How to Add an External Link Icon on Your WordPress Site

Written by WordPress Expert

February 21, 2023
How to Add an External Link Icon on Your WordPress Site

When you surf the Internet, you’re always using links to get from one website to another. However, when you’re on a website, how can you tell if a link is an external or internal link? In this article, you’ll learn about external links, as well as how to add an external link icon on your WordPress site, so your own visitors will be able to know where they are going.

What is an external link?

An external link is a hyperlink on your website that directs the visitor to another website. This is the opposite of an internal link, which is when you link from one page of your website, to another page on the same site.

Both external links and internal links are good for your site, in terms of search engine optimization.

Why would you add external links to your website?

External links serve a couple purposes:

  • Linking to related content on another site.
  • Validating and supporting your content.
  • Building authority and trust.

Linking to related content on another site.

You can use external links to your affiliate marketing programs, or just to refer to related content.

Validating and supporting your content.

When you link to other websites, especially if there are facts you need to back up, you’re validating that information. Just make sure that the sites you’re externally linking too are noteworthy and trustworthy websites.

Building authority and trust.

When you’re linking out to other trustworthy websites, you’re showing other people that you are a person that has some integrity and worth spending some time on, whether it be reading your articles, sharing your posts, signing up to your newsletter, or purchasing your products or services.

What is an external link icon?

An external link icon is a type of small image that can be placed by a link that directs to an outside site. For the visitor, when they see the icon, they will recognize that the link goes to an external website.

Wikipedia external link icon

A great example of the external link icon is its usage on Wikipedia. The screenshot in this article comes from the References area of the WordPress Wikipedia page. Each of those links direct to a website that is not Wikipedia.

Why would you want to add an external link icon with your links?

When you add an external link icon on your WordPress site, it’s not about website conversion, but web accessibility.

This is a smart way for your visitors to not encounter anything unexpected, like being sent off of your website without a warning. It also allows your visitors the choice of whether they can leave or stay on your website, or if they need to use their device in a way to open the link in a new window, without losing the page that they are currently reading.

How to Add an External Link Icon on Your WordPress Site

wp external links

For this tutorial, you’ll be using the WP External Links plugin. The WP External links plugin allows you to control how your links behave, when your visitors click on them. When you set the configurations, the plugin will show an external link icon for any links that direct outside of your website. This plugin works on links within menus, widgets, and your content.

  • Install and activate the External Links plugin.
  • Choose how you want external links to behave when a visitor clicks on them.
  • Choose an icon to display next to the external link.

Install and activate the External Links plugin.

install external links plugin

Go to the Plugins section, and click on the Add New button. Search for External Links. You’ll want to choose the first option. Although it says “External Links”, it is WP External Links.

Choose how you want external links to behave when a visitor clicks on them.

wp external links set link behavior

While there are other settings, these are the most important ones for external links:

  • Open external links
  • Set follow or nofollow
  • Also add to rel attribute

Open external links

In the Open external links setting, you can choose whether to allow visitors to leave the site, or for the link to open in a new window. While the plugin offers a few extra choices, it’s best to choose to open in the same window or open in a new window. However, with web accessibility, if you’re concerned about that, you’re better off selecting the option to open the link in the same window, which means your visitor will leave your website.

Set follow or nofollow

The WP External Links plugin allows you to set your links with a follow or nofollow. A nofollow link is labeled with rel=”nofollow” and doesn't result in any link juice from Google. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to use a nofollow link, and you don’t have to add it to all external links. However, in some cases, like link ads on your site, you may wish to add a nofollow tag.

Also add to rel attribute

A rel attribute shows the relationship of the link to your website. For example, if you have any sponsored links, you’d add a rel=”sponsored” to your links. WP External Links gives you a few rel attribute options to choose from.

Choose an icon to display next to the external link.

wp external links set icon

With the WP External Links plugin, you can either choose to display an icon from Font Awesome, Dashicons, or a regular external link image (the square with an arrow pointing to the top right of it). With Font Awesome and Dashicons, you can choose different types of icons, but it’s important to note that you should try to choose one that is relevant to the link, and won’t confuse your visitors. Aside from being able to choose the icon, you can choose which side of the link that it will be on, whether left or right.

The WP External Links plugin has other options for internal links, and even has settings for excluding any links that you don’t want the icon to display.

In Summary

Whether or not you decide to add an external link icon on your WordPress site, right next to all of your links that direct users away from your site, it’s a great option to consider using. Your visitors will appreciate you more for it, if you choose to implement the external link icon.

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