Can Using Target Blank On External Links Reduce Bounce Rate?

Published Mar 15, 2014 by Dan Virgillito in SEO
Estimated read time of 3 minutes and 58 seconds3 0
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Thanks to the nearly universal prevalence of the Internet, it seems like everyone and their cousin has a blog, website, or other foothold in cyberspace. Some people use their websites and blogs for fun, others sell stuff, while a rare few actually use their blogs, websites, YouTube channels, and so on to actively influence the world around them. Whatever form or incarnation a person’s web presence might take or the motivation behind its maintenance, though, traffic is the one thing everyone has in common. Everyone needs it, everyone wants it, and in most cases, the majority of users can carve out their own little group of visitors and fans. Here’s the thing about traffic, though: Getting people to visit a website isn’t the hard part. Anyone with enough time and/or money can get some web traffic to their blog, YouTube channel, or what have you. No, the hard part is keeping the traffic once it’s there. The denizens of the Internet are a fickle, flighty lot, and anyone who wishes to attract and retain their allegiance must first gain their attention. Fail in that regard, and there’s only one outcome: The dreaded “bounce”.

Read on to learn what the bounce / bounce rate is, and more importantly, a simple little trick anyone can use to decrease this most unwelcome of analytical metrics.

Bounce Rates: What’s it All About, Anyway?

Before going any further, it’s imperative to understand what the phenomenon commonly known as “the bounce” actually is, as well as what a website’s bounce rate indicates. On the Internet or off of it, knowledge is power, and only those admins and site runners with a firm grasp of these metrics and their consequences can hope to better their situations.

Quite simply, “bounces” are single-serving visitors to a website. They show up, view a single page or piece of content, and then vanish, often forever and without a trace. If you take the total traffic to a website and you parse out this element, that’s your bounce rate. Put another way, if 100 people visit your site, and eighty of them look at more than one page / one thing while five of them bounce according to the above definition, then you, which is to say, your website, have a twenty percent bounce rate.

As you might imagine, the longer a person stays on a particular site, the more interested, engaged, and invested they are in that site. The inverse is also true; a higher bounce rate can mean your site is broken, confusing, or simply boring. Of course, traffic quality can also play a part in a site’s overall bounce rate, as can a variety of other factors. Whatever the reason or problem, the most important question isn’t how to cure the symptom, but how to cure the disease.

How does one lower an unacceptable bounce rate? Simple – withdraw your visitors’ ability to ever bounce in the first place!

Setting Blank Targets, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Share My Traffic

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There are plenty of methods to reduce one’s overall bounce rate, and a wise site owner / admin will use as many of them as he or she can. Make sure your website’s design and interface are pleasing and user-friendly. Make sure you have interesting content. Keep your traffic targeted to the purpose/theme of your website, and if you market to them, do it at a whisper, not through a megaphone. All of those things take time and skill to implement, at least to some degree. One of the easiest bounce-reducers, however, is the setting of blank targets. All it takes is a snippet of HTML code (the techie language that makes the whole Internet run), and voilà – watch your bounce rate drop like a stone.

Here’s how it works:

Setting a blank target is simply an instruction to your computer, or more specifically, to your Internet browser, to open external links – that is, links which point to sites or web pages that aren’t your own – in new windows. This will show your visitors the content they’ve requested, but unlike those who don’t set blank targets, it will also keep your own site open. This greatly increases the likelihood that these users will come back and visit your site after they’re done with whatever the other content is. Not only that, but blank targets mean you’re sharing your traffic with other sites instead of simply handing it over without a fight.

The setting of blank external targets is especially useful in the blogging community, which tends to be tight-knit and familial. If you share your traffic by linking to someone else’s interesting, funny, or otherwise worthwhile content, the chances are good that the favor will be returned. Setting blank targets for your external links is, in other words, a win-win situation for everyone. Your users are happy because they get to see the content they enjoy, the individual site owner – that’s you, dear reader! – are happy because their site(s) remain(s) open and available for further viewing (leading to reductions in the overall bounce rate), and one’s fellow site-runners are happy because the traffic everyone wants and needs is being shared rather than hoarded. Put another way, external targeting is a tide which raises all boats, as the old saying goes.

Dude, Where’s My Code?

Here’s the only code anyone needs to set external blank targets. The part that actually opens the new window is in ALL CAPS, but this is for illustrative purposes, not out of necessity. At any rate, the code is below:

<a href=”#” target=”_blank”>Link</a>

This code will, as previously stated, open the linked URL / Web address in a new window while keeping one’s own site open for visitors to come back to later. On that note, it’s time to discuss what not to do with this code.

Blank Targets: How Not to Misfire

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If there’s one thing you should never do with this sort of link structure, it is to use it on the internal pages of a website you actually own or run. Why? Because no one likes pop-ups. If a visitor to a certain site gets bombarded with a new window or tab each time they click a link, they will quickly grow angry and resentful. Such feelings will almost certainly cause them to leave soon thereafter. Improper use of external targeting isn’t just a recipe for a significant drop in traffic and the site’s overall reputation, though – it’s also a surefire way to shoot a site’s bounce rate through the roof.

Fortunately, the solution to this grim scenario is an easy one: Keep blank targets set to external links only!

Conclusion

The prudent management of website traffic is a crucial skill for anyone who hopes to make a lasting impression on the Internet. Happily, this guide is the ideal tool for anyone, be they novice or veteran, who wishes to sharply reduce their overall bounces / bounce rate, increase their visitors’ satisfaction levels, and generally enhance the quality of their web properties and the value of their web presence. Happy coding!

Written by Dan Virgillito

Dan Virgillito

Dan Virgillito is a freelance content strategist with a passion for good storytelling and all things digital. He lived in the Netherlands, Poland, England and Sicily. Say hi on Twitter.

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