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Too few external links tends to make your site look small and uninviting. People enjoy choices associated with web, and a site which has no external links feels cramped and confining. It's kind of like being in a building without any windows. I believe it tends to create an atmosphere where people want to rush in, get what they want and leave, never to return.
The best sites present an external link here and another one there. Perhaps two or three well-picked references at end of an article are appropriate. Also, sprinkling an appropriate link to well-written reference or two within an article is an excellent idea. These kinds of things can strengthen your writing and make it more powerful. For example, if you have written an article about asthma, including a few references (within text) to other pages which strengthen your arguments tends to make your own arguments stronger and more believable.
Normally I do not like popup windows. However, when linking to external sites best way to keep visitors from leaving is to simply pop up a new window anytime an external link is clicked. This allows your visitors to surf external site to their hearts contend. When they are finished and close window, your site is still up and waiting for them. Thus, I've found that popup windows are fine for external sites which present additional data - they are not okay for advertisements or promotional materials.
One annoyance that I've found in some sites is affiliate links which are camouflaged as links to valid external sites. I don't mind people making money on internet, but please don't try and fool me into clicking on something so you can make a few pennies. Honest businesspeople tend to produce return customers - dishonesty might make a few pennies in short term but will cause people to never return.
What do I mean by this? It's okay, say, to include a link to amazon.com page with a book related to subject as long as it is labeled as such. You might say, "The book 'blah blah' helped me overcome my asthma" with "blah blah" an affiliate link to amazon.com. From text, people can expect that they will be presented with a way to order book. However, making that same link appear as a reference in your writing ("asthma is a disease which causes shortness of breath" with "asthma" hyperlinked with an affiliate link to a book, for example) is being slightly dishonest with your visitors. People click on link expecting to get some information, and instead they find an order form ... this tends to cause them to (a) not buy thing, and (b) surf somewhere else. You are not delivering what you promised to deliver.
There are places on a web site in which masses of external links are not only necessary but desired. A links page is a perfect example of this practice. This is concept of including a list of several dozen related links on one or more pages. The only purpose of pages is to link to sites with related subjects.
Other good examples include free-for-all links pages, link exchange pages and portal pages. As long as links are related in some way to subject matter of your site, you will be adding value for your visitors and thus encouraging them to return in future.
In summary, external links are very important to creating a web site which encourages people to return again and again. However, you must be careful to ensure your links are well chosen and of subjects related to your site's subject - otherwise, you will be giving your visitors excuses to leave without returning.
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets. This website includes over 1,000 free articles to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge. Web Site Address: http://www.internet-tips.net Weekly newsletter: http://www.internet-tips.net/joinlist.htm Daily Tips: mailto:internet-tips@GetResponse.com