The Tyranny of Hyperlink Ends Now!

Erping Zhu -Assistant Director, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan- conducted an experiment aimed at discerning the effects of hyperlinks on comprehension.

Her discovery should be of great interest to anyone delivering content via the Internet.

She had a large group of people read the same article but she varied the number of links. She then tested reader’s comprehension by asking them to write a summary of what they have read followed by a multiple-choice test. 

The results were unsurprising but tremendously important for content creators.

Comprehension declined as the number of links increased.

Reading and comprehension require establishing relationships between concepts, drawing inferences, activating prior knowledge, and synthesizing main ideas. ~Erping Zhu

She went on to say that a form of disorientation from hyperlinks can thus interfere with cognitive activities of reading and comprehension.

Sounds Interesting. Tell Me More.

In 2008, a company named ClickTale, a developer of software for analyzing how people read web pages, collected data on the behavior of a million visitors to sites maintained by its clients around the world.

ClickTale’s own research found that most people spend between 19 and 27 seconds looking at a web page before moving onto the next hyperlinked page.

On the web, there is no such thing as leisurely browsing. We want to gather as much information as quickly as our eyes and fingers can move. ~Wrote Nicholas Carr in his 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (Amazon Affiliate Link)

We Are Like Dogs.

My dog is constantly trying to stimulate his reward centers by soliciting yet another treat.

Likewise, we are constantly trying to stimulate our own reward centers by clicking on yet another link which will no doubt result in some great reward beyond the rainbow. If not this link, then surely the next…

“F” is for Fast.

In 2006, Jakob Nielsen, a longtime researcher in the field of web design and Internet usage, conducted an eye tracking study on 232 volunteers outfitted with a small camera which tracked their eye movement as they surfed the web.

He found that hardly any participants read the web text in a methodical, book-like, line by line manner.

Most test subjects scanned the first line, skipped down a few rows to read the portion of the horizontal text only to skip even further down towards the very bottom.

 A reading patter that resembles the letter “F”.

All In All

In 2005, Diana DeStefano and Jo-Anne LeFevre, psychologists with the Centre for Applied Cognitive Research at Canada’s Carleton University, did a comprehensive review of 38 experiments involving the reading of hyperlinked content.

Tho not all studies showed that hyperlinks diminish comprehension, they found no support for the once popular theory that hypertext leads to an enriched experience and better comprehension.

On the contrary. There was overwhelming evidence indicating that the increased demand on decision making and visual processing of hyperlinked text impaired reading performance and stymied comprehension.

In case you “F’ed” your way down to this part of the post, let me repeat myself.

Most people spend between 19 and 27 seconds looking at a web page.

 And this is good news for those who can’t write to save their life. No one will find out you suck.

But if you are trying to educate your audience, perhaps you’d like to have them stick around for the encore

.

What is the meaning of this?

When browsing online, fMRI scans show that many brain regions light up. As we process the audio/visual queues from the page our brain is working overtime.

This has proven to be a desirable effect for the elderly. Presumably, this Christmas Tree effect allows them to “exercise” their mental faculties and even stave of serious, age related mental foibles.

However, the book-brain, sans hyperlinks, shows fewer brain regions engaged and facilitates a kind of quieting. This brain state is very similar to a kind of quieting achieved through meditation.

By browsing online we are not allowing our brain to quiet down and reflect on itself. Instead, we are fostering a brain environment that’s akin to a Formula 1 driver. We are going thousand miles per hour never pausing to allow the information to take root.

To Click or Not to Click

That is the Question.

Why are hyperlinks so bad? Well…let’s look under the hood.

Every time our eyes encounter a hyperlink we have to decide if we are to click on that link or not?

This takes our attention away from integrating the content into our knowledge base and we are forced to make a decision to click or not to click.

While these fractions of milliseconds are hardly observable to our conscious mind, every time our attention is taken away from the primary task, a certain amount of “boot up” time is needed as we switch from integrating the content to making a click/no-click decision and back to content again.

So what’s the solution?

Make Your Blog Posts Read Like a Book. Only Better.

Having your articles read like text from a book is a good start. We only need make few minor adjustments. Here are some suggestions.

  • No hyperlinks
    I hope you saw that one coming. It’s kind of the main point of the article, no?
  • Vary the font size
    On my own blog, I typically use very small sized font to add caption to pictures and illustrations. Medium sized font for the main text and large font for subheading or major points of the article.
  • Like book but shorter
    I love books. But one of my pet peeves is the “time” it takes to present a thesis in a typical nonfiction work. 

Most nonfiction books clock-in at about 300 pages. This pisses me off to no end when I read a book that could have fit on 100 or 150 pages. 

And I don’t blame the author for this. Publishing companies require typical nonfiction to be of certain size so that they can justify charging $30.00 they typically charge for nonfiction hard covers.

In short. Be brief.

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. ~Albert Einstein

The “shortness” principle applies to not only the overall article size, but also sentences, paragraphs and overall language (small words instead of the ones that cost $5.00).

