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 It is no longer valid to cre­ate con­tent for the sake of the back-link alone, yet con­tent is still writ­ten this way.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