We’ve talked about outbound links. But we’re generally talking about highly intentional links: the list of partners or resources, the well-placed link to another page on your site, the link to source a reference.
There’s another type of outbound link that you see around. As we experiment with affiliate marketing, we’re gaining more experience with these. The ad link.
I don’t know about you, but when I see an article peppered with links, I assume it’s not worth reading and leave immediately.
Just for you, though, I actually looked for one and clicked through to the links. Sure enough, they took me to ads for flat irons, master’s degrees in unlikely subjects from shady places, and implausible patent medicines.
The article itself is fairly content-free, being simply a vehicle for the links, written by someone being paid scarcely enough to make it worth typing actual words, let alone putting any thought into it.
And yet here’s a passage from my educational blog with just as many links. Am I being hypocritical here?
Not at all. Here are the differences:
- The links aren’t random, but are actually things people might want more information about. In the first example, “how to” is linked, and “prevent,” and “seal.” In the second example, the linked terms are things like the titles of books and the names of individuals or sites offering relevant resources.
- The links are also predictable. I don’t remember whether it was “how to,” “prevent,” or “seal” that went to an ad for flat irons, but a reader couldn’t discern the goal of the link and decide to go based on her knowledge of the destination and decision to go there. In the second example, a reader might think, “What’s a Pocket Chart?” and click on “Pocket Chart.” If she does, she’s going to go to a Pocket Chart. “Vicki Blackwell” takes the visitor to Vicki Blackwell’s collection of links about the book being discussed in this sentence. No one is going to be lost or surprised.
- The links aren’t all ads. Or, indeed, even mostly ads. Most of the links at this page go to free resources and sources of further information. A visitor doesn’t end up feeling as though the page is a minefield of ads.
And I think that’s the bottom line: if you have a useful page with valuable content and links people will also find useful, you’re fine. If you’re not providing something to benefit your reader — if the page is only about the ads — then you’re doing it wrong.