The only exception for the “big words” rule is when the meaning of the word can be discerned from the context of the sentence.

ALL of these points should be balanced with the following.

  • Take as long as you need to make a compelling argument but have respect for the reader’s time.
  • Also, I believe in the old rule of not writing “down” to your readers. Instead, write “up”. 

Its OK for your reader’s to encounter occasional “big word” that they might need to look up, but don’t use big words for the sake of using big words. OK Dennis Miller? 

For example. The word “ostentatious” always struck me as pretentious. (he he…get it?)
  • Multimedia in support of main thesis is good. Adding pictures (and caption) to emphasize the points can be effective. 

I sometimes do it to break up the monotony of the text, sometimes to inject humor into the post and sometimes to enhance the point of the article.

Education researchers have found that carefully designed presentations that combine audio and visual explanations or instructions can enhance student’ learning. The reason, current theories suggest, is that out brains use different channels for processing what we see and what we hear. ~Wrote Nicholas Carr in his 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

Dr. John Sweller, Professor Emeritus at the University of New South Wales, further explains it by saying the following:

Auditory and visual working memory are separate, at least to some extent, and because they are separate, effective working memory may be increased by using both (audio and visual) processors rather than one.

Internet Engineers Do Come In Handy on Occasion

You might have noticed that I haven’t included any links to research.

Well, first it would be contrary to the spirit of the article and second, Engineers do come handy on occasion.

If there is a single piece of information in this text that is not sufficiently elaborated upon or if there is research that sounds counter intuitive to your experience, or you would simply like to find out more, you can easily do it by googling the information.

You can find information on people and references I’ve made by simply typing it in google’s search. This in effect replaces the Additional Resources section in the back of a traditional book.

In the age of google you will find hyperlinks to a person’s name or hyperlinks to a research documents convenient but unnecessary, distracting and ultimately counter productive.


..but you still may not be convinced, and you might be asking yourself…

Who Doesn’t Use Hyperlinks?

Well…all the cool kids are already adopting the “new” format.

Do the “F” scan over the back issues of copyblogger posts and you will notice the sparsity of links within the main body of the text.

Take a look at some of Darren Rowse’s posts. You’ll notice the same thing.

I think two examples are enough. Point made. Moving on.

But What About the SEO?

Screw SEO.

I can already hear some of you chanting “crucify him, crucify him…”

Put your pitch forks down and hear me out.

SEO is a constant battle between google, who is trying to make their automated search engine as accurate, authoritative and relevant as possible verses SEO “experts” who are trying to game the system and put -what’s often- high ranking garage in our search results.

Let your karma do your work for you.

 Besides. I suspect -tho have no data to back this up- that leads brought in via google search are less likely to convert (into sales, comments and what not) than leads brought in via Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Presumably this is because Facebook and Twitter allow you to develop relationships and share value before pushing your wares.

Let the backlash begin. lol

Yes, I am perfectly aware of the irony and the hypocrisy considering that only yesterday I’ve published two giant posts that are ALL ABOUT SEO.

No Bullshit Approach to Search Engine Optimization and Google Page Rank With Dan Cristo

How to Optimize Your Blog for Google

What Can I say…I’m a man of contradiction. lol

Wait. But Aren’t We Supposed to Give Link-Love to our Buddies?

For sure.

I’m only advocating that we quit being so oppressed by the hyperlink. I’m NOT advocating that we stop using them all together.

So simply be more mindful of how many hyperlinks you’re using and place them strategically towards the end of your text; for example, see above.

Dino Dogan

Global Force for Badassery | Founder of Triberr | Refugee from Bosnia | Writer for Technorati | Speaker | Lousy Martial Artist | Pretty good singer/songwriter | Hi :-)

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  • http://www.bloggingbookshelf.com TristanH

    Really cool post, Dino! “In case you “F’ed” your way down to this part of the post…” Hahaha. I laughed when I read that.

    But I have to admit that after reading this… I will continue to link more than ever. I link freely in my posts. I really do get everything you said and all the stuff that backs up what you said, but none of this takes into account the social repercussions that come from linking to someone else’s blog.

    You link to me and BAM, you’re in my good graces immediately. I link to you and BAM, instant die-hard fan. I think any negatives that come from linking, as you mention in your post, are outweighed by the positives.

    Take a look at my new “Mentions” page to see how effective this is! I’m getting linked to all over the place, and part of the reason is that I’m liberal with my links.

    Go check out the post on thesaleslion.com from January 18 and see what I mean. Look for the part where he mentions me, and then do a search on the page for “tristan” to see other people mention me in the comments.

    And that’s the second time in a week or two that he’s given me a huge plug in his posts!

    As far as I’m concerned… Not linking gets you readers. Linking gets you rabid fans and evangelists.

    I’m living quite happily and comfortably under the hyperlink’s tyrannical reign!

