Learn How To Link (and Trackback)

Whether you call it the Internet, the Net, the World Wide Web, the Web, CyberSpace, or even the Intarwebs, one thing is clear: this place is composed of several different websites connected through hyperlinks. Without links, we won’t be able to move from one website to another. Since blogging is a subset of the online world, it is important to realize the value of linking.

Why You Should Link

No man is an island. Similarly, your blog must not be all alone in the blogosphere or the rest of the Web. Chances are you’ll write about a website or a news story you found online, so why not link to it? Chances are you’re going to meet new blogging friends and colleagues, so why not link to them? And chances are you’re going to mention a previous post related to what you’re writing right now, so why not make it easier for your readers to read that other post as well?

You stand a better chance getting linked to when you link to others. And when you get more links, more people can find you, whether through blogs, search engines, or any other type of website.

How To Link

I can hear the seasoned bloggers scoffing in the background, but you’ll be surprised to see people who don’t know how to link properly. All they do is just paste a URL alongside the paragraph they’ve made. Not every piece of blogging software out there turns URLs into clickable links. And if they don’t, your readers have to highlight the URL, copy, and paste it in the browser address bar. That’s a lot more tedious and a lot less user-friendly than a simple click. It also shows how unsavvy you are with computers, to think that linking is one of the more trivial tasks when blogging. Worse, long URLs can break your blog layout and are just plain ugly to look at. Shortened URLs (like those from TinyURL, URLTea, SnipURL, RURL) aren’t pleasant either, since they’re not descriptive of the website at all.

I’ve pretty much covered all the reasons you shouldn’t just leave a URL in a blog post as is, so here’s the proper way to do it:

  1. Select the text you want to link.
  2. If you’re using a WYSIWYG editor, click on the button in the toolbar that looks like a chain, in other words, a link. A dialog box will popup and will ask you to enter the URL for the link text. Type it in (or paste it in), then hit OK.
  3. If you’re using an HTML-based editor, you probably know how to create links. Nevertheless, the idea is to surround your text with an opening and closing “anchor” tag:<a href="http://theurlofthesite.com">the link text</a>The same concept can be applied to other types of markup such as BBCode, Textile, or Markdown. Refer to their pages for more details.

Hints to Make Your Links More Effective

Make your blog more accessible and search engine-friendly by using descriptive text for your links. Avoid using “click”, “click here”, “here”, “visit this”, “link”, or similarly cold text.

You can set the tooltip/title text for a link by adding the title attribute to the HTML code:

<a href="http://theurlofthesite.com" title="Title of the Site">the link text</a>

In WYSIWYG editors, there’s most likely a secondary field that lets you enter the title of the link.

Linking images in posts is similar to linking text. For WYSIWYG editors, just click on the image to select it. For HTML editors, just surround the HTML code for the image with the anchor tag:

<a href="http://theurlofthesite.com" title="Title of the Site"><img src="path/to/image.file.extension" alt="description of image" /></a>

Learn more about the use of title and alt attributes to optimize your pages.

Remember the Format

The proper format of a URL is

http://www.site.com

As I mentioned before in my post about adding your blog to blog directories, the “www” may or may not be required, and no “@” symbols are included in URLs. You should always check whether the URL you’ve used is loading properly since you’re hinting at your readers to go visit it.

What is Trackbacking?

A trackback is a system that notifies a blogger that one of his posts is being linked by the blog that sent him the trackback and vice versa. It is a very neat way of automatically letting people know you’ve mentioned them or quoted them on your blog—that you exist.

All you have to do is link to the trackback URL of the post you want to discuss (sometimes it is the same as the original post URL) and when your post is published, the author of the post you trackbacked is notified.

To trackback this post, copy the URL of this post and link to it in a blog post. Then come back to this page and see your very own trackback!

Go Forth and Hyperlink

Now that I’ve mentioned ways you can link the very simple process of linking, I hope you start linking properly from now on!