Every piece of information inside a company today lives in a link.
A URL in an enterprise can be as private as a bookmark visible only to the person who saved it or as public as a Tweet sent out from its official Twitter handle.
Not to forget everything in between, including a 1-on-1 Google Doc shared between a manager and her subordinate as well as a monthly townhall Zoom link accessible to every employee.
There are as many URLs as there are resources. With duplicate files, even more.
Surfacing information from a trove of duplicated, incomplete, and often hidden resources is a mammoth task. No wonder an average employee spends up to 9 hours a week just looking for information to get her job done.
Unless someone willingly wants to subject themselves to this chaos, they resort to link management.
What is link management?
By link management, we mean the ability to take back control of your links.
Link management is a means to find, access, edit, store, structure, organize, and analyze all the links that an organization uses and shares. This includes both internal links that are accessible only within the organization by its members as well as external links shared outside the organization.
Why care about link organization and management?
The short answer is that link management is empowering.
It can dramatically simplify and speed up your everyday work including
- finding the right document — a needle in a haystack of resources — blazingly fast
- structuring and organizing information so that you can access it at your fingertips when needed
- knowledge sharing and collaboration with your colleagues
These are just some of the internal use-cases and benefits of managing URLs.
For links that are shared externally, added advantages follow.
It can help companies protect and market their brand, foster a sense of trustworthiness regarding the links shared, improve link click-through rates, and deliver insights into consumer behavior based on their interaction with the links.
Recommended reading: What is link management & why you need it — a complete overview
How to organize and manage links?
At first glance, it seems there are as many ways to organize and manage links as the number of links one deals with everyday.
Simple bookmarking is a popular choice to save important links for quick access. But it works only till your bookmarks’ list is so long you have to waste minutes scrolling through it.
Some people like to email links to themselves. Or better yet, create a WhatsApp group with themselves to share links. But it can get as messy as storing bookmarks, again, for the sheer lack of discoverability.
Here, note-taking applications (now popular as tools for building a second-brain) often come to the rescue. You can not only save links but also categorize, annotate, discover, and append to them.
While all these tools are great at a personal level, what happens when you wish to maintain a common directory of links? And when you wish to share them with others? Such as links to shared company documentation, links to team meetings and resources, and links shared externally by your company across digital marketing campaigns?
We find that investing in a link management tool is one of the best ways to organize and manage your URLS — both personally and professionally.
A good link management tool such as OSlash allows you to name, organize, access, share, and analyze your links conveniently. You can benefit from
- a central dashboard for quick overview of all your links
- the ability to convert long URLs to simple short links such as o/daily-standup or o/payslip
- the ability to edit URL names as well as update link destinations
- folders for categorizing your links
- workspaces and access settings for efficiently sharing information
- searching and filtering capabilities to surface the right links, among others
Recommended reading: How to choose the right link management tool
You can extract the most value out of a link management platform by following some best practices.
Link organization and management best practices — for internal URLs at work
What are some of the best practices followed across companies for internal link management? We explore them here.
1. Naming links for everyday workplace resources
Do you know what Google, Netflix, Meta, LinkedIn, and Stripe have in common other than the fact that they’re all multi-billion dollar companies?
They all use shortcuts or simple human-readable words to access links in place of long URLs.
Think fo your company’s insurance policy being accessible to each employee at x/insurance instead of something this complicated — https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Z68medKS1PG1e7NhpbM9NHTEMK44jP0J
Using simple, intuitive shortcuts in place of clunky links has a trickle-down effect that simplifies finding, accessing, and sharing information. Obviously, it eliminates a lot of busywork for knowledge-workers and supercharges their productivity.
There should be naming conventions in place to avoid chaos, though.
Example: While naming a document that has a Go link attached, it is common for employees of Stripe to add the respective Go link in brackets next to the title of the document. The naming convention extends to other areas such as Slack channels, which contain Go links in their description.
2. Ensuring a single source of truth for important documentation
If you’re a millennial like me, chances are you’ve seen the evolution of work from files on a computer to files on shared drives to files (now apps or links) on the Cloud. Maybe you’ve even worked with all three technologies simultaneously. And struggled with not knowing if you’ve got the right version of a file.
Is it the one in your email or the one on the shared drive? (Or the one that somebody forgot to upload anywhere at all?)
Even when most of our work today takes place on the browser, the problem persists. The right file can be in an email thread, a Slack group chat, or on the company intranet.
Incomplete and duplicated documents are a threat to productivity and should be avoided. The solution? Create a single source of truth for important documents by making them accessible company-wide using an intuitive shortcut such as o/roadmap or o/content-calendar. And ensure that all updates are made in the same instance of the document.
3. Aiding link discoverability
Sometimes, it is not enough to name links at the workplace. You need additional identifiers to surface the right links (and thus, the right information) faster.
Isn’t it easier to find something when you know where to look for it?
