Stop Not Linking

The practice of dancing around attributing sources by either not linking them or by linking them only in a special ‘sources’ area tucked away at the bottom of a post drives me nuts.

Jim Dalrymple of The Loop tweeted about this issue and it got me fired up all over again.

I personally always, always try to link early and often throughout any sourced piece that I write. I’m not perfect, so I do miss links once in a while, but I attempt to correct them whenever possible. It’s only the right thing to do. We have a link section at the bottom over at TNW but I very, very rarely use it. I suppose I should duplicate the source links at the bottom of the post, but I feel that an inline link clearly attributed to the source so that it’s not a mystery is the best way to go.

Not one word, not a bit of punctuation, but either on the name of the site you’re referencing or a portion of the text that is clearly an indication that ‘more information exists here’.

There is only one reason why you wouldn’t link right in the body of your text, as far as I’m concerned: you don’t want people to click on it.

Placing the links at the bottom of the post drives next to no traffic. We’ve heard this anecdotally and been told it by sources that we’ve linked to. I don’t speak for everyone who writes at TNW but I can say that on the very first day that I started here I was told by our CEO Zee and Brad, now our Managing Editor, to make sure to link early in any post that contained information from a source. In the first paragraph if at all possible.

So that’s what I do. I offer a link early in the post, clearly defined and visible. I also attempt to only pull out what information is necessary to build thoughts and context off of and, when appropriate, indicate that readers should visit the source to read more information.

If I feel I can’t add anything to the post, I will share it in other ways. Perhaps tweeting from my personal account or sharing via the appropriate channel account on the site as a ‘recommended read’.

We’re working on better ways to pass along interesting content that we feel is worth reading in a more direct fashion, similar to a ‘linked list’ item like the ones Jim uses, but we’re not there yet. Whatever it ends up being, its primary goal will be to drive traffic outwards.

This isn’t to say that this type of ‘inline’ linking is the only way to go, but making the source of the post very, very obvious in some way is a must.

In the end, you have to have some sense of your self worth and the benefit of what you’re bringing to the story, or the story isn’t worth writing about at all. If you’re sourcing someone and not providing an inline link, it’s because you fear that your readers will go there and not come back because you added nothing to the conversation.

If you truly believe that what you’re writing is worthwhile then you’ll trust that your readers will come back to you the next time you have something to share. So please, start sharing more liberally and encouraging your readers to view the source materials if they feel that they want to, without making them dig for them.

They will appreciate it and, if you’re honest and passionate, they will still happily read what you have to say. You are not diminished by the fact that other people have original thoughts as well.

Link early, link often.