Why dead-end content is a waste of your time and money.

by Nick Usborne on February 23, 2011

Pick ten pages from your website at random, excluding the home page.

Scroll down to the end of each page, and take a note of what you see after the last line of the body of the page’s text.

Make a note of whether there are one or more links there, giving the reader an easy way to move forward to other pages on your site.

OK, how many of those ten pages included links to other pages?

The pages that didn’t have any links to move readers forward are dead-end pages.

And dead-end pages offer a poor experience to your readers, and very little benefit to you, as a publisher.

Consider this analogy.

You own a huge, physical department store, like Macy’s. There are multiple entrances to the store from the street. One takes people to an area dominated by women’s fashions. Another entrance takes people to an area filled with household appliances. A third brings people into an area displaying bedroom furniture.

Now imagine you do something really dumb. You build walls around each department. So if someone is browsing women’s fashions, and then wants to wander over to the children’s clothing department, she would have to walk back out to the street, and along the sidewalk to another entrance.

How stupid would that be?

But that’s precisely what you are doing when you create a content page which ends without any links forward to other areas of your site. You are creating a dead-end, a wall.

OK, so if you have hundreds or thousands of pages on your site, to which of these do you provide links at the end of each page?

Think back to the department store. The appliances area isn’t next to the women’s fashion area – because they are not related. Next to the women’s fashions, you’ll likely find men’s fashions, or women’s accessories, or perfumes.

As you walk from one part of the store to another, each new area is related to the last. If you want something totally different, like bedroom furniture, you’ll likely have to change floors.

Do the same with your web content.

At the end of each page of content, add three or four links to other pages with related information.

To get a little more scientific about it, try a variety of links, and then use your site analytics data to find out which your readers click on most. Then make it easier for them to get there by providing a direct link, in plain sight.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for the end of the page to provide links. You can also add links within the body of the page text. But there should always be one or more links at the end of the page as well.

Identify and update all your dead-end pages.

It takes time and money to bring people to a page. So why, once you have them there, would you make it hard for them to move on elsewhere within your site?

That makes no more sense than the idea of building walls around each area in a department store.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Traci Hayner Vanover February 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

What a fantastic analogy! Never thought of it this way before, but it serves as a great reminder.

I ran across a PDF a week or so ago that employed a similar concept — in the footer of every page, it included sharing links for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The links auto-populated the entries for you, and included a short URL to where folks could download their own copy of the document. Little changes can result in a huge impact!

My best,
Traci

Janis Ihrig March 4, 2011 at 3:21 pm

This article is very helpful. I have over 100 pages on my website and will be going through them to ensure I eliminate all my dead ends. I always have one that I learned about doing on Site Build It, but I need more that link to related topics.

Thanks so much!
Janis

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