    (A Tristan-like post… Hahaha. That’s awesome. I eagerly await the inclusion of “Tristan-like” (also commonly seen as Tristan-ish or Tristan-esqe) into Urban Dictionary)

    But really. Great post! And I guess we’ll just agree to disagree :)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Really cool comment brother. All Im trying to do here is change 20 some odd years of tradition, thats all lol

      So my recommendation is to link towards the bottom of the post. As for linking in the beginning or middle I think there is at least one important variable. The writer.

      It the content is tits, the reader will read down and come back up to click on the link…but thats only if the writer is tits.

      So the question is…are you tits? lol

      • http://www.bloggingbookshelf.com TristanH

        Dude. I invented tits.

        • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

          Thats boss lol

    • http://www.itinerantentrepreneur.com/journal/ Robert Dempsey

      I think the way you use links is fine Tristan. What really slows me down (and turns me off) are the ad links with the double underlines. If I open up a web page and see a bunch of those I head elsewhere as I tend to scan along with my mouse. No ads getting in the way of my absorbing the good knowledge.

      • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

        oooh…good point Rob. I forgot about those as I tend to avoid those sites as well.

  • http://www.itinerantentrepreneur.com/journal/ Robert Dempsey

    This is awesome and the pure science I love to see with blogging. And thanks for making me go to Google Dino. I suspect if people are curious enough to find out more they will of their own accord – no need to direct them there.

    I can say personally that I’ve gotten used to reading posts and remembering where the links are so I can go back and click them later. However it does slow me down a bit. And the more links the slower I read and the more likely I am to move on to the next thing.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Yeah…theres definitely a balance thats tricky to achieve. You have to know yourself and your audience, and then link accordingly. I tend to leave all my linking for the bottom of the post.

      Occasionally I’ll link -if I have to- in the meat of the text (like a ref to a book + aff link).

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  • http://twitter.com/web_licht Leon Widrich

    Dino. Very inspirational post, however my views differ strongly. I have read the same results in “How the Internet is Rewiring our Brains” (did you pick it up from there too?) (it was is one of the worst books I have ever read btw). Of course I haven’t done any research and most likely I haven’t thought about that in such a lenghty way these guys have, but yet I have established a clear view on the topic.

    The key point I want to counterargue is that this theory (implicitly) centralises an assumption which I just don’t think should be assumed: that the post one reads is good.

    In the book they described another similar experiment apart from the hyperlink reading one, where they had people attending lectures. Some had a paper handout and no handheld devices. Some had laptops with internet connection. What they found? The people with the laptops had by far not as good an understanding of the lecture like the rest of the people had. What did they tell us? Laptops in the classroom are bad. But they have the same assumption: the lecture is good and worthy listenting too.

    So, yes, most likely the people haven’t understood as much because of hyperlinks, but is that a problem? If they clicked all the links to get away from the post, is that really that bad?

    Another thing that comes to mind here is that I am so happy not to read any (non-ficiton) books anymore, because I feel that frankly, you can put it in less words. This applies for long posts too and what I and most likely every heavy webuser does is scanning. Scanreading and filtering relevant information. I think therefore that “make your posts read like a book. only better.” is not desirable. I come to the web to flee this lenghty reading and want to filter relevant information fast instead.

    Now, even that one might say “it still happens even if the post is good” I don’t think that is a problem either. If say, I read a post without hyperlinks which gives me 10 degrees of konwledge. And one where I lose, say 5 degrees because of hyperlinks, but open 5 hyperlinks, they give me some knowledge again, which will by far make up for the lost knowledege in the initial post (which I am quite convinced oftentimes not being a big deal to have lost).

    ok, sorry for making you read my lenghty comment, but what do you think? (I can’t remember the last post I read without hyperlinks btw)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Hey Leon,

      Thnx for taking the time to flesh out your thoughts on “paper”. The entire point of this post is to make you question the wisdom of hyperlinks.

      Do I expect us to stop using them all together? Hell no. Say you’re writing a list post. Top 10 Places to visit online for example. You better have a hyperlink. You better have at least 10 hyperlinks in fact.

      The larger implications of scanning vs. deep reading is the brain regions that get lit up (or not) during the process. When scanning, many brain regions are lit. Its often assumed that this is good.

      When reading a book, fewer brain regions are engaged and this may seam less desirable but in fact, its that deep, contemplative state and the quieting that comes with it that makes us able to focus on a problem/issue/whatnot.

