The Perils of Redundant Linking

Sometimes I’ll write a post, and I’ll mention something twice. Often it’s my wonderful camera, a Canon Rebel XTi. And then I wonder: should I make the text a link twice? In the Rebel XTi case, it’s a link to (an evil affiliate link). Sometimes, the link will be with different text, or in an entirely different context than the first, though it goes to the same page. That could be linking to Glass Drops once while talking about night photography, and then again when discussing raindrops, in the same article.

I’ve noticed other people doing this, and I’m finding it ever more annoying. I’ve found there are two approaches to double-linking:

1. Link redundantly, because your readers will be annoyed and confused that your talking about a subject so much but not linking to it, if they missed the first link. Or do it to really get people to click your affiliate link. More commonly, readers scan your content rather than reading closely. Either they scan by default, or find your writing useless. To accommodate that group, you have to mention important stuff as many times as possible and hope it won’t be missed. Your writing for the unengaged rather than the engaged, and your putting the wrong ones first.

2. Don’t link redundantly, because you choose to cater to thorough rather than casual readers. Readers who take in every word and click every link in perfect succession. Readers who will be annoyed and confused if they find the same page twice in their tab bar after a work-out session with the scroll button. I click every link if I like what I’m reading, because I know the author will have good recommendations about the topic. And I’ve been finding it quite disconcerting when a good author is type 1.

I’ve decided to abandon double-linking because my audience should be type 2 rather than type 1. This goes along with blogging selectively and writing insightful, comprehensive articles rather than shallow, fleeting posts. Stuff like Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Value rather than a Quick Post on HDR. Stuff that’s unbelievably useful rather than unbelievably useless. Gold rather than garbage.

I don’t mind redundant links outside of a single post. Even if the same links are in the categories list or header, it’s okay, because that content is generally fixed and largely ignored. A contextual link going to the same place is fine, because it adds to the content of the article, unlike saying “check the sidebar.” The problem also is that the header and sidebar are expensive places, because they show up on every page. I can’t be sure how long a link will stay there. If its value is transient it can’t stay up once the value is gone. There is no space for clutter. A services link is still worthwhile now, but in three months I may stop taking commissions entirely, and “check the header for services” would be out of date. The other problem is that it’s better to show than to tell. A direct link is always better than saying “see here” or “search Google.”

Within a single post, Type 1 linking just doesn’t bode with this style at all. It’s fine if you don’t value your readers’ time and assume they don’t read what you write. If you assume no one’s reading, it will come true, because you’ll start writing stuff that’s valuable to no one. But if you’re writing for the heart first, and profit second, it just doesn’t work. Type 2 is the only way to go.