I’ve been thinking a lot about hyperlinks lately. You're probably asking: “How can anyone possibly think about hyperlinks, much less write about them in an inspiring way?”
I’m going to give it my best shot – because using hyperlinks properly is crucial, if you want your website or blog to be considered really important.
The creative use of hyperlinks can turn your website or blog from a flat, “just the facts, ma’am” brochure-type site, into a rich, vibrant informational port: a site that people will want to visit again and again; a place they will visit whenever they want to learn about the latest, or the “last word,” in your area of expertise. And once they consider your website a “go-to place,” they’ll consider YOU to be “THE expert.”
In my posting on “Experts’ Blogs and Websites,” I cautioned you to have links on your site that are both “informative” and “inspired”; in other words, links to important information that only a real expert in your field would know about.
But, this is just the tip of the hyperlink iceberg.
First, a brief definition. Hyperlinks provide an easy way to link to any other information that can be found online. They can be used to emphasize or prove an important point; or to link to an article you, or another expert you respect, have written. Hyperlinks can also lead your readers/visitors to other forms of online media, such as audios and videos. For a complete description of what hyperlinks are, and how they can be used, click here. (This link to Wikipedia is, by the way, an example of a hyperlink!)
For our purposes (i.e., using hyperlinks in ways that will proclaim your expertise), I will concentrate on four ways that hyperlinks can make your site a “must visit” place. And, I will point out how each use of hyperlinks will play its own part in helping you to proclaim your expertise in an informative, subtle manner, without “screaming” that you're an expert.
1) Having plenty of LINKS to other websites that you feel complement, or add to, the information on your site.
For example, one of the most popular intellectual property law blogs, PatentlyO, contains links to several other intellectual property websites and blogs, which the site’s creator, Dennis Crouch, feels are important for anyone who is interested in intellectual property law. (See the left hand side of his page, under “friends.”) By reading this expert’s site, and spending time on the sites he links to, you will get a real education in intellectual property law. You’ll find yourself returning to his site – and those he links to – over and over. Similarly, to learn about the malfeasance of the pharmaceutical industry, visit one of my favorite healthcare advocacy websites, Vera Sharav’s Alliance for Human Research Protection. After spending hours reading the articles there, explore the other advocacy sites she links to. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you'll become educated about this topic.
Some sites will have various KINDS or categories of links to other experts’ sites. For instance, Dr. Aubrey Blumsohn’s excellent expert’s blog, The Scientific Misconduct Blog, has a section titled “Links,” as well as sections titled “Cases” and “Journals.” All are worth exploring.
NOTE: If you are a member of a larger company or firm, you may be using a ready-made template for your personal site. And your template may NOT have a section for links to other sites. In a case like this, ask your firm’s webmaster if he or she can set up a special LINKS section for you. If not, perhaps you will be allowed create a blog or other website, which will have all the individualized features you need, to which you can link from your official “firm site.”
If you link to other experts, some will also link to you, building your collegiality and your renown. However, you may have read articles about “reciprocal links,” where you link to another person’s website or blog ONLY IF they link to yours (and vice versa). These are often called “love links,” and frankly, I am not a fan of this practice. The reason people want lots of links to their sites is that, so the theory goes, the more people who link to your site, the higher you will be in the search engine (read Google) rankings. While there may be some truth to this belief, I think you will be making a huge mistake if you link to a website for the sole purpose of getting a reciprocal link. I have received link requests from some of the most unlikely sources for my medical advocacy website, www.HonestMedicine.com. I almost never accept these offers – mainly because they usually don’t make sense to me. Also, I don’t want regular visitors to my site, who have come to respect my postings and my links, to be led astray this way.
2) Links to your own, and other experts’, important articles
As an expert, you’ve probably written articles that have been published in professional or lay publications. But don’t just list them by title and publication; link to the articles themselves! People who are visiting your website because they are really interested in your area of expertise don’t want to just see that you’ve written articles (although this fact alone is surely impressive). They’ll want to read some of your actual articles. One wonderful thing about the Internet is that – via hyperlinks – you can make this easy for them.