      So of course, this is one of those things that will be divisive, I just hope it gives some a pause and perhaps a much needed break from jumping from one link to another :-)

      • http://twitter.com/web_licht Leon Widrich

        hmm, haven’t looked at it from that perspective. Makes a hell of a lot more sense to me now! :) (hope I haven’t been too aggressive above). I do read the odd book still, but like I said no longer non-fiction. thanks for your comment, clarified my own view a lot too! :)

        • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

          I guess I should add that point to the main body of the text, shouldn’t I? lol

  • http://kommein.com Deb Ng

    Well. There you have it. I’ll just cancel my post for today and direct everyone over here.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      lol…dont do that…theres plenty of room for both, no? :-)

  • http://thefriendlyblogger.com Lisa

    Dino Dino Dino…you are making me think too hard today! I have read a few rebuttals to the book and I the best was “In Defense of Links” over at Wordyard.com. I think Scott points out some great flaws in Nicholas Carr’s study.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      thnx for the link lol … I’ll check it out.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I found Scott’s arguments extremely self-centric. Could poke holes but I think we all agree that strategic usage of highly relevant links is well and good. I also find it surprising that so many people have almost violent outburst over the subject. Which is perhaps the best argument for the validity of the idea.

  • http://tomjdolan.com Tom

    “when I read a book that could have fit on 100 or 150 pages.” One of my constant complaints especially about the biz-books I’ve read lately. Last year I read more biz-books than ever….awful experience really. In fact I review some books on LinkedIn and most I gave a poor review exactly for the reason that they could have delivered the msg in half the space, in half the time, mine. Good post re: links and SEO. Social Media may become a place to sell, but it is the place to build relationships, now. BTW, Seth Godin’s books are generally the Right Size with the Right Stuff.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I know what you mean…so much info is repetitive and unoriginal. Its really hard to find really good nonfiction.

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    Dino, this is an absolutely bang-on post, mate – love it!

    While I’m as guilty as the next person of using a lot of links, I only do it where I feel it’s necessary (so, a tips post for resources, for example, or a recommendation of a group of different people). Generally, though, I link less these days than I did this time last year.

    And couldn’t agree more about the SEO – important, yes. Critical – not always, especially now with social search and shares getting more real estate on Google.

    Great stuff, mate, cheers!

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I know…we’re all guilty of overusing links…placing them on the bottom of the post and sparsely and strategicly elsewhere should do the trick…

      Glad to see you here bro…make yourself at home, stay a while.

      • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

        Just subscribed, so intend to be here a lot more. :)

  • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

    I was going to leave a comment earlier, but I got distracted by the few links you did sprinkle in here.

    Honestly though, I like the idea of an uninterrupted thought that communicates a point with enough length to cover the concept with enough brevity to stay concise. Words for the sake of words are gibberish, and please, don’t contribute to my ADD.

    Great stuff, as always, Dino.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      lol…you made me spill coke (no, not that coke) on my laptop…

      • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

        Phew. For a second there I was worried about wasted resources!

  • http://twitter.com/WilsonPetDesign Nia

    Very helpful thnx “D”

  • http://www.murlu.com Murray Lunn

    Actually, Dino, you couldn’t be more WRONG

    Nah, just screwing with ya.

    I don’t remember the last time I’ve clicked a link within a blog post – really. If I click any link it’s because I may be exploring stuff on the sidebar but that’s just about it.

    If I’m doing research, I’ll do it on my own using search engines.

    I know I’m a techie person and not many “normal” web users do this but it’s the direction the web is going.

    Maybe the idea of the “blog design” has to have a fundamental change…. hrmm.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      You can even click and look up things on kinndle. If we dont make a decision to read with the part of our brain that reads a book, we may never be able to focus and develop deep thinking skills again…and WE WILL DIE!!! lol

      Sorry…been watching CNN all day..Im liking the alarmist take..it really gets people going lol

  • http://twitter.com/ElisesReview Elise M

    Hooray for science :)

    My stupidity definitely increases when I see too many hyperlinks, lol.

    I like your point about being short/brief. I’m trying to experiment with that now by trying to write shorter blog posts. I usually write like 3,000+ and need to shorten that down a bit for sure.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Im glad that no one so far pointed out that I recommend short posts in a 2000+ word post lol But seriously folks…a lot of my posts are abt 500 words…if you pick a point you can flesh it out in 500 words most of the time, as long as you dont repeat yourself and stick to the …what was I sayin….?

  • http://cindybidar.com Cindy Bidar

    Is it bad that I scanned this article? I did click on the links, though my browser is set to open links in a new tab, so they’re just waiting for me when I finish reading, er, scanning.

    At any rate, I’m not convinced. As Leon said, I question the variables. Were the articles well-written? Were they about a subject the reader was interested in? Were they engaging or dry? And by whose standards? What will hold my attention and what will keep you reading are likely two very different things.

    That said, I don’t find links in blog posts to be noticeably distracting. A new email notification is much more likely to pull me away than a link. Whether or not the Internet is the cause of my ADD remains to be seen, but I did just download that book you linked to, so I guess I’ll find out.