So, grouping related links together becomes a logical next step after naming them. Creating folders and giving links a hierarchy aids discoverability. So does tagging them.
Creating folders and adding tags based on functions, roles, departments, projects, timelines etc. are some common ways to distinguish, classify, structure, and discover links easily.
There are offbeat methods for aiding link discoverability too, especially sharing links visually.
The one time I was at one of Google’s famed cafeterias, I saw the go link go/eat (shortcut to the day’s menu) emblazoned across the tabletop placard. You’ll also find some companies that paste printouts of frequently visited short links on office walls and common areas for bringing them to everyone’s notice.
4. Indexing links into enterprise knowledge base/enterprise search
The whole reason we wish to manage links is to find what we need to get our jobs done — without jumping through hoops.
Big-tech companies such as Stripe understand this. Stripe has gone on to consciously index their short links (called Go links) into their enterprise search. So that employees can instantly locate THE document they intend to.
What’s more? If there is no Go link configured for a particular document, employees are prompted to create a new Go link instead. Now that’s what a best practice looks like!
5. Maintaining a user guide on internal link management
Link management works seamlessly only if everyone is one the same page (yes, pun intended).
Enter: a user guide where you can lay down detailed instructions, and best practices for creating, editing, naming, deleting, finding, and sharing links across the organization.
Having one will ease information management for you and your team down the road.
6. Updating links frequently
Make sure that employees know to update links (both names and underlying pages if needed) frequently in order for them to be relevant.
Example: At Stripe, employees are encouraged to deactivate a Go link if it is no longer useful. However, Stripe still keeps the history of the link around, and anyone can re-activate the link at any time. Stripe also tracks who created and updated each Go link, so that anyone can reach out to the creator for more context.
Link organization and management best practices — for outbound URLs
We don’t just share links within our org, do we?
There are email marketing campaigns, newsletters, social media posts, blogs, and landing pages on websites where people outside of our companies look at the URLs we share.
Here are some best practices to ensure that both we and our audience derive the most value from the URLs we share publicly.
1. Add links only where necessary
Let’s face it: Too many links (no matter which medium you share them on) are annoying. They interrupt the flow and distract from the main content. They can confuse the readers into clicking on something that may be irrelevant for them. It’s best to link only what’s essential to your main message and avoid what’s not.
2. Link only the relevant keywords and not entire sentences
Whether it’s in a newsletter or a blog post, make sure your link text contains only 2-5 relevant keywords and not entire sentences. The hyperlinked text should stand out from the surrounding content but should not be distracting or overly emphatic.
3. Make your URLs compact and human-readable
If you are sharing plain URLs instead of hyperlinked text, you can rarely go wrong with making them shorter and more human-readable.
Compare the URL https://www.oslash.com/learning-center/esop-policy with oslash.com/learning-center/esop1234x-?-policyDst5-abc.html?
What’s easier for you to understand? Which one will you be happier to click on?
The first one, right?
Our minds like to avoid unnecessary efforts. Processing the mumble-jumble of long URLs is hard work. Human-readable keywords make a URL infinitely simpler and more trustworthy.
4. Make friends with canonical URLs
Using canonical URLs on your website helps search engines such as Google identify the source of truth for given content on your website.
This is important because URLs can have variations but direct to the same or similar content. Example:
So if a web page is accessible using various URLs, or different pages with similar content (e.g. separate mobile and desktop versions), you should specify to a search engine which URL is authoritative (canonical) for that page.
Learn how to do that here.
5. Ensure that the resources underlying your URLs are accessible to everyone with the URL
Sometimes, you may link a giveaway, say a habit-tracker template, in your email campaign only to forget making it publicly accessible. Make sure to check the privacy settings and access rights to resources underlying all your outbound URLs.
6. Update links and weed out broken ones regularly
When linking to external sources, it helps to keep monitoring links for updates and to prevent them from throwing up a 404 error (page not found). It’s common for websites to get taken down, content to be moved or removed, URLs to be renamed. All of this can result in broken links which are a nuisance — for your business and your reputation.
7. Use custom branded links to protect and market your brand
Link management tools for enterprises let companies edit and brand their links using custom domains and custom slugs (back halves of the URLs). It is useful for protecting as well as marketing your brand.
x/winter-sale where x is your brand or domain name has a lot more appeal and trustworthiness than a random, suspicious-looking URL or short link.
Customized links also improve brand recall, especially when your links are being widely distributed, say via a social-media campaign etc
8. Track links to gather useful insights
You can use external link tracking and insights to unlock click data that you can use to make better business decisions.
Example: A link management tool can help you track and gather data from a marketing campaign to know if it is getting the expected traction. By adding UTM parameters to links, you can get more detailed website analytics and precisely measure the data coming in from different traffic sources. This is helpful in optimizing your campaigns.
Link management has evolved into a crucial vertical of knowledge management for any company today. Following the above practices will help you get the most out of your URLs as well as optimize your information resources in the best way possible.