We still write as if people will read our work in print, but they don’t — they read on glass screens. As a result, you should include links in everything you write, from emails to reports. It will make your writing shorter and more powerful.
The versatility of links
As a blogger, I use links all the time. Once you realize how versatile they are, you become addicted. How many of these types of links do you use?
- Footnote-type links. A link to an article lets people check what you’re writing or go deeper — and they let you deliver traffic to somebody worth supporting.
- Calls to action. If you’re doing content marketing, you’ll want it to pay off in commerce, subscriptions, or some similar value.
- Internal links to showcase your value. My blog is a network of related content. My links reveal the value I’m trying to deliver.
- Easter eggs. Reward your readers with something fun if they click.
- Intranet links. In internal documents and emails, link to content on your intranet so you don’t have to include it.
- Opposing viewpoints. Links allow you to refer to an argument without getting into it.
- Canned searches. People forget that if you can type it in a browser window, you can put it in a link — including a link to a search.
I know links improve SEO. But I’m about meaning. Include links because they make your writing better — any SEO benefit just a nice plus.
The true value of links is brevity
Links give your readers a choice. They can go find out more if they want, or they can take you at your word. This bolsters the Iron Imperative: treat your reader’s time as more valuable than your own.
But it’s not just about your reader. It’s about your writing.
Your objective should be to write as briefly as possible. You can make your case quickly and powerfully without the distraction of side issues, details, or “special case”-type counterarguments.
Once you embrace the discipline of linking, your writing will become as tight as it can get. This makes a dramatic difference in the power of your writing.
The moment you think “but I should also talk about” — unless it’s central to your argument, use a link.
To change your link thinking, start with email
You use links in your blog posts, Web copy, and social media posts. But do you use them in emails? It’s simple: just press Control-K (Command-K on a Mac) and type a URL. You’ll end up with shorter and more powerful emails that more people read and act on.
Do you use links in memos? Reports? PDF documents? Control-K works in most authoring systems — use it.
It’s your choice. You could include all the extra detail, on the theory that your reader is reading in print, and bog down the impatient on-screen reader. Or you could assume they’re reading on-screen, and know that the few people who read in print can always come back to the links in the online version. That’s a better experience for more readers. And it will make you a better, tighter writer, too.