The reasons to link and what they say about your Web integrity

Why do you use links?

By my count, there are four reasons why you put a link in your online story, post or article, and I think figuring out which of them describes your motivation says a great deal about your Web integrity.

The reasons for linking that come to mind for me:

  • Link Share — You actually want your readers to follow the link; as I’ve written, the word “blog” started as Web log which was meant to mean a “logging of the Web.” So, a fundamental blog style is to collect good links and share them with your readers, with the intent for them to follow them. Like here.
  • Value Link — You are adding value through commentary, analysis or aggregation of similar or related stories or ideas. You’re referencing a story or another post and adding your own opinion or aggregation to it. Like this.
  • Source Link — This transparency allows readers to follow where you got your information or how you made whatever claim is linked out. This is also a way of referencing the past and following a fundamental rule of the Web: never let your reader go through a story and not have somewhere else to go. This should be the most common use of links, so you should see it all over the place.
  • Content-use Link — The link is casual payment for someone else’s content, where you’re using that content to get your own clicks and page views. This can be a simple swiping of text or accepting you’ve been beaten on a story you should have had yourself and giving a bad link. This is often dirty, as I’ve written before. So, to do it right, you have to either add value or give a good link — including publication name, keywords and a reason for your readers to go that way.

In my mind, the first three are legitimate and the fourth can be, but rarely is.

Are there others?