    Thanks for making me think this morning, Dino.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Its a great read, I really hope you enjoy it. And also, I apologize from making you think on a Sunday :-)

  • http://www.inspiredwish.com Jeanie

    “when I read a book that could have fit on 100 or 150 pages.” Heck yes, I hate books that spend 3 chapters telling you what they will do for you.. I’m getting bored just do it already! I have too many books that are only 3/4’s read. I loose interest. I’m all for – Be short. Be precise, Get to the point or entertain me damn it. As to links, I right click and open in a new tab so I can keep focused on where I’m at and look at that next. Does this mean I’m smarter then some test subjects. Yay for me.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Its just terrible, isnt it? Its the publisher’s fault…they want a book they can change $30-40 for…and they cant charge 40 bucks for a 100 page book…so insert fluff for 200 pages …..errrr

      And yes…opening a page in a new window makes you smarter than your average test subject. Actually, if I remember correctly, for most studies the subjects were novice users. So that would be a very important consideration as well…

  • http://bloggingwithsuccess.net Ishan

    Hey Dino,
    This was a great post. Still laughing at “In case you “F’ed” your way down to this part of the post, let me repeat myself.”.
    I read it like a big I, from top to bottom in one go. Now, SEO and links are hard to balance and without any links…..
    Wait!
    I have a small idea. How about retaining links and still not including them in links? A “resource” box may be the answer. It is recommended to place links in starting for max SEO benefit, so we may create a 3-4 link resource box near top or mid(or anywhere for that matter). This way, links will get noticed without distracting! What do you think?

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      hmmm…a resource box is a good idea. I thought the voting box in the middle of the post was a pretty cool idea too…that was very innovative and original, I havent seen it anywhere else done like that.

  • http://wassupblog.com/ Sire

    Very interesting Dino. I’m not sure if it applies to me as I usually ignore links from within a post. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t interrupt my reading. But then what would I really know if it’s happening subconsciously.

    Just went over to Darren’s site and most of the posts are from guest bloggers who all used heaps of links. Darren did one post on the home page and used two links both promoting his own stuff.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Hey Sire. Thats another thing about those guys…most of their stuff lately are guest posts.

      Anyways, I imagine that we’ll start seeing more and more links provided on the bottom of the article as opposed to in the beginning or middle. Time will tell :-)

      • http://wassupblog.com/ Sire

        You know I gave up on reading their blogs long ago but because of your post I thought I would take another look. Waste of time. I like Darren, being an Aussie and all, but if I go to his blog I want to read his stuff not something by someone I don’t even know.

        I think guest posts are a good thing but they should be used sparingly and not take over someones blog.

        • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

          I agree, those guys have turned into platforms rather than personality-blogs. We should all be so lucky lol

  • http://www.ryanrenfrew.com Ryan Renfrew

    Hey Dino,

    I totally fell ya. When I see lots of hyperlinks I instantly feels overwhelmed . Despite from looking messy I believe it to distract the reader and dilute you message. I must admit I find it hard not drop in links to previous posts when relevant. Thanks for discussing this topic Dino, Its the first time ive read something opposing hyperlinks, I think its great you have written about something fresh. I also love the layout of your post, very clear, easy to follow and easy on the eye.

    bLAZE yOUR tRAIL

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Thnx Ryan. It takes a special kind of self awareness to realize the few points you mentioned. Do you meditate at all?

      • http://www.ryanrenfrew.com Ryan Renfrew

        Hey man, just started Kundalini yoga a few weeks back, A bit of meditation in that.

  • http://www.getting-unstuck.com/ Riley Harrison

    Hi Dino,
    I have no doubt that it interrupts concentration, the flow of reading and diminishes comprehension. It seems the tradeoff (at the expense of the reader) is that more time is spent on the site and the site may have to be revisited to complete partially read blogs. All that being said if your intention is to provide knowledge then you don’t want to undermine comprehension with distracting tricks. You made me rethink the use of excessive hyperlinks. Thanks for a good read. Any blog that smacks of neuroscience has got my attention.

    Riley

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      LMAO…thank you for saying that my blog smacks of neuroscience. And thank you for “getting it”. If you are trying to “provide knowledge then you don’t want to undermine comprehension with distracting tricks”…you just summarized my entire article lol damn you’re economical with you words :-)

  • http://franstips.com/20-ways-to-provide-killer-blog-writing-content Fran

    Hi Dino:

    I was intending to come to your site, since yesterday, when you wrote a comment at my blog. But today I noticed your name mentioned at 100 comment challenge and I decided to come here right away.

    Read your post about hyper links. It is a well written post. It is a surprise to me how did the psychologists, and other expert find these results. What kind of indirect effect a hyper link can make. There should be detailed reason to understand it.

    I do understand your point of view about the use of hyper link. Life is all about following the latest technology and those who do not follow are left behind.

    Therefore, I have made a note of your thoughts on this post.

    Thank you for a unique perception about hyper links.

    Fran A

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Well, its great to see you here Fran :-) To answer your question, they usually use two methods to test the results of hyperlink (over)usage. fMRI machines to scan brain regions + they would give a comprehension exam to participants.

      When fMRIed, test subjects showed a lot of noise, when tested, they did worse than the control group.

