Procedure: External Site Links

EPA builds all web content in the Drupal WebCMS as of January 2013. All new microsites and resource directories will be created using Drupal.  There is still content on EPA's legacy servers and this content will be maintained there until it is transformed and moved into the Drupal WebCMS.  The following information should be used only for minor updates/maintenance of existing pages; any significant updates or revisions to existing pages should be done in the context of One EPA Web content transformation into the Drupal WebCMS

Brief Description

(see the full document below for details)

This document outlines the procedures and considerations for external links from EPA Web pages. EPA offices cannot guarantee the quality and integrity of sites to which they link (and, therefore, we post a disclaimer), but Web site managers have a duty to judge the quality and presentation of data on a “candidate” external site before establishing a link to it.

On this page:


Definitions

External links: Connections to any non-federal Web site. According to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) policy, links to other federal agencies are not considered external links because all federal public Web sites must meet certain requirements mandated by laws, regulations and policies. Therefore, it is appropriate to send a visitor to another federal public Web site without a disclaimer.

Required Steps

  1. Develop a rationale for the categories of sites to which your pages will link. This step includes general descriptions rather than specific links. It is strongly encouraged that this rationale be documented for your files.
    1. Link to external sites that:
      1. Are relevant to or generally support EPA's mission. Examples of external links that can support EPA's mission include information and tools that will:
        • Assist regulated entities in complying with EPA regulations (e.g., links to reporting software, compliance services);
        • Assist state and local entities with their delegated responsibilities or other activities that support EPA's mission;
        • Assist entities in coordinating with one another toward accomplishing EPA's mission (e.g., information exchange for local government entities);
        • Help citizens better understand issues or find more information on a topic (e.g., point out an award-winning environmental program); or
        • Help citizens connect and become involved with entities which help to advance EPA's mission.
      2. Clearly provide a benefit to or otherwise enhance the value of the information that EPA is providing.
      3. Help the reader understand the information on EPA's page.
      4. Are well-maintained and current.
      5. Are reliable sites with regard to quality, site operations and maintenance.
      6. Have a clear value for EPA's site.
      7. Are appropriate for the page's intended age group (per the EPA Environmental Education Web Workgroup):
        • Kids (grades pre-K-5 or ages 4-10): link only to EPA sites and other federal, state and local government sites, and educational sites (e.g. museums and educational institutions).
        • Students (grades 6-8 or ages 11-13): link only to EPA sites, other federal, state and local government sites, and educational sites (e.g. museums and educational institutions).
        • High School (grades 9-12 or ages 14-18):  link only to EPA and other federal, state and local government sites, educational sites, and some non-government sites.
    2. Do not link to external sites that:
      1. Advocate a specific political party position.
      2. Contradict positions or information with regard to emergency directives issued by the Agency.
      3. Specifically contradict an Agency policy or rule decision.  Such links might be counterproductive in explaining the Agency's information and position.
      4. Charge a fee unless it cannot be avoided.  For example, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) charges a fee for users to be able to access its Environmental Health Information Service. Likewise, many EPA reports are only available through the National Technical Information Service for a fee. In general, it is not advisable to link to commercial sites that charge fees. You might link to a commercial site with a fee in some limited cases, e.g., if there is a unique service or data set that some users could find particularly valuable. Links to sites that charge people for access, or through which the information desired must be purchased, should include a notice warning the user of that fact.
      5. Utilize technology which unreasonably inconveniences the user (such as multiple pop-up advertisements, inability to exit the site, etc.)
    3. Linking to the following types of external links is strongly discouraged.  If your pages link to these types of external sites, develop a clear rationale.
      1. Solicit membership in an organization.
      2. Have solicitations to buy products or services.
      3. Make requests for contributions
      4. Advise people to contact an elected representative.
  2. Choose specific links that meet your rationale and the considerations above. Furthermore:
    1. Go as deep onto the non-EPA site as possible and appropriate. Not only should this reduce the appearance of endorsing an entire organization, but it will aid users in more easily finding the information since they will not have to figure out where the information is located on the external site.
    2. If the link cannot be made directly to the information of interest, provide directions on how to get to the information from the linked location. Since database-driven Web sites are becoming more common, a link to a specific document on these types of pages might not work. If the information can only be found through a site's search engine, the EPA page should include instructions on how to retrieve the relevant information. If an EPA page is referring customers to one of those databases, it should indicate which database the person should select, and the topic for which to search, rather than just pointing to the page without explanation.
    3. Links should not be made to the home page of the organization unless that is the page with the relevant information (such as providing the viewer with a link to a supplier of environmental education resources or their local watershed council).
  3. Identify external links to sites with the exit EPA icon linked to the standard disclaimer page.
    Note: links to federal agency sites do not need the icon or disclaimer link, per OMB policy; instead, identify the agency in the text describing the link or in the link text itself.
    1. For external links, use the following code:
      <a class="exit-disclaimer" href="/webguide/exit-epa" title="EPA's External Link Disclaimer">Exit</a>
    2. On pages consisting mainly of external links, provide the icon linked to the standard disclaimer prominently near the top of the page, before the first external links; on such pages, it is not required to place the icon at each link. The following links exit the site Exit
  4. Check your links quarterly, per OMB policy, to be sure that they're not invalid. Software is available from the Office of Information Analysis and Access to assist in performing this check. The Office of Technology Operations and Planning Intranetcan also provide assistance.
    1. They are still active and not broken.
    2. The page being linked to has not been replaced with something inappropriate.

