Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 28, 2012 9:51 PM

The Value Of Links

I'm starting to feel like a dinosaur.

It will be ten years in 2013 that I first started blogging. Prior to blogging, I have a very clear memory of when hyperlinking started happening online. We take links and linking for granted today. Back then, if you wanted to visit a website, you would enter the URL in the address bar of your web browser. If you wanted to leave that page and go to another page, you would have to know and be able to correctly type that webpage's address into the address bar (bookmarking had yet to be perfected). That's right, you could not just have a clickable link on a page. Crazy, I know. For those of us who were around back then, the advent of hyperlinks and bookmarking were one of the earlier instances when you could see how more and more people would adopt the Internet because these little additions are what made the Internet much easier to use.

Links are about more than moving around the Web.

I love links. This should not surprise anyone. Take a look at any of my blogs posts and they are littered with anything that can be linked to. Does it annoy you? Distract you? Send you down a rabbit hole to other online resources and articles? Do you get so lost that you don't come back to Six Pixels of Separation? I hope not, but I understand if it does. The truth is that I don't link because:

  • It is the proper etiquette for online writing.
  • It is good for search engine optimization.
  • It provides sources and references.
  • It helps people discover other articles and blog posts.
  • It helps people discover new and interesting websites.
  • It may create a distraction.
  • It may push you away from my content.

Why I link...

It is more of a philosophical reason, but I link (and link a lot) because I believe that links are what turns the text on a blog (or website) from a two-dimensional experience into a three-dimensional text experience. Links makes the text come alive. Links gives text-based content depth. When done well, links gives text more context and discovery. I can see why people like Seth Godin and Tim Sanders don't care as much about links as I do. Sanders published a blog post today (Why Linkiness Is A Blogger's Form Of Truthiness) about why he doesn't link (and will probably do even less linking going forward). There is nothing within his blog post that I would disagree with, if the sole purpose of publishing content online was to capture an individual's attention. Let's not kid ourselves, if the Internet does one thing amazingly well, it allows anyone to have an idea and publish that thought in text, images, audio and video instantly and free to the world. No one can diminish how powerful that is. If the Internet does another thing amazingly well, it allows anyone to link to other content and makes all of our content more findable, shareable and expandable. Links are core to this. Sanders makes a strong case for less links. I'm hopeful that I make an equally strong case for more links. The more we link, the more we connect, share and enable others to find the work we're doing. More importantly, the more we link, the more we make text three-dimensional. That's (still) exciting to me.

Let's keep on linking. Please. 

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Mitch Joel

    Well put, Mitch. What bothers me about Sander's approach is the vow to obstain from links as if they are a black and white option for the blogger. This makes no sense and their characterization as shiny objects is equally odd. A well-written post should read and stand on its own independent of outbound links. Authors have a responsibility to avoid the gratuitous use of links given the potential for distraction. But to vilify the link is to miss why we're here to begin with.

    Reply
  • I like the way links are used here. Not too many. Not too few.

    I link to give credit to the sources and for the convenience of readers who want to know more (especially when reading on a smartphone). I also crosslink to other things I've written.

    When relevant links are missing, I feel the writer is lazy or sloppy.

    PS Seth has links in 6 of his last 10 posts. He uses them generously where they're relevant. The difference is that he may say something like "more here" without giving details. That works for readers who trust him.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Mitch the problem is that not many people take the time to check out the links - there is often more in the post or video or audio that I refer to than my own blog. I think, possibly, we need to give more insight to the link or have a way like Google does when you arrive at search result of seeing a snapshot of what it is you are being asked to look at. I don't use many links and in fact dislike when people are making their SEO so bleeding obvious with links to their own material. Great blogs don't need this. The writing should be enough.

    Regards
    Julian.

    BTW Have you got your hands on a copy of the Icarus Deception. Us Brits are very anxious. I hope to blog on the 700+ pages as soon as I have read it. Great Xmas present for me (ooh that sounds selfish).

    Reply
  • This is, believe it or not, one of the reasons why Google is starting to do true semantic analysis and co-citation to figure out what ranks for what - because there's less linking!

    Reply
  • Forgive me if this is nitpicking, but the capability to link content goes all the way back to the Mosaic browser in 1993. I myself started web development in 1999 and linking was a core part of development then. In fact, I doubt they would have named it the "World Wide Web" if the content hadn't been linked from the very beginning. It seems appropriate to include a link to a relevant passage from Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperlink#History_of_the_hyperlink

    I agree with the sentiment in the rest of the post. I personally bristle at people who bring old paradigms to interactive media. Blogs without links are one example, but so are splash pages and "e-Flyers", to name just a couple.

    Reply
  • Posted by Luis F. Mejía
    Mitch Joel


    Links are what in the good old days of printed-on-paper books the bibliography was. Links are facilitators to deeper exploration on the topic at hand and also may give us an insight on the writer's point of view provenance. On that basis, links have a value, a raison d'être. That said, my objection is their obnoxious presence within the main text that creates undesirable interfering “subconscious noise” detracting from uninterrupted assimilation of the main theme. Could we consider placing the links at the end of the main text? After all, we humans, creatures of habit, have been programmed to look for and find references and bibliography at the end of the publication.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rebecca Todd
    Mitch Joel

    I love links and appreciate that you use them. Of course, I read footnotes and endnotes too...that infovore thing again.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    In full disclosure, I'm a Philosopher so getting Philosophical is my thing. Linking is also my thing. But I've never read link described in such a way as when you wrote: "I believe that links are what turns the text on a blog (or website) from a two-dimensional experience into a three-dimensional text experience."

