Want to improve your chances a visitor will actually read what you wrote? Then take a look at these easy guidelines for writing meaningful, compelling links that please both people and search engines.
Links are hugely important for the web.
In a macro, 30,000-foot way, links are the currency that help search engines evaluate the essence and quality of content. It helps them determine the authority behind a web page.
On a micro level, though, from the reader’s perspective, links also serve as one more of these landmarks that stand out for the reader as she surveys her media landscape.
And when you have mere minutes to woo a potential reader, you do what ever you can to make your page stick out.
In this roughly ten-minute episode you’ll discover:
- The 5 acceptable ways you can create a link
- What makes links so damn attractive to online readers
- Why long links achieved the highest success in getting people to the information they were seeking
- How to get a reader’s attention with the magic number of words in a link
- The one page you should never send a reader via a link
- Why the experts who keep telling you to use “click here” are wrong
Listen to Rough Draft below ...
The Show Notes
The Anatomy of a Hyperlink That Woos Readers
Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, a digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.
Demian Farnworth: Hi, this is Demian Farnworth, Chief Content Writer for Copyblogger Media. And you are listening to Rough Draft, your daily dose of essential web writing advice.
And thank you for sharing the next few minutes of your life with me.
So we’ve been on this roll, talking about the essential elements of web copy that get people’s attention, that draw them down the page, that pull them into the article or sales letter.
You and I camped on headlines for a few episodes, talked about openings and first sentences for a few more, and then swept through subheadlines and bullets. Now. Today. We are on to explore links.
Links, as I’ve stated elsewhere, are hugely important for the web. In a macro, 30,000 foot way links are the currency that help search engines evaluate the essence and quality of content. It helps them determine the authority behind a web page.
I devoted several early episodes to this concept.
What Makes Links So Damn Attractive to Online Readers
On a micro level, though, from the reader’s perspective, links also serve as one more of these landmarks that stand out as she surveys her reading landscape.
Think about it. A link is a blue, underlined word or phrase. Sometimes it’s an entire sentence. So it sticks out when you are glancing down the page.
Granted, it doesn’t stand out as much as a subheadline or bullet list. But it still sticks out. This is important because of a concept called information foraging.
Information foraging was by a concept formulated by a couple of researchers, Pirolli and Card, in a paper published in 1999. So their analogy is that information foraging is what we are doing online. We are following a scent.
An information scent.
Just like a predator picks up on the scent of his prey in the wild, and then follows that scent until he pounces on the poor sleeping, fluffy bunny, … or until the trail goes cold.
The online reader is scanning, following that scent through the headline, the subheadline. And if she finds that scent is still warm, still alive, in the links, then she’s going to draw closer to reading your article.
That’s the power of a good link.
Why Long Links Achieved the Highest Success in Getting People to the Information They Were Seeking
Links can be: Sentences, fragments, phrases, call to actions, even navigation labels. The links in your copy, however, the links that you create in your article that are natural to the flow of the copy and point to a page you mentioned or backs up your argument … these links … these links need to be long and descriptive.
For example, “46 style tips every delicate and idle man should know” is going to draw attention better than something like “click here” or “learn more.”
Why The Experts Who Keep Telling You to Use “Click Here” Are Wrong
Those types of links — the “learn more” or “click here” variety — have their places, but ultimately they are meaningless to search engines and your reader.
But won’t long and descriptive links will look messy you say? Not so.
How to Get a Reader’s Attention With the Magic Number of Words in a Link
In a fascinating 2004 report called Designing for the Scent of Information, usability engineer Jared Spool and his colleagues discovered that links of 7 to 12 words achieved the highest success in getting people to the information they were seeking.
Now why is that?
The answer is really simple. Longer links are likely to have the words your visitors have in mind. This is a lot like what we learned about keywords. The more words, the closer you get to a precise user intent.
But while links — good links that stand out in an article — are long and descriptive. If you want to maintain that scent, your links should match the headline of the page you are pointing to.
That means, if you wrote a sentence like “Demian shares some schemes on how to get away from large groups of children” and you make “schemes on how to get away from large groups of children” a link, then the headline of that page you are pointing to should be very close to “schemes on how to get away from large groups of children.”
The One Page You Should Never Send a Reader Via a Link
Don’t send them to a home page. Or a generic page. Send them to a very specific page. Another way of saying that is weave the headline of that page, as best as you can, into your hypertext link.
That way you keep the information scent. And you don’t break the expectation of the visitor. Maintaining that expectation is critical.
Now in the next episode we are going to talk about a major way in which you can capture the attention of a potential reader. But it doesn’t have anything to do with words.
No. No words.
Everything up to now — all these markers that flag a reader to come in for a landing — they trade in words. But not the next element.
And curiously enough, it’s probably as important and powerful as the headline.
Got any guesses what it is? Drop your guesses in the comments. And don’t forget, if you haven’t already, would you please leave me a comment or rating on iTunes? Let me know how I’m doing. Your words always encourage me. Always make me want to work harder.
I love hearing from you.
Until then, remember that this episode of Rough Draft is brought to you by Authority Rainmaker … our live conference we are hosting this May 13-15 where a star-studded cast of speakers will bring you some of the best ideas on content marketing, driving traffic, smart design, and conversion… and how to just generally subdue the web and take names.
Ideas from people like the SEO veteran, Danny Sullivan, co-founder and CTO of ion interactive Scott Brinker, Porch’s VP of Marketing Joanna Lorde, and the world’s first Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley.
Don’t forget Henry Rollins, Dan Pink, Chris Brogan, Bernadette Jiwa, Sally Hogshead, and a cast of Copyblogger hot shots. All in one room. For three days. At the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.
And you’ve got a chance to chum with them. Dine with them.
But you can only do that if you register at rainmaker.fm/event. That’s rainmaker.fm/event.
Take care, and talk to you soon.