External Links – New / Blank Window or Same Window?

A question that has perplexed my brain ever since I began researching SEO was whether it was more beneficial to have an external link open in a new window or from the same window. I’ve done some research on this and here are my results.

At first glance, there really isn’t a “common sense” answer to such a question. A normal critically thinking person would arrive at the following conclusions:

  1. It is best to open the links in a new window. This is because I don’t want the reader to leave my website and forget about me. The longer that a reader stays, the more likely they are to sign up to multiple poker rooms and be exposed to my advertisements.
  2. It is best to open the links in the same window. This provides a smooth transfer between my website and the one to which I’ve referred my reader to, making a sale much more likely.

Even if you consider more variables than the above, you cannot accurately come to a conclusion. The only true way to find an answer is to have massive amounts of data and experience with that data. Unfortunately for me, I have never kept track of such data… but I know somebody that has.

Just yesterday, I emailed a business associate of mine for an answer:

Hey,

Me and some friends have been pondering a question and I figured that since you are like a genius and all, that you might know the answer. We are wondering about the difference in conversions between having external links that a) open in the new window vs. b) open in the same window. I’m really curious, because I want to make the most out of my visitors. It would be nice to know so i can tell my developer when he works on my next project.

Thanks!
Dan

This is the response that I received:

First of all, thank you for the compliment. Now I can never be wrong, not to lose my reputation, but the empirical evidence that I’ve managed to derive from personal testing indicates that users tend to convert better when you use the same window. However, there is a drawback. The users don’t tend to come back to your website once they’ve left.

My ultimate suggestion would be to use the new window approach. This way, in the event that decide to not make a purchase at that site, they’ll be shown your site once again and may continue browsing.

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