Updated January 2024
There's a tendency in this link-happy world we're living in to include loads of links in your online text. And don't get me wrong -- I love links. But you need to use them wisely. Too many links create a sort of link fatigue, and many readers just ignore them altogether.
How to get the most from links
1. Link to improve understanding or deepen knowledge.
Linking to examples, explanations or data the audience needs to have a full understanding of the concept keeps them engaged (increasing time on page!) and supports them in their information gathering and decision making. CAUTION: Too many contextual links can exhaust your reader (or just get ignored). Think about offering some of this information inline or creating a glossary or FAQ. This also is a good way to link relevant archival content.
2. Link to give access to downloadable tools and resources.
A link to download related content (clearly marked as such) has a higher likelihood of getting a click-through. Example: Download our 12 tips to be a better writer. This is another way to leverage older content that remains timely. TIP: It's also useful to link folks to customer service reps or engaging discussions happening in your community forums.
3. Link to promote partners and advertisers.
If you don't mind giving visitors an excuse to leave your site, a few strategic links to partners and advertisers can add value to your content. If you're talking about a product you love, including a link (or affiliate link, so marked), makes a lot of sense and doesn't feel pushy. We like this example from food writer Mark Bittman (below). CAUTIONS: Linking to other sites reduces time on site, and external links to sales pages can be a real turn-off.
Remember, If the link is of value to them (really, not in your own mind), then put it in. If not, skip it.