Use Links to Quickly Ruin a Blog Post

Stop putting links in your blog posts. It’s not helping your cause. The ability to put a hyperlink in text is amazing. Use a word that someone does not know or some slang that is not commonly understood yet and you can link to a page that significantly explains it. Maybe you are putting in a shoutout to a brand that you are partnered with or to a friend that helped you write the post or edit it. There are plenty of good reasons to put links into your post but the negatives outweigh the positives.

Have you thought about what your brain does or how your thoughts change when you see a link? It’s not good. If you’re writing about anything that is significant, I’d think you don’t want to break your reader’s concentration, whether it’s for a brand, an explanation, or something else. It’s not worth it. Every time we come across a word with a hyperlink in it, our brains need to pause and consider whether to click it or not. Usually we don’t realize what’s happening but it happens and slows down our reading speads considerably. Not only does it slow us down, it hurts our comprehension and retention.

You may have heard that humans are not very good at multitasking. It’s true, we suck even when we think otherwise. When you sit down and read something and in the middle of it you need to determine if you should click a link or not, you are forcing yourself to multitask. You are going from trying to put all the pieces together that an author is laying out for you to evaluating something else entirely. Maybe you’re evaluating if you understand this term well enough to continue reading or you’re evaluating if you want to read a related story. Either way, it detracts from the reading experience.

And authors think the links are helping them. How many times have you seen a writer mention a previous post he/she has made and they link to it right there. It kills me! It’s like the author doesn’t even want the reader to finish a single post. If the point of the link is for the reader to click it then the author essentially wants the reader to read lots of little pieces of posts until there is finally a post with no links. Maybe this will mean more people will read more stories. This is great if all you want is viewers but if you actually care about what you’re writing about then you’re not helping yourself.

Nicholas Carr wrote a great book called “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.” In it, he spends a bit of time talking about hyperlinks and says, “They encourage us to dip in and out of a series of texts rather than devote sustained attention to any one of them.”

Carr also cites multiple studies where one group of people was asked to read a text from a book and another set of people was asked to read that same text online with hyperlinks. The group with hyperlinks reported that the story was confusing and said they had difficulty reading it and retaining the purpose of the story. The readers even said the author jumped quickly from point to point without much connection. Carr goes on to say that, “The medium used to present the words obscured the meaning of the words.”

So what do we use instead of hyperlinks? My preference is footnotes. Footnotes look much more academic and professional. They don’t demand that the reader look down at the bottom to see what the note is but instead politely inform the reader that there is further commentary. Whatever the alternative is, make sure there is one. Unless you simply care about views of your pages and not the views you present in them, steer clear of hyperlinks.

Published 7 Jan 2015

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