirements, then use keywords. 
    • are short and sweet: your contextual link should ideally be five to six words. 
    • do not include the URL: always make sure you embed the link within the text and do not include the actual text of the link - eg 'Find out about our entry requirements at http://www.bbk.ac.uk/student-services/admissions/entry-requirements'. In this example, you would convert the words into the link - eg Find out about our entry requirements

CREATING WEB ADDRESSES (URLS) IN PLONE

  • Plone automatically turns the title of your webpage into a web address (URL) that is correctly formatted for web use. So if you create a page (or folder) in Plone with, for example, the title 'Recruitment and Marketing', in a folder entitled 'Recruitment', you will end up with the following URL: www.bbk.ac.uk/recruitment/recruitment-and-marketing.
  • Formatting your page ID (the bit that ends up in the URL)
    • The page ID should be short: no more than three words, joined by hyphens. If you end up with a page URL like this '/history/this-is-a-really-long-url- that-is-going-to-be-pretty-hard-to-remember' - that's too long. You should then shorten the ID. 
    • The page ID should be all lowercase: don't include capital letters in your page ID.
    • The page ID can't include spaces: if you accidentally include a space in your page ID, it will be replaced by '%20', so it will look like this 'www.bbk.ac.uk/example%20of%20web%20spaces'. This is obviously not ideal. If you create a page and you see %20 in the URL, that's because you've included a space. You will need to rename your page ID (see next bullet point). 
  • Renaming your page ID: it is possible to amend page IDs and page titles once they've been published. You can do this using the 'rename' function in folder contents in Plone. Please note: the only time you should rename the ID of a page is when you first create it, so you need to make sure you get it right before you publish your page. If you decide you want to rename your page after it has been published, please contact us via the Yammer web support group first, so that we can advise you accordingly. 

Don't force visitors to open a new page 

  • If you add links to external content, do not create the links in such a way that forces users to open new browser windows. Users expect links to open in the same window as they are browsing in and if you force them to open another browser window, not only are you going to disrupt their user journey, but you will annoy them. We don't want to annoy our web visitors, so this is our policy. 
  • Links should open in the same window

What to do if you want to unpublish web content

  • When a web page, image, file or document on our website is unpublished, deleted or renamed, a visitor who clicks on that link - from another part of our website, from a different website, via a Google search, or via a bookmark on their web browser - will be taken to an error message that tells them the content is no longer available and the link is broken. 
  • We always want to avoid this, as it adversely affects user experience - people can't find what they are looking for - and it negatively impacts our Google rankings - Google downgrades websites with broken links. 
  • A redirect is a fix we set up, whereby the user who clicks on old, unpublished content is redirected to relevant live content, usually without them even realising. We commonly use redirects when we launch new parts of the Birkbeck website after retiring older pages. 
  • Please don't rename pages or files unnecessarily. If you upload files, then please follow our filename guidelines
  • If you are unpublishing or renaming a web page or a document, you will need a redirect. Please contact us on the Yammer web support group to request one. The creation of a redirect is at the discretion of External Relations and the Web Team. At least 24 hours' notice should be provided when requesting a redirect. 

Shortening a link  

  • Some link addresses are very long and you may want a shorter link to enable you to publicise your content. For example, this long URL - http://www.bbk.ac.uk/student-services/financial-support/postgraduate-loans - also has the short URL, www.bbk.ac.uk/pg-loans, which we use in print and on adverts. 
  • If you want a shorter link, then please post a request on our Yammer web support group, with the following information: 
    • The URL of the link you want to shorten. 
    • The URL you would like to shorten it to (please test it first, by typing it into your web browser address bar, to make sure it isn't already in use). 
  • We may need to modify your request, but we will get back to you if this is necessary.