      Sorry to get geeky on your ass but I hope that answers your question :-)

  • Adrienne

    Hey Dino,

    I always find statistics pretty fascinating but then again, I know that I don’t always fall under what you would call the norm!!! When it comes to things like squeeze pages, I hardly ever read the entire page. I read the headline, some of the bullet points and then I’m on to the link.

    When it comes to content, I will only pay attention to the links if it’s going to direct me to some information that will further assist me in understanding or learning what was offered in that particular post. If there are a bunch of links in the post itself, that really turns me off.

    But I did find this information interesting. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Regards,

    Adrienne

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      You are so welcome. I found this information interesting as well. I then examined and “listened” to my mind to see what it does when I encounter a link and the research made a lot of sense to me.

  • http://www.findyourpeak.com Sean

    I would be interested to get tested on this. I typically will open a hyperlink in a new tab and go back to it after I have read the article, rather than losing my stream of thought.

    Great informative post!

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Thnx Sean. I think thats a smart move. I do something similar as well.

  • http://www.steveyoungs.com Steve Youngs

    Hey Dino!

    OK, after reading this, will I change how, where, and how often I use hyperlinks on my sites? That’d be a no. But then, I don’t think I over use them anyway, if anything, I don’t use enough of them.

    Kind regards,
    Steve (happy to fly in the face of research and stats) :-)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      First of all, thnx for all the comments and RTs since yesterday, I really appreciate it. And second, all that this research is telling me is that we, as bloggers, need to be more mindful of where we place links and how many we use, thats all. So I think if you dont use them enough then you’re on the right track already :-)

  • Anonymous

    Hey Dino

    Interesting post.

    I read Copyblogger regularly – and they have some great articles and posts there, but they have an annoying haib of hyperlinking the crap out of their articles. There must be like, 10 hyperlinks sprinkled throughout every article.

    I’ve had to train myself to read the article first, and then go back and click on any hyperlinks. Only what I’ve now found is that I don’t go back and click on any of the hyperlinked posts in the article body and only click through on one or two of the related posts – or ‘posts you might like’ – IF the headline of that post is something that appeals to me.

    And I’ve taken to ONLY hyperlinking within the body of a post in my own writings if the post references an article on a different website. Bottom line: we want people to actually read our stuff…not hyperlink somewhere else!

    Keep on keeping on.

    Paul

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Hey Paul, thnx so much for joining the conversation :-) And you bring up a lot of valid points. I will link within the main body of the text only if absolutely necessary + relevant. Outside of that, I simply list related posts on the bottom. Unless its a list post, in which case go nuts lol

  • Brandon Bailey

    Dino-

    Great information. I never really thought of hyperlinks like that but they can be very distracting. I will employ this technique in the future and see how it works out. And you can always give your buddies link-love in other ways such as a blog roll or friends page on your site!

    Brandon

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      …and that was exactly the intention of this post Brandon. Plus, you can place links towards the bottom of the post or have a human generated related posts section on the very bottom of the article.

  • http://www.realityburst.com Eugene

    I’m really happy you had a big bold sub-title after those hyperlinks to take away my attention from the hyperlinks because I was about to click off the page and not finish reading!

    Great post by the way! It makes a whole lot of sense.

    The SEO battle is always something I’ve always contemplated. It is really worth trying to battle a giant like Google? Eventually they will figure out your tricks and beat you down. I think the best way to go is to write what you really think, write for yourself as much as anyone else, and communicate with others. There is no SEO better than building relationships (which is why Facebook and Twitter may convert better like you mentioned – yes I actually read the article and didn’t “F” it).

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Its totally about anticipating what will compel a reader to continue to read the post. As writers/bloggers, we must put ourselves into our reader’s shows and see the post through their eyes. Which is why I use those big as subtitles. So, Im glad to hear its working.

      As for SEO battle, youre not only fighting google, youre also fighting others who are fighting google ..what a clusterfight lol

  • http://www.stevescottsite.com Steve Scott

    Very interesting. I wonder what the creak down would be if people simply wrote so that their links WERE the subtopic headers. It is already a different font/color from the rest of the text and should draw the eye, but do it in a more natural way. Perhaps that is another way to include links AND make it more comprehensible.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      lol…apparently it wouldn’t work. The very last subheading is in fact a link, but you didnt notice, did you? Im not surprised, people dont expect a link there. There would have to be an adjustment period at the very least.

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  • http://twitter.com/daniellemcgaw Danielle McGaw

    Wow Dino,
    That’s is quite the gutsy blog post. I don’t think a lot of other bloggers would dare to say it. At first I was thinking, “What the hell? Is this guy nuts?” But then I thought about it some more and it does make sense.

    I don’t typically include a lot of links within my post anyway unless it is relevant to the discussion and then I always make sure that it opens in a new window. And it is usually to something else I wrote. But having the links at the bottom of the page would make a hell of a lot more sense. Let the readers focus on your writing rather than on going somewhere else. Internet readers are easily distracted enough as it is.

