The Day of the Discerning Link (Value & Relevance)

The discerning link

Today, readers (and Google) are more discern­ing than they’ve ever been before, and the only way to build an online presence that lasts is to create content that’s designed to offer genuine value and relev­ance” ~ Julia McCoy Search Engine Journal

Article market­ing is today effect­ively no longer a valid strategy. It is no longer valid to create content for the sake of the back-link alone, yet content is still written this way. The reason Google is becom­ing more discern­ing is because of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine it uses, aimed at making its results more appro­pri­ate to the reader. Expect this search engine to become smarter and more in-tune with reader needs in the future.

 

Content Needs

Content needs to add value these days this is the message McCoy is telling us and this needs to be engaging and of high quality. A writer’s aims should be to provide:

  • Well written content that engages the reader.
  • Longer articles, some longer than 2500 words.
  • Provides discern­ing and relev­ant links.
  • Informative lists.
  • Content with great visuals.
  • Pieces that satis­fy your target audience.
  • Promoted and sponsored content

There are some import­ant lessons here for writers to learn in respect of the changing world of on-line content. The sooner we learn the better we will become (and hopefully the more readers we will attract). I have already addressed the question of engaging the reader and talked about how tantal­iz­ing titles get into the reader’s mind in related posts.

 

Target Audience?

Who is your target reader? That is a good question. For a long time I believed that anybody who would happen to read your page as the target audience. Today I’m less sure that is true because people are more discern­ing.

You have to be more specif­ic with who you target and who you advert­ise your post to, they repres­ent a specif­ic demograph­ic. You must build relation­ships with them to devel­op them as a reader. Of course there is always a collat­er­al group who are not part of that set. If you look through your social media contacts you will find that each has known interests, some but not all, will overlap with yours.

Do they fit with what you are writing about? If they do, you may wish to pay special atten­tion to these people, mention them or perhaps even email them when publi­cising your latest work. No one post will not be of interest to every­body you’re connec­ted to. This is a fact and there is nothing we can do about this. They may have read what you posted last week but this week’s post has zero interest.

Don’t question it, just accept it. This is a fact of life.

 

Short or Long Posts?

It has long been clear that posts under 300 words are unaccept­able to the search engines, yet a great number of writers live on the verge of being too short with every contri­bu­tion. They write 325 to 400 words, then follow that post with anoth­er a short while later that discusses anoth­er aspect of the very same subject. I have always believed it is better to write a single post of 900 words than three posts of 300 words, especially if well struc­tured. The reason is simple, the reader can follow the logic of each argument, tracing it through as the article proceeds. You are better off present­ing three arguments togeth­er than separ­ately.

This is a question I will return to in the future.

 

Providing Relevant Visuals

Visual images have two impacts, they add power to the words used and they can give addition­al inform­a­tion in a visual form. A large part of the power of an image is the intro­duc­tion of white space around the text. The white space around the text will give the eye and the mind time to pause, think, appraise, then move on. This aids under­stand­ing. Thus white space allows readers to appre­ci­ate your article more. In the case of this image the reader may take time to contem­plate growth or improve­ment.

Author Cheryl Kaye Tardif believes “white space helps the reader process the inform­a­tion in the story/work, gives their eyes a break and keeps them inter­ested.” Allowing the reader to look at each page as if it a work of art. To my mind this is especially true if your writing is complex or technic­al in nature, or where the subject matter can be considered boring. Writers must invent ways to build atten­tion.

 

The Discerning Link

The meaning of discern­ing is having or showing good judge­ment. This is true for links you make in your article. It is possible to have every word link to anoth­er site, but inadvis­able, and not very discern­ing — certainly not helpful to the reader. As McCoy states: “the only way to build an online presence that lasts is to create content that’s designed to offer genuine value and relev­ance.” Value and relev­ance are always vital. It’s not just what we say but the things we show our readers that matter includ­ing: images; data; facts; and the links or mater­i­al others make avail­able. Links provide author­ity, backing for your words.

Think about this for a moment you’re not going to provide a link that disproves what you say. The link you provide should give extra author­ity, like calling on Einstein to prove your words. The hope is the link will empower the reader’s engage­ment. For example you can highlight two or three words with a hyper­link, almost as if it is part of the format­ting of your post. In theory, you are encour­aging your reader to leave your page, but they rarely do. You should ensure links always open on anoth­er page, this way the reader is able to read the other page and return to yours later.

They still have to come back to yours to close it and most likely they will contin­ue reading.

 

Adding Value and Advertising 

Links should always add value not merely be about advert­ising or sponsor­ship. Savvy bloggers are looking for sponsor­ship and advert­ising on the subject. They do it so they can earn money from their pages which should be applauded. But advert­ising should not be the main reason for the post.
The need for advert­ising and the need to earn money should not outweigh the need to give valuable inform­a­tion. Advertising earns money because of the value of inform­a­tion provided, it is easy to lose sight of this. Posts that are too heavy on advert­ising will be considered spam by the reader who will have every excuse not to come to your site in the future. Stopping people from leaving your site is also wrong.

Relevance of Links

discerning questionHow do you determ­ine relev­ance? If your blog post is going to write about the new cake recipe then it seems the types of links you may include would logic­ally be about the nutri­tion­al value or the ingredi­ents used. Other links relat­ing the event being celeb­rated (e.g. Christmas or Lent) may also be valid. Truth is unrelated sites can sometimes add value to the reader as well.

According to Harsh Agrawal your outbound links “give search engines a clear idea about your blog because of relev­ant links” and offers a way to also build relation­ships with bloggers in the same niche.

 

Related Posts

On other sites I have always added a section at the end of my post giving links to either recent or related mater­i­al and have found over time that this brings addition­al views, people read the post they origin­ally came to the site to read, then they stayed often reading two or three other posts.

When I fist opened GobbledeGoox I omitted to do this as by default WordPress will show links to five other posts on the page (next, previ­ous, and three related posts, in the same or related categor­ies). I have learnt my lesson, now most posts I produce have related posts. The problem with WordPress defaults is that they only show recent posts where­as the most applic­able link may be 6 months, or more, old, yet still very relev­ant.

Related posts can certainly be considered discern­ing links and every blog post should have a list of related pieces in my humble view. These don’t have to only be on your blog, they can link to related posts you have written elsewhere. The key word here is ‘related’. If you run a bakery site then related posts to an Apple Pie recipe are other pie recipes or other baked goods contain­ing apples, not bread, or equip­ment reviews.

 

Conclusion

Gone are the days when a blogger had to link in order to get noticed. Generally, if you quote anoth­er writer, it is good manners to link to their post. You should link to other posts you have created in the past about this subject, this can keep visit­ors around for a little longer as you grow a relation­ship with them. Links should be relev­ant, e.g. cover the same subject matter as your current work.

 

Related Material

 

 

Buy Peter B. Giblett a coffee as thanks looking at the subject of the value links bring to your blog. How discern­ing are the ones you use? The images included here are from royalty free public domain image collec­tions, photo­graphs from Pixabay, or from Peter Giblett’s person­al collec­tion.

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