A long time ago in a land far, far away, Web searchers linked to content that they liked and found useful. It was a utopia of sorts, one where users tried to pass on the most relevant content for a query. And then, the great Google discovered what was going on. It observed user’s linking patterns and used these mythical blue words (aka links) as a signal that the linked to-page was relevant for the terms used to describe it. And this worked for about 30 seconds a little bit. And then it went to hell. Pretty soon marketers, social media experts and SEO gurus began using links in other, sometimes seedier ways. To help you recognize these new creatures, I thought I’d break down some of the link types most commonly used in social media and on blogs.
You may already be familiar with some of them. Because, well, we’ve all used them. :) I’m sure you’ll let me know if I missed any.
The “Pay No Attention To My Anchor Text” Link
As bloggers and marketers, sometimes we’re forced to shamelessly link to our highest-converting commercial pages with near keyword-stuffed anchor text. It’s the branding post that just so happens to link to your SEO consulting Services page (what?) or the [cherry kitchen cabinets wholesale Austin, TX] anchor text that smacks people in the face. In moderation, audiences are fine to turn a blind eye to these things. However, use them too often and they’re likely to start sending you envelopes stuffed with $5 bills to help you through whatever financial crisis you’re obviously in the middle of.
The “I’m The Expert On Everything” Link
You spend two hours crafting a meaty blog post on your favorite marketing tactic, one that you’ve written about quite a bit over the past few years. The post contains 25 links pointing readers to additional information. Oddly, every one of those links goes back to content located on your own site. It’s obvious you’re the Queen of your own jungle because, in your eyes, you’re the only one even in the jungle. I mean, who needs third-party resources or other experts anyway? You’ve got this.
The “I Think I’m Hilarious” Link
Here the link has nothing to do with the actual post, offers no real insight and doesn’t do anything to advance the conversation. It’s simply there to get a laugh. It looks like this. Or this. And sometimes that. Under the best circumstances, these links make readers giggle and insert needed comic relief into your post. Other times they dumb down your content and make people want to punch you in the face. Actually, it’s mostly the latter.
The “Please Notice Me” Link
You wake up feeling a bit low on yourself and decide that a retweet from someone important, someone like Robert Scoble, is what you need to make things better. So you craft a post that links out to every Internet Famous person with a Twitter account in the hope that someone will throw you a bone and say your name in public. Of course, that bone never comes, but that doesn’t stop you from linking to Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, Jason Calacanis, Dave Winer and even pretty Ashton Kutcher from the same post.
The “Look! I HAZ FRIENDS!” Link
On the Web it’s easy to see who hangs in the same clique. In high school cliques were identified by unofficial wardrobe uniforms. On the Web, they’re identified by incestuous linking. It doesn’t take much to spot the bromances and love fests that occur when the same five people link to the same five people every week. I mean, how many times can we link to Michael Gray before you tell me to make new friends? I guess we’ll find out.
The “I Want To Date Him/Her” Link
Speaking of high school…back then you pushed the girls you liked. On the Web, you link to them. You link to them with the hope that at some point they’ll notice you and talk to you in person (read: Twitter. No one talks in person anymore). It is with this hope that you spend your day linking to and tweeting at Pete Cashmore, Sarah Austin, Chris Pearson, iJustine, Julia Roy and even Justin Bieber when you’re really desperate. You hold out hope t hat if you could just engage in them in a single conversation they’ll see that you’re meant to be. And then there will be #z0mgbabies!
The “I Wrote This Post Solely To Use This Link” Link
Okay, these are actually some of my favorite posts. This post type happen as a result of too much time spent cruising YouTube, Reddit or other clever social media sites. The deal is here is that you stumble across so awesome that you then create an entire post around the link drop. Sometimes the post has a point, sometimes it doesn’t and it’s clear you just wanted to mention your link. Either way, it doesn’t matter. You wrote that post so you could drop that link and you’re going to do it. These posts are like unicorns because they hark back to the days when links really were about sharing content you were excited about.
The “I Feel Dirty But I May Need Some Votes Next Week” Link
You’re not overly excited (or even comfortable) sharing the link but you do it anyway to ensure certain people will pass on your content next week. It kind of gives you hives and your audience now feels like they need a shower, but its business and social media. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. It’s peer pressure without the funky beer aftertaste. It’s also why content standards are as low as they are.
The “Matt Cutts Is My Homeboy” Link
By linking to Matt Cutts you show Google (and the world) that you are an honest marketer who would never buy a link, manipulate a result or do anything else Google would disapprove of. To really drive this point home, you also post a photo of yourself and Matt mugging it up for the camera during a recent conference. This proves that Matt is obviously your best friend.
Okay, this is a safe place. What other types of links have you created on the Web? Or if not you, then your “friends”? We won’t tell.
About the Author
Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.