A hyperlink is that underlined blue (or whatever color) text in an article or web page that when clicked on, leads to another article or web page. As simple as that sounds, many blogs and online publications get hyperlinking wrong, or don't do it as effectively as they could. Here are the five biggest mistakes in hyperlinking, why they're mistakes, and what's the right way to do things:
- Poor Referencing - Ever click on a link, and have it take you somewhere different from what you expected? Or come across a hyperlink that seems nonsensical? Either of those are the result of poor referencing. Hyperlinking should be used to reference a web page or an article, so make sure that it leads the reader to a source or a complimentary web page. Too many blog and online magazines hyperlink for the sake of building internal links, so these links go to web pages that may not necessarily benefit the reader.
- Linking to Useless Wikipedia Pages - Many also hyperlink to Wikipedia pages, which should not be done unless you are referencing that page as a source for information. There's really no need to reference the Missouri Wikipedia page, for example, just because you mention the state. Most people know what Missouri is, especially if your target audience is Missourians or St. Louisans. As an alternative to hyperlinking to the Wikipedia page, hyperlink to another article of your own that's about that topic. So, instead of the Missouri page, a previous article that was about the state or referenced the state would be much more beneficial to readers while boosting your own internal linking.
- Too Much Hyperlinking - This mistake is committed in two ways: by hyperlinking big chunks of text, or by having too many hyperlinks in one article or web page. Too much hyperlinking is bad because it looks horrible, and it lessens the value of each individual hyperlink. Never ever hyperlink more than a a sentence, although phrases (especially keywords or phrases) are more preferable. Keep the number of hyperlinks to one or two per paragraph. This keeps the paragraph readable, and the hyperlink interesting.
- Poor Anchor Text - Anchor text are the words that are hyperlinked, and "click here" is some of the worst anchor text out there. It's not all that descriptive of where the link leads. Also, poor anchor text is bad for search engine optimization, as you waste a valuable opportunity to hyperlink a keyword or phrase. No one ever types "click here" into the search engine box. Even if someone did, it would be tough to have whatever page is linked to be considered a relevant result for that keyword. And similar to number three, really bad anchor text would also be a full quotation that's a few sentences long. Hardly anyone ever searches several sentences or full paragraphs.
- Incomplete Anchor Text - This is another mistake that simply looks terrible. Incomplete anchor text is when the anchor text doesn't include all of the word, or include the space at the beginning or the end of the text. Bloggers and publications may do this for the sake of SEO (in order to hyperlink an exact key phrase), but it just looks sloppy and unprofessional to the reader. Yes, SEO is important, but shouldn't come to the detriment of the reader experience.
Bloggers and online publications need to understand that their readers are their customers. If they don't put their readers first, then they won't last very long because a blog or an online magazine isn't much without readers. These hyperlinking mistakes ruin the reader experience, and will drive them away instead of engage them in your content. Fixing them, and doing what's best, will improve the reader experience, keep them around longer, and attract new readers in the long run by building a quality reputation.