    I do so a lot of other bloggers going crazy with the links though and I do find it distracting. I think we all have a little bit of Internet ADD going on and if that takes over the whole point of the Internet – information – is defeated because we just ended up going from page to page and not really learning anything new.

    And you know, the more I think about it, the more I think that this is part of the reason that so many Internet Marketing “students” never succeed. They keep moving around and reading from this guy and that girl and ultimately never really learn anything. They put little bits of what they learn to use but they never really learn an entire system of making money online.

    Hmmm – lots to think about! Keep on bloggin’ on!

    Danielle

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Hey Danielle. First, thnx for actually reading the entire post. Most people dont make it all the way down lol and yes, I agree, we are all too easily distracted as it is. So is that what you do? MMO type stuff? Which system would you recommend?

  • http://hypertransitory.com/ John Garrett

    Man there is SO MUCH to think about here. Especially since if I don’t throw in a bunch of hyperlinks, my ScribeSEO goes apeshit on me and will lower my score! lol. I actually just discontinued my subscription, though.

    But it does make sense. When I see a bunch of links, I might open them in a new tab for later, but by the time I get to the bottom of the article, the context of the pages I have open might be lost.

    Even if we did put the links at the bottom, I’m afraid the context might still be lost. Even when I would be reading a book with endnotes, I’d still have to go back and re-read the part it referred to or else stop reading and jump to the endnote.

    Curses! There must be a solution somewhere, I say!

    it is a mystery…

    thanks for a very provocative article :)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Heres something that will bake your noodle really good. Google is now using something called random surfer model, which gives diff “weight” to links in diff parts of the page. So the most valued links are at the beginning of the text, and as the article goes on, the weight of the link diminishes. The links in the footer have even less value. and so on…

      What a mind job, huh?

  • http://twitter.com/IM_RobSimpson Robert Simpson

    Hi Dino,

    Very interesting post but this means I need to cut down on the links in my posts. :(

    Loved the quote “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. ~Albert Einstein”

    Adding pictures in posts as a way of adding humour or breaking up content is something I do but not always, I’ll need to work on that one.

    Love the bit about SEO, I find a lot of content focussed on keywords to be unreal and spam like. Relationship building content is far more readable and likely to attract more returning visitors…

    I’m only just learning this out due to my recent blogging activities.

    Anyway thanks for this great post, learnt lots and look forward to reading more of your stuff.

    Robert :)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Hey Rob…here’s an SEO joke for ya :-)

      An SEO copywriter walks into a bar, grill, pub, public house, Irish, bartender, drinks, beer, wine, liquor.

      That joke pretty much sums up the difference between writing for google and writing for humans. Take your pic. I already know mine and I already know yours.

  • http://twitter.com/StartYourNovel Start Your Novel

    Yeah, imagine trying to read a book where one word out of five was underlined and referenced another page or chapter. You’d put the book down before long.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Now, since you’re off to write a link post, you’re going to have to disregard this article lol

  • http://twitter.com/dancristo dancristo

    “Screw SEO” ah hahah. I’m going to leave that be for a second. I do need to challenge the statement, “…leads brought in via google search are less likely to convert (into sales, comments and what not) than leads brought in via Facebook, Twitter, etc.” I can certainly say that in my experience, traffic from SEO converts higher than social media referrals for driving sales. Reason being, people who come to your site via SEO are searching for you or your product out. They are looking for a solution, therefore their propensity to convert is high. People who visit via Twitter and Facebook are there because you’ve grabbed their attention. Some catch headline has found it’s way into their news feed, and they thought, “This looks interesting, let me read more”. So while they must already trust you or your brand, most of them aren’t ready to buy.

    (We should also note that comments and sales are two very different types of conversions. Social media referrals are more likely to engage with your content, because that’s why they came to the site – they didn’t come to buy something. Search referrals same to solve a problem. They don’t want to engage with your content, they want to purchase a solution. This is the black and white model, and there are of course a million shades in between. Keep this in mind as you read through the rest of the comment.)

    So the question is… Which converts better? Consumers who are ready to buy, but don’t know your brand, or consumers who know your brand, but may not be ready to buy? Obviously there’s no need to exclude one or the other, but if you had to choose just one group, I would go with the ones who are ready to buy, but don’t know my brand. Why, you ask? Because it’s a lot easier to build trust on your site through a great browsing experience than it is to convince someone to buy something when they’re not ready to buy.

    Not to belabor the point, but here’s a great example. I love Fossil’s products. If I had millions in the bank I would buy everything on their site. But my budget is limited, and if I’m not looking for a watch, all the status updates in the world aren’t going to get me to buy a new Fossil watch. However if I had never know of the Fossil brand, and I started searching for a watch and Fossil came up… you better believe I’m going to buy a Fossil watch. (And I can say that with certainty because it happened.) The big factor here is that the Fossil website is great, and it takes less than a minute on their site to realize that you need 1 of everything.

