Stop With the Links! What New Media Writers Can Learn From Print.

      

Just because you can write a thoughtful article on your blog and throw in links to further reading, doesn’t mean you should.

It’s a pet peeve of mine to read a post filled with links referencing more detail if having to read elsewhere to get that detail is necessary or worse—critical to—a better understanding of what you are talking about. That is what I’d call gratuitous linking.

Some bloggers think that you are required to put links into a post because that is part of what blogging is about.  But links are the 21st century equivalent of footnotes. Don’t you hate footnotes?  What percentage of people do you think actually read them?

You may argue that links are easier to use than footnotes but I’d say they are less useful to the reader.  There you are, writing an opinion piece with a coherent train of thought, taking your reader on a journey from one idea to the next, building your case.  And in the middle of all this, there’s a trapdoor that drops them right out of the flow into another story.

You’re already fighting for peoples’ attention with all the distractions of the internet.  If you get their attention for a few minutes, at least don’t contribute to the distractions.

If you want to refer to more information that might enlighten your reader, write the sentence so that it explains enough about the article you link to that they don’t have to read it if they don’t want to. Tell them why you are referring them to another site.

Better yet, save your links for the bottom of your article and say, “this article offers more information about (then add the link) which I referred to because (then tell them why).

Including lots of links in a post reminds me of some of some people I knew in college, who would pepper their conversations with obscure references to philosophers and poets in order to make a point that could have easily been made in more down-to-earth terms.  Those forays were meant to show the brilliance of the speaker, and were not made in the interest of communicating.

I’m not saying it never makes sense to insert links in the midst of an article. But it’s a device that should be used carefully and thoughtfully, taking into consideration the readers’ needs and not your needs’ to show your vast knowledge.

I’m a big believer that there are no hard and fast rules in marketing, writing, or anything else for that matter.  It’s easy to follow rules but it avoids thinking for yourself, and being creative.  For more about breaking rules (like linking in posts) you might be interested in this article I wrote for Social Media Explorer.

4 Responses to Stop With the Links! What New Media Writers Can Learn From Print.
  1. Mathias
    January 9, 2013 | 5:28 am

    I agree Ilana but I’d say that links are mandatory to follow the “netiquette”, it’s fair to quote your sources. Of course you can do it at the bottom of your post but it makes more sense to have the link quite close to the part of text that refers to it.

    Furthermore I agree that it’s surely less good for your marketing message but if you care about SEO, placing links & their position in the text is important.

  2. Ilana Rabinowitz
    January 9, 2013 | 10:18 am

    Mathias,

    Thanks for your thoughtful feedback.

    I agree it is important to quote sources. How it’s done is the important issue. Without having an example, it’s hard to get into detail.

    Ilana

  3. Rachel N
    January 10, 2013 | 12:21 am

    I partially disagree with this.

    Of course, a post peppered with links is off-putting, but as the previous commenter stated, I think quoting sources is important and a mark of respect. Netiquette indeed.

    Of course, links need to be relevant to the topic at hand, and should only be present when they contribute extra valuable information to the topic at hand.
    But speaking for myself, rather than attempting to paraphrase my way through what is a well-written post providing good info, I’d rather just link to it.

    PS: I do read footnotes. :)

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