I know inline linking is important, I do it all the time and I understand how it helps keep the information flow going and aids the user journey from one site to another or between two sites.
But what I’m really wondering is, and I’m thinking here about the person reading the article and not the money I might make from ads or the Juice I’ll get from Google – does linking long bits of text cause problems for novice users and skim readers?
The research also found that people read around 20% of the text on an average page and that they will spend some of the limited time on the page working out navigation and looking for images.
I’m not convinced this is people only reading the first 20% of the article, although they are more likely to be reading the first 20% properly – I think it is people reading the first few paragraphs and then skimming through the rest.
I don’t mind people skimming my articles, when I’m writing for the BBC I’ll write with all the main information in the first four paragraphs and then expand underneath that.
The idea there is that people can get everything they need to know about the article by just reading the first 70 words or so – but I prefer to be able to write more conversationally on my blog.
Having to tell a story within four paragraphs and then being able to continue it after that makes it a lot harder to write in a conversational way – it’s no impossible, just more difficult.
So, if you do decide to do what I’ve done on my blog and attempt to hold people for longer, to converse with them throughout the post and try to keep their attention – you need to be careful about post clutter.
When I add an image to this blog I always make sure it is aligned to the right, that keeps the left hand side clear for text.
I’ll try to put sub-headings into very long posts to break it down and make it easier to skip through bits you’r not bothered about, or even to get a ‘rough idea’ of what’s going on.
I try to write very short paragraphs, ideally no more than one point per paragraph to make skim reading even easier.
And I’ll make sure any body links are clearly identified – brighter blue, bold and or underlined.
But that is what made me come up with the idea for this blog post.
I was reading a post the other day, can’t remember exactly what I where it was but I know it had a very long body link.
This link was spot on for Google Juice etc, it linked the explanation of the site it was linking to – it explained why it existed.
Unfortunately I nearly missed half the paragraph of text because my brain has been trained, over years of internet use to skip the link.
I just didn’t notice it and my brain just automatically stopped read at the last word before the link and picked it up with the first word after the linked text.
Here is an example of an SEO friendly link taking you to a Facebook group asking if a sausage roll can get more fans than Cheryl Cole that has nothing to do with this post but should help explain my point.
If your brain works anything like mine it would have read ‘link taking you to a …. that has nothing to do’ filling in the bit in between with the word group.
So the question I’ve been asking myself is – does long body linking cause problems for skim readers?