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 It is no longer valid to create content for the sake of the back-link alone, yet content is still written this way.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.



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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