Learn how to effectively and accurately link to content across Mass.gov and beyond.
If content already exists on Mass.gov, it's best to link to that content rather than recreate a similar version. This helps make sure that content is always up to date since it's the single source of truth. It also helps the content's Search Engine Optimization (SEO) since it's not competing with similar pages.
Type in the friendly URL starting at the forward-slash (e.g., /friendlyurls)
In either situation, your friendly URL (e.g., mass.gov/friendlyurls) can be used as the link text visible to page visitors.
Don't use the long web address that the friendly URL leads to in the URL field. This is because if you change the friendly URL’s target page then visitors won’t be taken to the right place when they click on the hyperlinked friendly URL.
Adding links to autocomplete fields
When referring to other Mass.gov pages, link to them by filling in the autocomplete fields with their page title instead of pasting the URL. This prevents broken links if the page title (and thus, its URL) ever changes.
Linking to a Mass.gov page
1. Begin typing the page title in the URL field.
2. Select the page you want from the drop-down menu.
3. Don’t add any link text unless you want something other than the page title to display.
Autocomplete fields for linking to pages within Mass.gov prevents broken links if the page title or URL changes in the future.
Following these guidelines will prevent broken links and create relationship indicators, or breadcrumbs, on linked pages. This helps a user navigate seamlessly through related content.
Note: Some autocomplete fields limit which types of Mass.gov pages can be linked there. The help text will note when these restrictions are in place. Don’t copy/paste a Mass.gov URL into these fields.
Linking to an external page
You can add links to external pages to most autocomplete fields, just remember to add descriptive link text.
To link to an external page:
Paste the URL into the URL field.
Add a title in the link text field. The text you enter here is what a user will see on the page, so it’s best to think of this as anchor text and be sure it represents the page it leads to.
Linking to external applications
Make it easy for constituents to move back and forth to find information.
Mass.gov provides access to important external applications for everything from checking the status of your tax refund to renewing a driver’s license to applying for child support services. It’s crucial that the links from your organization’s pages to those apps are clear, and that the links back from those apps to your content make sense.
If you want to learn more about how your audience navigates between Mass.gov and another website, Mass Digital can help. We can set up web analytics that provide visibility into your traffic across Mass.gov and your other websites. To learn more about how we do this and how it might benefit you, please submit a ServiceNow request.
From Mass.gov to apps
Don’t assume that constituents will know the name of your external app. Depending on the content type that links to the app, use the Overview, Short Description, or other text fields to explain what the app is.
Make it clear in your text what app names refer to.
You’ll also want to carefully word the text on Quick Action and other buttons so that people know what they can do, regardless of whether they’re familiar with the offsite app’s name. For example:
Describe third-party apps in buttons for clarity.
Make sure to take full advantage of features within the content management system that allow you to highlight external apps. The Organization page now features a sub-navigation menu that has a field dubbed “Log in to…” where you can link directly to such apps.
Use the "Log in to" field
Links from apps to Mass.gov
While it’s important to give Mass.gov visitors clear directions to offsite apps (whether or not they realize they’re going offsite), it’s also vital that links on those apps that go to Mass.gov are linking to pages that make sense. After all, these apps refer hundreds of thousands of people to Mass.gov monthly.
Links from those apps generally should not direct users to the Mass.gov homepage, but rather, to a page that features specific content, such as contact information or relevant background. The Division of Local Services’ DLS Gateway app, for example, features links that go to focused pages, like one for app support.
Check on whether links in apps go to the right Mass.gov pages.
It’s possible that your Mass.gov content creation team is not directly involved in designing your organization’s external applications, but it’s worth having a line of communication with the app team to ensure that you’re on the same page when it comes to links.