How to get the most of your WYSIWYG editor: Hyperlinks

Linking to other sites in a blog post for examples or as references is a critical feature in any blog. In this post I'll give you a few pointers on how most WYSIWYG editors help you create hyperlinks (no commonly just called links) without having to dig into the HTML code.

A link can be either text or an image. No matter what the clickable element is, you highlight in the WYSIWYG editor what you want to be the link and the click the "Insert/Edit Link" button in the toolbar. All editor toolbars I've seen use a chain link image to designate that button. When you click on this button a popup window will appear with a field for the URL (website address) along with a few options. If you've already set up a link and wish to edit it, just highlight the link text or image in the WYSIWYG editor and click on the "Insert/Edit Link" button again. Similarly there is an "Unlink" button next to the "Insert/Edit Link" button if your want to remove a link from highlighted text or images.

Once I copy and paste my URL into the appropriate field, the only option I usually mess with is the "target" option. This field (often a drop down option or checkbox) corresponds to code which tells your browser whether to open the link in the same window (no additional code), or open it in a new window/tab (target="_blank"). My rule of thumb is that if I'm linking to someone else's website, I always select the option to open it in a new window. The reason is that when referencing other sites within a post, usually the reader will click on the links as they come up in the post. If you direct them away from your website before they finish reading your content, you very well may lose them to "rabbit trail" browsing that can get us sidetracked so frequently. Opening an external website in a new window basically keeps your webpage standing by once they are done checking out the page you linked to.

Conversely, if I link to a page on my own site, such as a contact page, I will leave this setting blank so it opens in the same window. Since they are still on my website after clicking the link, it should be easy for them to get back to my post if I have the website's navigation set up well. But if not, I could always tell it to open in a new window. The main concern is that the user stays on your website as long as possible.

Many WYSIWYG editors include an option for internal links to other posts or pages within the CMS framework, making it easy to select the page you want without having to copy and paste a URL. Pretty handy!

Besides linking to other web pages, you can also have a link open a user's email program and bring up a new message with a designated email address in it. The HTML code that the WYSIWYG editor creates is "mailto". Most WYSIWYG editors can automatically detect whether you add a URL or email address to the "Insert/Edit Link" dialog window and choose the proper code to add. And a lot of WYSIWYG editors will even automatically add the "mailto" link when they detect an email address in the text.

On a related note, I try not to post email addresses either in the text or as a "mailto" link since web scrapers can harvest email addresses from websites and send spam to that address. All CMS systems have a way to create a contact form that allows users to email you from within the browser instead of opening their email client. This prevents web scrapers from seeing your email address in the HTML code, and it also keeps the user from leaving your website. And for added security you can add a Captcha field with a text image or similar which makes sure that humans are actually sending you a message and not advanced spambots which can automatically fill out the web form and then get your email from the response or even try to gain access to your server. Life would be so much easier without spammers and hackers…

How easy does your blog's WYSIWYG editor make it for you to include links in your posts? Have you set your links to open in new windows or have you never noticed that option?  Have you ever thought about how that setting could help you keep users engaged on your own website?

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