“…that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the links and anchors of outrageous writers, or…” you get the idea.
When it comes to blogging, you want your readers to feel adequately informed as they read. If you cite an outside source, or want to send readers somewhere else on your site for more information, a hyperlink makes sense. But can a link sometimes be more than just a link? Are your links building your reputation with your readers and customers? Or are your links acting like a hurdle that readers are struggling over?
In 2007, UCLA professor Gary Small ran tests on subjects’ brain activity while searching the internet for reading topics. Subjects that were considered seasoned Googlers and internet power-users experienced high levels of brain activity, more so than their relatively inexperienced internet surfing counterparts. Almost a week later, after the inexperienced participants were asked to spend an hour every day searching the web, the same tests were run again, and the then-inexperienced surfers displayed higher brain activity levels—measurements similar to the group of experienced internet power-users.
The conclusion: human brains are able to adapt to the internet’s distraction-inducing formats and environments in less than a week. Great news, right? Not so fast, says Professor Small: “The current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate, but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains.” Scary stuff when you think about it. I promise I’m not trying to rewire your brain or anything, but you can check out the full story, along with other similar studies and their unsettling conclusions here, courtesy of Wired.com.
For businesses managing their own content optimization and content strategy, this is important to keep in mind. An article from 2008 directly from Google themselves said that “linking out happens naturally” and that relevant links are helpful and foster credibility between your visitors and your business. They go on to say, however, that you really can have too much of a good thing: loading up on links in your blog posts is confusing to readers, can damage your credibility, and invites spam comment bots from outside your website—which can get you roped into “bad neighborhoods” of websites that Google’s algorithms will steer searchers away from.
Google still sticks by that concept to this day. SEO copywriting professionals are still receiving notices and updates from Google saying that they need to watch out for stuffing links and using cheap, automated search engine optimization services. Google’s Webmaster Tools software will warn you that crummy, overabundant linking, even if it isn’t done by a robot, may cause your website to be penalized by Google’s PageRank algorithms, resulting in the exact opposite result of what you were hoping for in the first place.
So, to link or not to link? If that’s your question, “sparingly” is your answer. Be smart, link responsibly, and most importantly, don’t distract your readers!!