Showing Respect With Your Anchor Text

    October 30, 2008
    Chris Crum

Bloggers and other web-based writers do a lot of linking. It’s great for the Blogosphere. In fact it’s really the only reason we have a Blogosphere. How often are our links misleading though? I’m not talking about "paid" or sponsored links that are deceptive and just trying to go after a click. That’s another issue entirely. I’m talking about just the everyday point-of-reference links.

I started thinking about this as I came across a post on the NY Times Bits blog talking about online video and attention spans. The post talks about Hulu having its first birthday and mentions something about how the site was initially ridiculed. They link the word "ridicule" to an older post from their own blog.

Now when I mouse-over that link, I see that it goes to one of their own posts, and I wonder if they were the ones ridiculing it. Not that it particularly makes a difference to me one way or the other, but I was curious, so I followed the link, and it actually goes to a post that just mentions that people have been calling Hulu (which was not yet named at that point) things like "Clown Co." (who’s laughing now? But again, that’s another issue).

What I’m getting at is that when Bits links the word "Ridicule" to one of their own posts, it kind of lends to the connotation that they were the ones ridiculing Hulu, which given Hulu’s success, would make such a thing a little embarrassing.

I’m not trying to insult Bits. They just happened to have an example that caught my eye. In fact, it got me thinking about one of my own articles that I wrote a few weeks ago that mentioned people criticizing blogs as news sources. I linked to a post from a blogger who had written about another writer who was doing such criticizing, but the words I chose to link seemed to indicate that the blogger I was linking to was actually the one doing the criticizing. That blogger called me on it, thinking that I was actually was trying to indicate such, and seeing his point, I changed the wording of the link.

This is not something we often think about, but things like this could actually shed negative light (even if in a very minute amount) on those we are linking to, who deserve to be credited for providing the information we’re linking to. I think the "mouse-over" is taken for granted. People will see the URL for a link and sometimes decide whether or not they want to follow it based on that. Think about who you’re linking to, and show them the respect they deserve with your choice of anchor text. Even (and especially perhaps) if you are linking to yourself.