Best practices for creating links and our external linking guidelines

When to link

Don’t duplicate information. If it exists elsewhere on or can be better supplied by someone outside our site, link to it instead.

Writing links

When writing a link, make it descriptive and front-load it with relevant terms instead of using something generic like ‘click here’ or ‘more’. This is because generic links don’t make sense out of context or tell users where a link will take them.

Think about writing your sentences on a typewriter, before the internet. Don't change the structure of the sentence to include a link, but instead link the part of the sentence that refers to what you are linking. For example, instead of writing "Otters hold onto their personal rock for a long time, learn more here," try "Otters hold onto their personal rocks for a long time." For links to email addresses, instead of spelling out the address, link phrases like "contact us."

They’re also not accessible for visually impaired people using screen readers, who might use links to navigate a page.


Links help people scan content so don’t swamp them with too many or link to the same tool or web page throughout your document. Only link to other pages on or external sites if it’s necessary for the user to complete their journey.

If you need to link to an external site, read the External Linking Guidelines to find out what you should check first.

Links open in the same window and tab

By default, links open in the same window or tab. User research has shown this to be a best practice. If a user really wants to open a link in a new tab, they can choose to do so manually.

Formatting links

There are three ways to create links on the website. They are:

Linking directly to a heading (anchors)

Rather than linking to the top of a page, you can link directly to a heading on a page. This is sometimes called an anchor link. To get the link, hover over the heading you want to link to. A link icon will appear next to the header.

Screenshot showing anchor icon that appears when a heading is hovered over.

Click on that link icon, then copy and paste the URL that appears in your browser. The URL will look something like this:

Use that URL to create a link from anywhere to that specific section of the page.

Linking to CashNET

If you want to direct users to CashNET in order to pay online for a service, just link to:

If you are writing a print publication, use the shorter:

To link directly to a Cashnet category, append the category code to the URL. First, log into Cashnet as a user, then click a category. For example, graduation applications are at the URL:

We are not sure what all those + characters are about. Just take everything after CNAME= and before +, and append it to the CSUMB CashNET login URL:

External linking

You should link externally when doing so meets a user need. Examples include linking to the National Clearinghouse to order transcripts, to FastWeb for finding scholarship opportunities, or PMB Online to pay parking citations.

When user needs are better met by third parties, we should consider linking to them.

Types of external links

Related links

Sometimes it makes sense to create a page or list of related links. For example, the Personal Growth and Counseling Center might link to local service providers and agencies.


You may need to create an external link if we use a third party tool to complete a transaction, such as to RSVP for an event, take a survey, or place an order.

Risks and considerations

Make it clear to users they are leaving

When pointing users towards third party services, we need to be clear that users are leaving our site.

Changing external content

We cannot control if an outside site we link to changes or stops being useful.

We should listen to feedback from users about broken or useless links. We also must revisit external links regularly to ensure that the intended user need is still being met.

Commercial sites

Our approach to linking to commercial third parties must be impartial and even handed. We will also need to take care around perceived endorsement of specific private sector suppliers. We must ensure that relevant external links to third parties do not act as an unfair endorsement of a specific site.


When assessing whether to link to an external third party, ask

  • does the link help meet a clear user need?
  • does the external site have clear privacy and cookie policies?
  • are we being even handed and impartial?
  • do other providers deliver a similar set of information, and if so why would we choose one over another?
  • is the external content free to access?
  • is the ownership of the external site clear?
  • does the site work on mobile devices?
  • would the site meet our accessibility standards?
  • is data is being collected on our behalf?

User needs and relevance

We should only link to third party content if it is an essential next step in meeting the user need addressed by the page.

Where we link to relevant third party content, we must link deeply to the relevant content (eg when linking to a piece of content from a third party, we would link to a specific helpful page, rather than the third party's homepage).

Privacy and cookies

We should only send our users to sites that use cookies responsibly and are clear about their approach to privacy and personal data.


We should be careful to choose the sites we link to and the tools we use impartially.

Never include a link in return for cash, services or any other consideration in kind, including requests for reciprocal linking.

Be prepared to explain the suitability of any third-parties chosen. You should be able to answer the following questions:

  • will a specific external link help the user complete a specific task?
  • do other providers deliver a similar set of information, and if so why would we choose one over another?

Mobile access

Nearly one quarter of traffic on comes from mobile devices. Before we link to external sites, we should be confident that the site will at least be usable on a mobile device.


We should avoid linking to sites that are not accessible.

Data collection

If data is being collected on our behalf then we should only work with providers whose privacy and cookie policies are at least as good as ours, ie:

  • we are confident that data is stored and handled securely. We should seek assurances that this has been considered and that security is regularly tested
  • we own the data collected and the third party have no rights to exploit it
  • there is clear information to users about who owns the data, what their rights are, and who they should contact with questions