Wednesday, February 9, 2011

WotW: The Gospel of Links -- the basics

Last week, I gave you my list of what to do before you click publish and asked you all what you would add. The overwhelming response? LINKS. Check your links. Double-check your links. Check your email links. Check the links again.

So, today (and for the next little bit) I'm preaching about links. Probably just preaching to the choir, but it's all about supply and demand here in our Wednesdays on the Web. :)

Firstly -- amen! Thank you all for speaking up and giving us all a good reminder to check each of those links before publishing. There are two basic steps:
  1. Check that when you said "here's a link to _____" there actually is a link to _____ .
  2. Check that your links actually work and take the clicker (the reader) to the place that you intended.

When it comes to getting the clicker (the reader... but clicker is much more fun to say :) to the place that you intended, make your link as specific as possible -- that the link leads directly to the blog post you reference, not just to the blog's front page, for example.

A reader clicking a link today might still be able to get to the right place (i.e., because the blog post you're referencing is still recent even if you've linked them to the blog's main page), but a reader in a week or a month or a year will probably be totally lost -- I've been there and it's no fun! (This is very important when joining linky parties, too.)

To find the specific URL to make your link as specific as possible, just click on the title of the blog post. You'll see the URL in your browser's address bar change -- from something like to Copy that URL to use as the link in your blog post and anyone who clicks that link will come right back to that exact post.

But how many links is too many? Umm... that depends. This is a situation where we enact the Golden Rule of Blogging -- blog how you like to read. Take a second before you publish to re-read your post from your readers' shoes and anticipate where they might expect a link.

For example, if you talk about another post on your blog (or another blog), link to it directly. An awesome product you just bought from a fantastic shop? Link to it. Courageous and determined readers will ask if they have questions about something you referenced, but, really, most of us aren't THAT courageous and determined ALL the time, so by anticipating our needs, the needs of the timid and meh readers, you're allowing us to save our courage and determination for the really important things in life. Like laundry day.

Also, like we talked about here, odds are that a majority of your readers are reading in a feed reader. For these readers especially, it is important to include relevant links -- links to your sponsors, links to your other posts, even a text link to the same post they are reading if you are asking for specific feedback in the comments. Why that last one? It's easier to click a "come leave a comment" link at the end of the post they're reading, right at the point where you're specifically asking for feedback via comments, than to scroll up and click the link to click over to your blog. Easier = More likely to happen.

A couple types of text links that you should be sure to include for your in-reader readers are links to any embedded content you have -- an embedded PDF download box, an embedded linky party or link collection, an embedded slide show -- you get the idea. Most embedded content won't be seen by readers who read from a feed reader, so include a text link to the same content or at very least make a note (or better yet, a link) that "you'll have to click over from your reader to see such-and-such awesomeness" on the blog itself. And don't forget to subscribe to your own feed in your feed reader, to preview and see what makes the feed-reader cut and what doesn't.

So, there you have it: part one of The Gospel of Links, According to Lu. Coming up next time: part two, image vs. text links. Don't worry -- we won't get to the fire-and-brimstone (HTML and CSS) parts of this gospel until part three. :)


Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of one squirmy boy and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on the Web (WotW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about crafts and whatever else comes up at just Lu.
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