Alistair McAlpine

Links, a Web Writer’s take

In Writing for the Web on September 1, 2010 at 2:14 p09

Video Version available

A link is an opportunity missed unless it clearly signposts the content of it’s destination.
Readers quickly scan links for keywords as they navigate the internet. If you want traffic in your neck of the woods make sure your signposts function.

Road sign saying "Click here"

"CLICK HERE" and other useless road signs

CLICK HERE” and other useless road signs

Links make the internet powerful, links make the internet the internet. Without links we’d still be using the sequential navigation mechanism of the book. Not that there isn’t a future for the beloved book of course.

Linkless books on rails

A train takes you from A to B.  Sit back and enjoy the scenery sliding past the window, farms, towns and cities. Reading a book you take for granted that your destination is predetermined by the author.

Train rushing on tracks

Links allow internet users to take their own route.

Links put you in the driver’s seat

Searching the web you drive a car through a network of roads, highways, back roads, city grids, truck-stops and drive-throughs. Freedom made possible by the powerful, humble link.

Links provide opportunities.

Web writing demands an understanding of links, how they work and how they are used by your reader. Links provide opportunities for readers but they also provide opportunities for writers.

Road sign bristling with signs saying "click here"

Imagine coming across one of these signposts

Links are signposts.

Link text indicates where roads go, they can be helpful or a hindrance.

Imagine coming across one of these signposts bristling with signs pointing here, there and everywhere. The signs say  “click here”, “click here for more details”, “click here”,  “read more”, “click here”, “more information”, “click here”.

‘Keyword placement for web writers’ is an article with  good pointers.

Web page links need to be:

  • clear
  • unambiguous
  • informative
  • concise

Headlines make great links

Links often direct readers to external websites but most direct inward to other pages on our website. Those other pages have headlines and those headlines should summarise what’s on the page in a clear concise manner. Ideal for the text of our links.

So the headline of the destination page can make great text for links and we can work those words into the text of our page.

Caution! ‘link sprinkle’ ahead

Links aligned on the left of a page create order and predictibility.

Some people, a lot of people, who drive their Ferraris through the internet at full speed. They search for keywords as they navigate and they want to get to their destination as soon as possible.

They want signposts to be placed in a consistent manner, so where possible, craft them on the left side of the page.

Bloggers make their own rules

Some people don’t care where links are and prefer link sprinkle. Many bloggers for example, like to sprinkle links all over the page and readers are used to that. But if you are driving fast, sometimes it’s good to find your links on the left side of the page.

Website Exit Ahead!

A signpost reading Slow down, new website ahead

Warn your reader when a link points to another website.

When a link points to another website you had better warn your reader. There is nothing worse than unexpectedly finding yourself on another website. In parenthesis beside your link, place the URL or name of the destination website.

Also, if a link is going to be opening another page of the reader’s browser it’s good to warn them about that. Research has shown that a lot of people use the ‘back’ button as an essential part of their navigation and when you open up another page the ‘back’ button no longer works.

That’s annoying.

Links make the internet the internet

As a Web Writer you are creating the network, you are building the internet. Planning roads and putting in signposts.

Make links clear, unambiguous, informative, concise and keyword-rich if you want traffic on your part of the internet.

*‘Plain language web writing for real people’ is another article worth checking out.

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