    Now once I’ve purchased from Fossil, they better get me to join their mailing list, twitter following and facebook group, because when my watch breaks, Fossil should have taken the time to deepen the relationship to the point where I just type in their websites instead of starting my search over]. But in that scenario, social media marketing shines in the customer retention space as opposed to acquisition.

    Back to the “Screw SEO” statement… Removing links from your post isn’t going to screw SEO. It might screw your reader when they get frustrated because they need to open a new tab to do a search for, “Diana DeStefano and Jo-Anne LeFevre’s research paper about hyperlinking” instead of making the link available to them in context, but you’re rankings shouldn’t crash and burn because you limit you inline links.

    External links don’t impact your rankings one way or another, so it’s really just internal links that are a concern, and that should be address through a proper site architecture. In other words, if you can’t get to a sub-page by using your main navigation, that’s a bigger issue that should be addressed first.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Holy crap…when did you leave this monster of a comment :-)

      Anyways..yes, I think you’re right..there is a different type of conversion and SEO converts better for certain types than SME and vice versa.

      But your last paragraph struck me as really interesting…regarding external/internal links….we’ll have to talk about it in our next SEO podcast :-)

  • http://twitter.com/simplisticj Jody Elliott

    Wowie, this is a super kickass article. I’m all for the ‘old’ book format, but as you pointed out, online readers “F” up the text. I already try to limit the number of hyperlinks since I don’t personally like being bombarded by all the damn underlined blue words :) But if there’s research backing up my methods, hey I’m all for that! Great post, my friend. Keep up the great work!

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Thnx :-) Im glad you enjoyed it.

  • http://johnmuldoon.ie John P. Muldoon

    Dino,
    You raise some interesting points there. I’ve got to say I link out to all and sundry from my blog. I’ll have to look at that again. Thanks for raising the issue.
    John

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      And thats really the point, isnt it? I link out all the time but since reading The Shallows and applying the cited research to blogging, I’ve become more cognizant of where a place the link in the text, how often and so on.

      Glad you enjoyed it John and thnx for participating in a conversation :-)

  • http://www.ndoherty.com Niall Doherty

    Some very good points made there. I do find it very distracting when there are lots of links in a post. As you say, those are mini-decisions that the reader has to make, and they all add up. I’m reminded of Steve Krug’s great book on web usability, Don’t Make Me Think.

    In the same vein though, I believe all those buzz/share/tweet/stumble buttons can also be very distracting, as can those subscription pop-ups. I’d like to see some research on how much focus they steal from primary content.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I like that title….dont make me think….Im in the middle of developing a service (well, Dan Cristo is doing the actual development) and our constant guide throughout the decision process was “how do we make this stupid-simple for users” …in other words, dont make them think :-)

      Maybe I should pick up that book…good read I hope?

  • http://www.productivitybits.com Marlon

    Dino,

    I agree with the research based on my personal experience. Hyperlinks are distractions to the reader. Thank goodness for tabbed browsers! What I usually do is right-click (Windows) all the links and open them on their own tabs. Right-clicking and choosing “Open In New Tab” will open a link to its own tab withot leaving the current tab. This way I don’t have to leave the page I’m reading. I finish reading the article and then I jump into the waiting tabs.

    That works for me. I stay focus on reading a content. But this takes a lot of practice (there is always the temptation of “click now”, specially if the anchor is so interesting)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      True…and even opening the new window takes your mind’s focus from the current context…its a very difficult thing to balance….glad to see you have a system that works for you :-)

  • http://twitter.com/#!/_cosmin Cosmin Stefan

    Hello Dino!
    I noticed you made the link to Blogging Bookshelf target=’_blank’. Do you always do that? Because I tend to do it as well and was wondering if it annoys the readers or anything.
    It does make sense to do so since a person reading will probably want to continue reading and then check out the links. At least that’s my reasoning.
    Anyway, thanks for the well researched post.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      My general rule on that is this. If the link leads to the same site, open it in the same window. If it leads to another site, use new window. I only find it annoying when new window opens for the same site. And I prefer (as a visitor) to have a new window for an outside domain. So tats what I do on my blog as well.

      Hope that helps :-)

  • http://www.highballblog.com/ Constantin Gabor

    Nice one!
    Yeah…links can distract readers but when you have updated info on the subject, I guess it’s good to have a link at the top of the article saying: Click here for an updated article on ….etc.

    Also, having keyword links across the article might be useful if you’re writing for newcomers. Some less known words (for beginners) deserve a link to a page where the concept is explained in detail.

  • garthobrien

    Try getting a great content site built entirely in Flash or Silverlight to surface in the search engines. SEO is not dead or worthless my friend. The engines have crawler friendly rules and if you do not follow them they will not give you as much as love as the competitor sites that do follow their recommendations. An experienced SEO knows those rules and how to properly implement them.

    SEO and Social Media get your content in front of people. The people that will become your fans and sources of relationships. If you build it does not always mean they will come. :)