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How To

  • Code:
    <a class="exit-disclaimer" href="/webguide/exit-epa" title="EPA's External Link Disclaimer">Exit</a>
  • For pages in Spanish, use this icon: Salida y denegación
    And this code:

    <a href="http://www.epa.gov/espanol/exit.html"</a><img alt="salida y denegacion" height="13" src="http://www.epa.gov/espanol/images/exitepa-new-es.gif" width="87" title="salida y denegacion"/></a>

  • Use of other images is by exception.

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Examples

First, here's a default disclaimer text you can copy.

  • Default exit disclaimer text (for a box)

    This page provides links to non-EPA web sites that provide additional information about this topic. You will leave the EPA.gov domain, and EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of information on that non-EPA page. Providing links to a non-EPA Web site is not an endorsement of the other site or the information it contains by EPA or any of its employees. Also, be aware that the privacy protection provided on the EPA.gov domain (see Privacy and Security Notice) may not be available at the external link.  The following links exit the site Exit

    Code:
    <p>This page provides links to non-EPA web sites that provide additional information about this topic. You will leave the EPA.gov domain, and EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of information on that non-EPA page. Providing links to a non-EPA Web site is not an endorsement of the other site or the information it contains by EPA or any of its employees. Also, be aware that the privacy protection provided on the EPA.gov domain (see <a href="/webguide/privacy-and-security-notice">Privacy and Security Notice</a>) may not be available at the external link. <span class="disclaimer">The following links exit the site <a class="exit-disclaimer" href="/webguide/exit-epa" title="EPA's External Link Disclaimer">Exit</a></span></p>

The following examples are EXAMPLES. Do not copy verbatim. Be sure to modify the text for your topic.

  1. External link icon in line with the text:

    NPIC provides objective, science-based information about pesticides -- including mosquito repellents and insecticides that are used in controlling mosquitoes. NPIC also provides information on federal, state, and local mosquito control programs. Additionally, the NPIC web site offers a West Nile Virus Resource Guide Exit with information on West Nile Virus; contacts at local, state, and federal agencies; and maps and statistics.

