Establish a Linking Policy

What It Is

Establishing and enforcing agency-wide linking policies is one of the requirements for managing your agency’s website, as outlined in OMB Policies for Federal Public Websites. You need to regularly review all your links to make sure they still work and that they are still appropriate. You must also post a clear and comprehensive linking policy that explains your agency's criteria for choosing external sites.

Why It’s Important

Linking to outside websites—both federal and non-federal—can add real value to your website. But you need to manage them effectively.

  • The public needs to know how an organization chooses its links.
  • Links need to work, and they need to lead the visitor to additional information related to a particular topic.
  • Visitors expect federal public websites to take them to other websites that will be helpful. You have a responsibility to select links that fulfill that expectation.
  • Linking to other websites reduces duplication of content. Content should be posted once by agencies with the greatest expertise and used by other agencies and portals, through links.
  • All federal public websites must meet certain requirements mandated by laws, regulations and policies; therefore, it is safe to send a visitor to another federal public website, without a disclaimer. Moving from one federal public website to another should be as seamless as possible.
  • When sending a visitor to a non-federal website, you have a responsibility to inform visitors that the website they are going to does not necessarily operate under the same laws, regulations, and policies as federal websites.
  • Linking to other websites is valuable since it brings additional visitors to those sites and can provide additional information and resources to your visitors. However, you need to have clear and fair criteria for deciding which links to use, particularly when another website owner asks you to link to them or trade links.

How to Implement

Here's additional guidance from the Federal Web Managers Council to help you implement this requirement.

  • Linking Policy:
    • Develop and post a clear and comprehensive policy for linking to other websites.
    • Policies should include criteria or guidelines for selecting links to non-federal government websites.
    • At a minimum, make your linking policies available from your Site Policies and Notices page or an equivalent page.
  • Notification: Notify visitors when they are leaving your website for a non-federal government website. You may also decide to notify your users when linking to another federal government website, if you determine this is helpful to your users. Preferred methods for notifying visitors include:
    • Placing an icon next to the link;
    • Identifying the destination website in the link text or description itself;
    • Inserting an intercepting page that displays the notification, after the user selects the link; and
    • Displaying all non-federal links in a separate listing from federal links.
  • Disclaimers:
    • Disclaim responsibility for the content and privacy policies used by non-federal government websites.
    • In the interest of seamless government and maintaining the general public's trust, it is best not to disclaim responsibility for the content of other federal public websites.
    • If you have disclaimers for linking to other federal websites, you should remove them.
  • Review:
    • Establish a process and schedule for reviewing existing links to make sure that they work and that they still add value.
    • Review links monthly or quarterly, at a minimum. If you have a large number of external links (for example, a "portal" site), you should review links more often.
    • Include the review schedule in your linking policy.
    • See additional guidance and tools for reviewing links.




Content Lead: Natalie Davidson and Andrea Sigritz
Page Reviewed/Updated: December 5, 2011

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