In my experience, the rule of thumb is that you may safely link to any article (or audio or video) that is already online. However, if an article you have written is NOT online, it can be a bit trickier. In this case, contact the publisher directly and request permission to publish the article on your site, preferably in the exact format (usually pdf) in which it was actually published, complete with page numbers and masthead. Many publishers will agree to this. After all, you’ll be giving them free publicity, as well.
Many people report that they have gotten business (read “new clients”) from this simple practice of linking to their own published articles. We all want to work with experts, right? And by giving people (including potential clients) an opportunity to learn about your expertise firsthand, through your own published writings, you are giving them a much fuller picture of you, “the expert.” If you are someone else’s employee, you may even find yourself getting job offers, since many employers are now “googling” to find new hires.
3) Using hyperlinks effectively within your own articles and blog postings, to add credibility to important points.
As an expert, you’ll often want to cite other articles or books, as a way of adding emphasis and credibility to specific points you are making. In scholarly writings, you’d use footnotes. But on a website or blog, hyperlinks serve a similar purpose, but will also allow your visitors to access those articles or that book instantaneously, with a simple mouse click. The fact that people can actually see the articles you are referring to, while they are reading your posting, can make a tremendous difference in how readily they accept the point you are making.
And when the point you are making is controversial, hyperlinks can be particularly effective in helping to convince your readers.
For instance, in my HonestMedicine review of SiCKO, Michael Moore’s controversial film about healthcare, after praising Moore for taking insurance companies to task for their greed, I criticized him for ignoring the greed of many physicians who are financially indebted to drug companies. Rather than simply accusing doctors of taking money or gifts from pharmaceutical companies, I linked to three articles that had appeared in the press, that made this point for me. For yet more emphasis, I found (and linked to) three more articles that went even further, testifying to the fact that many drug companies hire doctors and universities to conduct their so-called "trials," and then pay them to write articles about how successfully these "trials" turned out – even if they didn’t. Together, these six hyperlinks added a much higher level of credibility to my assertion than simply making my accusation, or even naming the articles, could ever have done.
More recently, in another controversial HonestMedicine posting, I highlighted four safe, inexpensive treatments that have stood the test of time, but which American doctors have shunned, in favor of some highly toxic pharmaceuticals. While lots of people have written about Big Pharma’s influence on our doctors’ prescribing habits, how many times have you heard doctors themselves actually admit to this influence – as in: “yes, I prescribe these harmful drugs because pharmaceutical companies pay me to do this”?
While researching one of these lifesaving treatments, the Ketogenic Diet (a diet that has been helpful to children with epilepsy for over 70 years), I was told about an NBC Dateline video, in which a pediatric neurologist made some startling admissions: that he had known about the diet for years; that it had been used at a reputable medical institution for decades; but that he had neglected to recommend it to these parents, in his own words, “because . . . there were actually still other medications that we hadn’t tried yet.”
But this doctor went even further, and admitted that doctors ignore this diet because “there’s no big drug company behind [it], and there probably can never be unless somebody starts marketing sausage and eggs with cream sauce on it as a drug.”
Simply quoting this doctor would not have had the same impact as linking to the actual video. We might say that, in this case, “a hyperlink is worth a thousand words!” Many people told me that actually watching the video, and hearing the doctor utter these words, had a very dramatic effect. This hyperlink told the story in a way nothing else could have done.
This is the power of the hyperlinks, used effectively.
4) This same technique can be used in the comments you leave on other people’s blogs.
You’ll find that, just as your website or blog will have added power with the effective use of hyperlinks, they can also add power to your blog comments. In my posting, “What Makes a Blog Comment Great?”, I linked to a “white paper”, that gives some really detailed information on how I have used hyperlinks in my comments on other people’s blogs. I invite you to read it.