    Code:
    <p>NPIC provides objective, science-based information about pesticides -- including mosquito repellents and insecticides that are used in controlling mosquitoes. NPIC also provides information on federal, state, and local mosquito control programs. Additionally, the NPIC web site offers a <a href=" http://npic.orst.edu/wnv/ ">West Nile Virus Resource Guide</a> <a class="exit-disclaimer" href="/webguide/exit-epa" title="EPA's External Link Disclaimer">Exit</a> with information on West Nile Virus; contacts at local, state, and federal agencies; and maps and statistics.</p>

  2. External link icon at the top of a page full of links:

    This page provides links to non-EPA web sites that provide additonal information about mercury. You will leave the EPA.gov domain and enter another page with more information. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of information on that non-EPA page. Providing links to a non-EPA Web site is not an endorsement of the other site or the information it contains by EPA or any of its employees. Also, be aware that the privacy protection provided on the EPA.gov domain (see Privacy and Security Notice) may not be available at the external link. The following links exit the site Exit

    Code:
    <p>This page provides links to non-EPA web sites that provide additonal information about mercury. You will leave the EPA.gov domain and enter another page with more information. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of information on that non-EPA page. Providing links to a non-EPA Web site is not an endorsement of the other site or the information it contains by EPA or any of its employees. Also, be aware that the privacy protection provided on the EPA.gov domain (see <a href="/webguide/privacy-and-security-notice">Privacy and Security Notice</a>) may not be available at the external link. <span class="disclaimer">The following links exit the site <a class="exit-disclaimer" href="/webguide/exit-epa" title="EPA's External Link Disclaimer">Exit</a></span></p>

  3. External link to a federal agency:

    Tox Town - The world's largest medical library, the US National Library of Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health, has developed an introductory Web site about toxic chemicals and environmental health risks such as mercury, lead, and asbestos in the towns and cities where you live.

    Code:
    <p><a href="http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/">Tox Town</a> - The world's largest medical library, the US National Library of Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health, has developed an introductory Web site about toxic chemicals and environmental health risks such as mercury, lead, and asbestos in the towns and cities where you live.</p>

  4. External link to the Federal Register: To link to a Federal Register notice, first find the FR at US GPO FR Collection. Navigate by date to the table of contents for that day and then copy the Text or PDF links for a given notice. Add that link to your own page, rather than uploading a redundant copy of the FR notice to your server. These links are concise and permanent URLs.

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Rationale

Linking to external sources is an integral function of the World Wide Web. Linking can add significant value to the functionality and service provided by the EPA Public Access Web site by expanding available resources. It facilitates access to freely available Web tools as well as specific information not on EPA's site, and provides bibliographic references for users. Linking ensures accuracy and is more cost-effective than duplicating and maintaining the desired information on EPA's site or developing similar information internally. Links can also be used to foster an electronic environmental community in support of the Agency's mission and programs, and to recognize partners and participants in voluntary programs. Therefore, linking to external sources of relevant or supportive information provides a useful and very important service for EPA customers. Linking also encourages other organizations with related missions and content to link to EPA's Web site, which increases and broadens readership of the Agency's Web site.

However, it is essential that EPA have standards to guide this significant activity. EPA offices must use links within a consistent and reasonable policy framework. Without clear procedures for creating links, the Agency cannot guarantee that its Web site links are appropriate to its mission and program objectives.  Establishing inappropriate links, or failing to ensure the continued integrity, usefulness and reliability of linked materials, can undermine the value of EPA's site. Agency offices can manage links responsibly through a judicious choice of links; by clearly letting users know when they are exiting the EPA Public Access Web site, along with appropriate disclaimers; and by active maintenance and oversight of linkages.

Exemptions

There are no waivers for external links.  

Links to other federal agencies are not considered an external link as all federal public Web sites must meet certain requirements mandated by laws, regulations and policies; therefore, it is appropriate to send a visitor to another federal public Web site, without a disclaimer. OMB Policy: Establish a Linking Policy

See Also

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Related Governance Documents

EPA

Related Policies

  • None

Related Procedures

  • None

Related Standards

  • None

Related Guidance

  • None

Non-EPA

Full Metadata about this standard

Name External Site Links
Type Procedure
Required or Recommended Required 
Effective date 09/07/2006
Date approved 06/12/2009
Category Links and Navigation
Web Council review by> 06/12/2009 (or earlier if deemed necessary by the Web Council)
Governing PolicyWeb Governance and Management (PDF) Intranet(5 pp, 339K, About PDF)

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