Hyperlinking: Using The Web For What It Does Best

I get together for coffee about once a month with my friend Paul. We meet at one of the local Starsbuck (is that the plural?) to engage our mutual interest in relationship marketing, sole proprietorship and middle-of-the-day time wasting.

After a couple of hours and several drinks (I don’t view it as expensive coffee, I look at it as cheap rent), I find that I invariably leave with a handful of resources that Paul has given me — people to contact, web sites to visit, books to read, etc. In many ways, this “optional additional information” extends the value of the meetings beyond the events themselves,as I go about investigating Paul’s recommendations back at my office.

And that, in a nutshell, is what hyperlinking — the act of creating a clickable link from one place (like your E-Newsletter) to another place on the web — is all about.

Hyperlinking is fundamental to the web, and in fact, it’s the reason they call it the World Wide Webin the first place. If there were no way to interconnect web pages and electronic messages, they’d call it the World Wide Collection Of Static Pages That Lead Nowhere And Between You And Me Aren’t Much Better Than Printed Pages(and we’d all have to type wwcosptlnabyamamb instead of www before entering a URL).

But I digress. The point is, as you publish your newsletter each month, you should be looking for opportunities to hyperlink.

Why? Four reasons:

1. To reinforce your position as an authority. As a professional service provider, it’s in your best interest to establish and continually reestablish yourself as an expert in whatever it is you do. When you tell your readers about people, places and resources of interest and value to them, they will come to view you as somebody who is plugged in and well informed.

2. To add a three-dimensional element to your newsletter. Even the best print publication on the planet can’t give readers instant access to additional information and resources within the context of the articles themselves. You can. If you mention a book — hyperlink! If you talk about a company — hyperlink!! If you reference something you said in one of your own past newsletters — hyperlink!!! You get the idea.

3. To give readers an opportunity to interact. Although not quite the same level of interaction as sending a comment-filled e-mail back to you, clicking on links involves readers more than just reading and (I believe) strengthens their connection with you and your publication.

4. To get a sense of what happens to your newsletter after you throw it over the wall. If you outsource the delivery of your newsletter to an e-mail vendor (as I recommended here in issue #96) you will get “click stats” — data showing which links were clicked, when they were clicked, and who clicked them. Leaps and bounds beyond what a print publisher will ever know, and extremely valuable to you in shaping content and gauging interest.

That said, a couple of thoughts on how to hyperlink effectively:

First, don’t go nuts. You’re not trying to be an encyclopedia; you’re playing the role of the informed expert. Use your knowledge of useful, interesting and relevant resources to round out what you say in the body of the newsletter.

Second, wherever possible, link directly to the piece of information in question. If you mention an article for example, don’t simply take your readers to the web site of the person who wrote it — link all the way to the article itself.

Bottom Line. Hyperlinking is easy, natural and valuable to both you and your readers. It requires no prior permission from the linked-to web page (as long as that page is open and available to anybody surfing the web), and it embodies the free, cooperative spirit upon which the web was built.


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