    What can I say but: "Brilliant!"


    Links are like the ingredients in a recipe. Each brings it's own flavor and it's unique experience but, when added together, they create an experience that is unlike any other. It's that experience that adds to not only the authority of the chef but also of the masterpiece.

    Reply
    • Posted by Carla Wiersema
      Mitch Joel

      As a self- proclaimed philosopher and lover of data analytics, I often ask myself "where do human psychology and information technology intersect?" when it come to digital marketing. (aligned with the Steve Jobs analogy of technology and liberal arts intersecting in the Apple ecosystem)

      I guess the digital technology piece is to get you in front of the eyes of your customer (to enter their awareness/evaluation in the purchase process if you will) and the psychology gets you to the "purchase" (which is essentially a click on the link)

      Thoughts?

      Have a great weekend!

      Reply
  • Mitch Joel

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    Six Pixels of Separation - Marketing and Communications Insights - By Mitch Joel at Twist Image.
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    time} emailed this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site} post page to
    all my {friends|associates|contacts}, {because|since|as|for the reason that} if like to read it {then|after that|next|afterward} my {friends|links|contacts} will too.|
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    me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the
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    I've been using {Movable-type|WordPress} on {a number of|a
    variety of|numerous|several|various} websites for about a year and am {nervous|anxious|worried|concerned} about switching to another platform.
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    Is there a way I can {transfer|import} all my wordpress {content|posts} into it?
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    have sworn I've {been to|visited} {this blog|this web site|this website|this site|your blog} before but after {browsing through|going through|looking at} {some of
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    {Terrific|Great|Wonderful} {article|work}! {This is|That is} {the
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    Come on over and {talk over with|discuss with|seek advice from|visit|consult with} my {site|web site|website} .
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    across|found} this board and I find It {truly|really} useful & it helped me out {a lot|much}.
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    {Hi|Hello|Hi there|Hello there|Howdy|Greetings}, {I think|I believe|I do believe|I do think|There's
    no doubt that} {your site|your website|your web site|your blog} {might be|may be|could be|could possibly be} having {browser|internet browser|web browser} compatibility {issues|problems}.

    {When I|Whenever I} {look at your|take a look at your} {website|web site|site|blog} in Safari,
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    {it has|it's got} some overlapping issues. {I just|I simply|I merely} wanted
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    I {came across|found} this board and I {in finding|find|to find} It {truly|really}
    {useful|helpful} & it helped me out {a lot|much}. {I am hoping|I hope|I'm hoping} {to give|to offer|to provide|to present} {something|one thing} {back|again} and {help|aid} others {like you|such as you} {helped|aided} me.|
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    {I will be|I'll be|I am} {coming back to|returning
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    I {always|all the time|every time} used to {read|study}
    {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} in news papers but now as
    I am a user of {internet|web|net} {so|thus|therefore} from now I am using net for {articles|posts|articles or reviews|content}, thanks to web.|
    Your {way|method|means|mode} of {describing|explaining|telling}
    {everything|all|the whole thing} in this {article|post|piece
    of writing|paragraph} is {really|actually|in fact|truly|genuinely} {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious}, {all|every one} {can|be
    able to|be capable of} {easily|without difficulty|effortlessly|simply} {understand|know|be aware of}
    it, Thanks a lot.|
    {Hi|Hello} there, {I found|I discovered} your {blog|website|web site|site}
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    {at the same time as|whilst|even as|while} {searching for|looking for} a {similar|comparable|related} {topic|matter|subject}, your {site|web site|website} {got here|came} up, it {looks|appears|seems|seems to be|appears to be like} {good|great}.

    {I have|I've} bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

    {Hello|Hi} there, {simply|just} {turned into|became|was|become|changed into} {aware
    of|alert to} your {blog|weblog} {thru|through|via} Google, {and found|and located}
    that {it is|it's} {really|truly} informative. {I'm|I am} {gonna|going
    to} {watch out|be careful} for brussels.
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    {I am|I'm} curious to find out what blog {system|platform} {you have been|you happen to be|you are|you're} {working with|utilizing|using}?
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    with my latest {site|website|blog} and {I would|I'd} like to find something more {safe|risk-free|safeguarded|secure}.
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    {I am|I'm} {extremely|really} impressed with your writing skills {and also|as well as} with the layout on your
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    writing {talents|skills|abilities} {and
    also|as {smartly|well|neatly} as} with the {layout|format|structure} {for your|on your|in your|to your} {blog|weblog}.
    {Is this|Is that this} a paid {subject|topic|subject matter|theme} or did you
    {customize|modify} it {yourself|your self}? {Either way|Anyway} {stay|keep} up the {nice|excellent} {quality|high quality} writing, {it's|it is} {rare|uncommon}
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    your} {site|web site|website} in {internet|web} explorer, {may|might|could|would} {check|test} this?
    IE {still|nonetheless} is the {marketplace|market} {leader|chief} and {a large|a good|a
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    of} {other folks|folks|other people|people} will {leave out|omit|miss|pass over} your {great|wonderful|fantastic|magnificent|excellent} writing {due to|because
    of} this problem.|
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