If you had a retail store, would you send people away when they asked for more information about your products? Imagine how it would be: Someone enters the store and asks about the artisans that make your items. You tell her to go 30 miles northeast and she can meet the artist. She leaves, and then returns later that day with a question about the materials. You give her directions to the supplier.
Even though this doesn’t make much sense, it happens every day when online shopping. Including links that provide additional details is a best practice that increases the trust factor. But, when external links open in the same window, it sends your visitors away. If they are motivated to buy, they will return. If they can find you again. Are you willing to take that chance?
Wouldn’t it be better to control the path your visitors take? This allows you to move them from initial interest into the marketing loop without them getting lost along the way. A simple rule of thumb is to always open external links in a new window. The process is easy. All you have to do is add the code “target=_blank”. Remember this when your programmers say that it is “too complicated” (translation “I’m too lazy to worry about the details.”)
Take a minute now and visit your site. Start clicking. Are you moving systematically towards conversion? Or, are you spending your time navigating back to your site from external links?
Your visitors need your guidance. Provide a clear path for them to follow. It increases conversion and reduces complaints.