Are your links spreading rumors about you?

Whether it be posting links to social media or linking blog content to a page on our own website, there’s no doubt about it. Links are necessary when it comes to establishing credibility and promoting a brand whenever we engage in content development and marketing. But what are we linking to, and what do our choices say about us?

It’s easy to make the mistake of linking carelessly. In our hurry to support our arguments, provide something entertaining or just switch things up, we sometimes link to articles, videos and graphics that we might not have had we taken one more minute to examine the source. In doing so, we misrepresent ourselves.

It seems silly, right? Most of us, after all, understand what will help our brand and what will hurt it. But sometimes, we overlook the details. And as we know, that’s where the devil lives.

Given the vastness and complexity of the oft confusing content world, we at All Things Writing find it helpful to use guidelines when selecting linkable material. Here are some basics that should keep you out of trouble and help you promote your business effectively.

Check the URL. This is the number one rule to follow, even if you ignore the rest (which you shouldn’t). Don’t link to sketchy sites or sites with URLs that come up as potential security risks. You can check a URL’s safety by using this tool from Google. Also look at the URL’s name. Some URLs, even if they are attached to valid sites with decent content, can be unprofessional, inappropriate or downright offensive. Your readers just might look at the URLs.

Check the validity. “If it’s on the Internet, it must be true.” Well…no. Don’t assume anything is true without researching it further, especially if you are posting about something outside your area of expertise. Compare and contrast what different sites have to say on a particular subject. Use a credible site such as Snopes to avoid spreading hoaxes, erroneous information and urban legends.

Check the ads. If you are linking to a website or video that is sponsored by ads, be sure the ads are aligned with your sense of appropriateness and your intent. For example, you don’t necessarily want to link to a site advertising fast food when you’re promoting diet and exercise (unless you’re telling your audience what NOT to eat). Or if you’re blogging objectively about a product, you might not want to link to a site that has political ads, as these can be controversial and distract your audience from what you are trying to accomplish. Remember, some people could assume that not only are you endorsing the source, you’re endorsing the ads.

Check the wording. If your source’s content is overly dense, vague or confusing, avoid linking to it. Highly technical terms, acronyms and exceptionally long sentences can be turnoffs. Don’t forget the point of linking is to support your ideas and brand, and that can’t be done when what you are linking to is incomprehensible. Clear, concise, well-thought-out content is always the best choice.

Check the tone. Tone is the way a content creator expresses attitude. Do you hear extreme emotionalism in the content creator’s approach? Does that emotionalism support or contradict what you are trying to say? How about humor? Is the humor appropriate to the topic? Don’t ruin your own reputation over someone else’s tone. 

Check the mechanics. If you find a site or graphic that has good information but also has grammatical, spelling or typographical errors, don’t use it. Many readers pay attention to such things, and you don’t want to be connected with a source that has less than professionally written content.

As content developers and content marketers, we recognize that working through this checklist every time you need to link to a source can be time consuming and complex. We also know there’s an art and a science to finding links that really support you and your brand. If you’re overwhelmed, talk to us. We can come up with a plan to relieve your content woes and give you back some precious hours as we market your business. Email Services@AllThingsWritingLLC.com directly, or use the form below. Align your content with success!

-Katherine Gotthardt, CEO

Katherine Gotthardt, CEO

Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed., writing concentration, has been writing, editing and teaching for more than twenty years. For the past ten years, she has focused on content development and content marketing for small to mid-size businesses, writing and disseminating material that increases client visibility while supporting their brand. Besides being published in dozens of journals, Katherine has authored five books: Poems from the Battlefield, Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, Approaching Felonias Park, Weaker Than Water and Bury Me Under a Lilac. Learn more about her creative life at www.KatherineGotthardt.com.