Stop Sending Your Website Visitors Down the Rabbit Hole

Don't send website visitors off a cliff, either.In Alice in Wonderland, Alice is intrigued by the White Rabbit scurrying along checking his watch. She follows him into a tunnel and soon finds herself falling into a new world with little hope of finding her way back home. Most of the websites I visit are filled with similar rabbit holes. Visitors are one click away from leaving, never to return.

The problem begins when someone adds an external link to a website. Maybe it is for a social media page so the visitor can join the company’s community. Or, to a cause the person supports. Or, a link to an article about the business. Whatever the link, when people click it, they go to another website in the same window.

Bloggers are the worst offenders. They share freely, peppering their posts with links to other blogs or websites. It’s great that they are so focused on sharing with their community, but they need to also take care of their business. When people click on an external link, they start freefalling. The next site sends them to bouncing to another one, and then another, and so on, until they can’t remember where they started.

There’s a simple solution to the rabbit hole problem

– make the link open in a new window or tab. This allows the sharing of information without sending people away. When they finish exploring, your site is waiting quietly in another window.

Not only is it simple, it’s easy. All you have to do is add one line to your HTML for each external link:


If your eyes started glazing over at the mention of HTML, take a deep breath and finish reading. You can do this if you want. If you don’t want to do it, make your resident geek do it. But before you dial GEEK911, you should know exactly how easy it is to close the rabbit holes. Because if you don’t, some geek wannabe will overcharge you for fixing it. (Real geeks have integrity and will charge you appropriately)

Here’s how you do it:

The link to my website looks like this in HTML:

a href=

To automatically open it in a new window, change it to:

a href= target=”_blank”

(Note: Clicking the link above will show you how it works.)

Pat yourself on the back because you’re done with the technical stuff.

The next step is to add some rules so you (or your webmaster) don’t have to think about it. External links are easy. If there is a link to another website, it should always open in another window.

Internal links require a little more thought. What do you want your visitors to do? If they are exploring your website, popping from post to post, opening in the same window works well. But, what happens when they hit a sales or service page? Do you want them navigating away from it? If not, make all of the links on that page, including the internal ones, open it a new window.

And, finally, just for kicks, watch your web analytics and conversion rates. Your bounces should go down while your sales go up. As a bonus, you get bragging rights for knowing some HTML!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Marjorie Clayman @RLMadMan

    This is really the epitome of what I love about people who do Social Media right. You gave me this advice, then did a post about it, not just explaining the point but also showing the “how-to.” Great stuff 🙂
    .-= Marjorie Clayman @RLMadMan´s last blog ..On Hopes and Dreams =-.

  • Debra Ellis

    Thank you, Marjorie. I’m glad that I could help.

  • Kat Caverly

    I am still amazed when I see a link doesn’t use target=”_blank”. So few actually navigate webpages uses the back button and these little things count big time.
    .-= Kat Caverly´s last blog ..Zen and the Art of Baking Bread =-.

  • Debra Ellis

    Hi Kat,

    Thank you for visiting and commenting. The real problem is that most tools for inserting links don’t provide the option for opening in a new window. HTML is scary to the uninitiated. Even if they know something needs to be done, they are afraid to do it.

    You are right about how few use the back button. We definitely need to provide the navigation to make it easy for our visitors to stay a while.

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