Procedure: External Site Links

Brief Description

(see the full document below for details)

This document outlines the procedures and considerations for including hyperlinks, or “links,” within EPA web pages that redirect users to external web pages. Because EPA does not control the content of external sites, EPA employees and offices cannot guarantee the quality and integrity of sites to which they link (and, therefore, must post a disclaimer).  That said, EPA  website managers have a duty of due diligence to assess the overall 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 website not under the control of EPA or another federal government agency. 

Note:  According to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) policy, links to other federal agencies are not considered “external links” because all federal public websites must meet certain requirements mandated by federal laws, regulations and policies. Therefore, it is appropriate to send a visitor to another federal government public website (i.e., a .gov site) without a disclaimer.

Required Steps

  1. Develop a rationale for the categories of web sites to which your pages will link.  We strongly encourage you to document this rationale for your files.
  2. All external links must:
    1. Be relevant to, or generally support, EPA's mission. Examples of external links that may be deemed as consistent  with EPA's mission include:
      1. Providing regulated entities with information to help them comply with EPA regulations (e.g., links to reporting software, compliance services);
      2. Assisting state and local entities with their delegated responsibilities or other activities that support EPA's mission;
      3. Assisting entities coordinate  with one another for information exchange;
      4. Helping citizens better understand environmental issues or find more information on a topic (e.g., highlighting an EPA award-winning environmental program) 
    2. Clearly enhance the value of the information that EPA is providing on its web site.
    3. Help the reader understand the information on EPA's page.
    4. Go to reliable web sites that reflect high standards in quality, site operations and maintenance.
    5. Be appropriate for the page's intended age group (per the EPA Environmental Education Web Workgroup):
      1. Elementary School (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).
      2. Middle School (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).
      3. 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.
  3. Do not link to external sites, in any location within that site (not only the location that you are directly linking to), that
    1. Advocate, or are likely in the future to advocate, for or against any partisan political party, candidate or election or that solicit political contributions.
    2. Advocate any activity with respect to any federal, state or local statute, legislation, regulation, or proposed regulation.
    3. Contradict, or are likely in the future to contradict, Agency policies, rule decisions, or positions.
    4. Charge a fee, or are likely in the future to charge a fee, with the following exceptions:
      1. Links to scientific journals and other publications and services that provide research and other data resources online.
      2. Other links approved by the Office of Web Communications. 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. Use technology that unreasonably inconveniences the user (such as multiple pop-up advertisements, inability to exit the site, etc.), or are likely in the future to do so.
    6. Solicit membership in an organization, or are likely in the future to do so.
    7. Have solicitations to buy products or services, or are likely in the future to do so.
    8. Make requests for monetary donations or contributions of any kind, or are likely in the future to do so. Note that this includes state and local governmental sites.
    9. Advise people, or are likely in the future to advise people, to contact an elected representative or to otherwise take action on, or become involved with, a partisan political candidate, group or election, or advocating for or against any federal, state, or local legislation, or any treaty ratification regulation, or proposed regulation.
  4. Link to the most appropriate page within the site you are linking to.  Do not link to an organization’s home page if a different page exists with information that is more on point to your topic.  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).
  5. If a 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.
  6. Use the “Exit EPA” icon to identify external links.  On pages consisting mainly of external links, provide the “Multiple Exit EPA Links.”

    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.

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How To

  • Drupal Web CMS editor (English and Spanish):
    • For a single external link, following the link, click on the “Exit EPA” icon
    • On pages consisting mainly of external links, provide the “Multiple Exit EPA Links” 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.
  • Locations other than the Drupal Web CMS editor:
    • English:
      • Use this code for a single external link: <a class="exit-disclaimer" href="/home/exit-epa" title="EPA's External Link Disclaimer">Exit</a>
      • On pages consisting mainly of external links, provide this code 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.  <span class="disclaimer">The following links exit the site <a class="exit-disclaimer" href="/home/exit-epa" title="EPA's External Link Disclaimer">Exit</a></span>
    • Spanish:
      • Use this code for a single external link: <a class="exit-disclaimer" href="/web-policies-and-procedures/web-standard-writing-style" title="Enlace de exención de responsabilidad de EPA">Salida y denegación</a>
      • On pages consisting mainly of external links, provide this code 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.  <span class="disclaimer">Los siguientes enlaces salen del sitio Web <a class="exit-disclaimer" href="/web-policies-and-procedures/web-standard-writing-style" title="Enlace de exención de responsabilidad de EPA">Salida y denegación</a></span>

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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="/home/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="/home/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="/%20http%3A//npic.orst.edu/pest/mosquito/wnv.html%20">West Nile Virus Resource Guide</a> <a class="exit-disclaimer" href="/home/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 additional 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 additional 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="/home/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="/home/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. External 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. External linking ensures accuracy and is more cost-effective than duplicating and maintaining the desired information on EPA's site or developing similar information internally. Linking to external sources of relevant or supportive information provides a useful and very important service for EPA customers. External 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.

EPA’s process for providing external links should be consistent.  Agency offices can manage links responsibly through a judicious choice of external links, by clearly letting users know when they are exiting the EPA Public Access web site by providing appropriate disclaimers, and through active maintenance and oversight of external links.

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 01/12/2016
Category Links and Navigation
Web Council review by> 06/12/2019 (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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