Thoughts on The Rule of Links
Every post I write oftentimes has a link to an external post, either as a reference or as a recommendation. And every single time, I go through this struggle of deciding which word should carry the link. It was so naive of me to think Dave Winer won’t have written about it. Of course, Dave had.
Linking is an art. It’s a choice. You don’t link from every word or even every noun, or from the subject of every sentence. But when a reader reasonably would want to know more about the subject, the Rule of Links says you should link to it.
It has to be the word that makes the reader curious with any of the 5 Ws on the topic. But something that is always pestering me at the back of my mind is what does this link communicate to the search engines. Isn’t this link also one of the signals for Google to decide what the outgoing link (the page) is about?
So I believe the first link of this post is correct as per Dave’s rules of links. However, I don’t think that helps a search engine understand the linked page better.
It won’t be a stretch to think Dave believes a writer shouldn’t worry how a search engine reads a post. But given the reality of today’s web, one just cannot ignore how a search engine sees your page.
Also, I am a bit torn on the below perspective.
In the Web, after having visited a link, you can just hit the Back button to regain your context. (An aside, that’s why links that open in new windows are non-web-like.)
On this site, I do adhere to this principle for all the regular posts. However, for link-posts, I do open the post linked from the title in a new window. I do not create such posts just to share the link — for that, I would, well, just share the link on whichever platform. I generally have some comment to make on the post or the section of the post.
So in such cases, I assume the reader visiting my site wants to read my commentary. And I do not want to lose her attention by forcing her out to the linked post. If she has already read the post, great. If she hasn’t, she can do so in a new tab and then come back to the commentary.
Is it really appropriate to open a new tab on a reader’s machine just to not lose that reader? No. Shouldn’t I trust my writing to pull the reader back even if she gets redirected? Of course, yes. However, given our diminishing attention span amid the growing distracting portals all around, how practical is it to assume she will be back?