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Use Contextual Hyperlinks

Most people won’t click on a link unless you let them know why they should bother. Let’s consider the previous example of the post about the iPhone. Where you put the link can let the reader know whether you’re just citing it as a source. If you put it at the very end, it usually signifies either that it’s your main source of information and that users should click it to learn more.

For example, a company who puts a press release on the Web featuring a new product might add a “learn more” link at the end pointing to a product page on their website. The company wants you to read the press release first, then follow the link.

However, in many texts, we can better assist readers by putting the links in context, by linking to something meaningful in the text. Using contextual links, we can create effective transitions for the reader to the next web text, and we better connect the texts we write to those on other web pages. Here are two different revisions of the previous example that illustrate this concept:

As reported at Endgaget, the buzz this week on tech news sites is Apple’s “iPhone tracking software.” Using data from cell phone towers and wifi networks, iOS constantly stores the phone owners location in an unencrypted file on the phone.

As reported at Endgaget, the buzz this week on tech news sites is Apple’s “iPhone tracking software.” Using data from cell phone towers and wifi networks, iOS constantly stores the phone owners location in an unencrypted file on the phone.

In the first example, the link is emphasizing where you got the information and where readers should go to learn more about it. The second example emphasizes what the link is about. Since you mentioned Engadget earlier in the sentence, users will probably realize the link will go there. But it could also go to a Wikipedia definition or to a link on Apple’s apps store. In any case, the meaning of the two is slightly different. One provides direct indication of where the reader will go on the web (revision 1), and the other indicates to the reader what will be learned (revision 2). If you’re reporting news or items from another blog or website, it’s typical to put a link to the original source in the text.