Hyperlinks Get Even More Respect

Hyperlinks have never really got the respect they deserve.  Without them the Internet would be impossible.  The word is often now shortened to link and this word is often bandied around without thinking about the mind-opening implications bound up in that hyperlink word.

The term “hyperlink” was coined in 1965 (or possibly 1964) by Ted Nelson.  The Wikipedia explanation describes what he had defined

Hyperlinks are the basic building block of hypertexts. For example, some key words in a wiki such as Wikipedia are highlighted, and provide links to explanations of those words at other pages in the same wiki.
In directed links, the area from which the hyperlink can be activated is called its anchor (or source anchor); its target (or destination anchor) is what the link points to, which may be another location within the same page or document, another page or document, or a specific location within another page or document.

He also coined the word hypertext and the associated word hypermedia.  He bemoaned the fact that the latter had not taken off and instead became what we often call interactive media.

The hyperlink concept is really very powerful.  However Microsoft, as it has done with so many great ideas, did not leverage that power.  It is true that files or documents in the Office Suite of programs always have the hyperlinking capability.  So you will find:

  • Word hyperlinks
  • Excel hyperlinks
  • Powerpoint hyperlinks, and   
  • Outlook hyperlinks

Adobe also to an extent slowed down the wider use of hyperlinks since it is only recently that you can now create a PDF document with their software with active hyperlinks.

Luckily the hyperlink concept is much too powerful to be sidelined by this somewhat lukewarm support.  What really caused the hyperlink concept to take off was the creation of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.  No longer would a hyperlink merely connect you with some other point in the same document.  You could now connect with some online website that could be half way round the world.

The other powerful influence was that the two Google founders latched on to the notion that hyperlinks confirmed the popularity or authority of web pages.  They then they used this concept within their search algorithm.  Since for a given Web page they were interested in hyperlinks pointing to that web page, they used the term Backlink instead of hyperlink.  If they had only stuck with the term hyperlink, then again the concept might have gained more general understanding.

The strength of hyperlinks is confirmed by what was written in 1999.  As the ClueTrain Manifesto authors pointed out, almost everyone was hyperlinking and this was a movement that could not be stopped.

However, employees are getting hyperlinked even as markets are. Companies need to listen carefully to both. Mostly, they need to get out of the way so intranetworked employees can converse directly with internetworked markets.

Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart markets out. It’s going to cause real pain to tear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged in.

Ten years later, the strength of hyperlinks and the World Wide Web they made possible cannot be denied.  Most website owners acknowledge the mutual networking benefits they receive and include hyperlinks to other relevant sites that their visitors may wish to visit.  This summer there was even a question whether the BBC had finally changed policy and was using hyperlinks to external sources.  The answer is unclear but the eventual outcome will undoubtedly include external hyperlinks.

The latest word from Google points to an even greater support for the hyperlink concept.  The Google Webmaster Central Blog is now encouraging webmasters to include named anchors to define sections of their webpages and tips on how to do this best.  This will mean that a keyword search could actually rank most highly a hyperlink to a point within a document that is deemed to be most relevant.

As the Official Google Blog explains, the aim is to enable users to get to the information they want faster. Searchers will now find additional links in the result block, which allow users to jump directly to parts of a larger page. This is useful when a user has a specific interest in mind that is almost entirely covered in a single section of a page. Now they can navigate directly to the relevant section instead of scrolling through the page looking for their information.

We generate these deep links completely algorithmically, based on page structure, so they could be displayed for any site (and of course money isn’t involved in any way, so you can’t pay to get these links). There are a few things you can do to increase the chances that they might appear on your pages. First, ensure that long, multi-topic pages on your site are well-structured and broken into distinct logical sections. Second, ensure that each section has an associated anchor with a descriptive name (i.e., not just “Section 2.1″), and that your page includes a “table of contents” which links to the individual anchors. The new in-snippet links only appear for relevant queries, so you won’t see it on the results all the time — only when we think that a link to a section would be highly useful for a particular query.

If you have such web pages, this should ensure greater visibility and higher rankings for sections of your information-packed pages, so this is something to carefully consider. As a small test, you may wish to see how these internal web page links for Therapeutic Riding Associations and for Associations for the Disabled rank in Google searches for those terms. Once indexed, they should rank highly in related searches. Those hyperlinks certainly deserve some serious respect now.

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DiggBar Use Or Abuse

More and more people are aware of social media on the Internet.  Everyone recognizes Facebook and Twitter.  Another very popular social media service is Digg.  This is a website where you can vote on your favorite web pages.  A very significant change was introduced on the Digg Blog.  It is called the DiggBar.  Here is a short video that shows what it is all about.

The blog does list the advantages of  the DiggBar and they are considerable.  The DiggBar allows you to:

  • Digg directly on the destination site: No more awkward toggling between the story page and Digg.
  • Easily share stories: You can now create a shortened Digg URL to share on Twitter, Facebook or via email. You can also type digg.com/ before the URL of any page you’re on to create a short URL.
  • Access additional analytics: See how many times a story has been viewed.
  • View comments while on the story page: Clicking the ‘Comments’ button expands the DiggBar to show the top comment, latest comment, and most controversial without leaving the page.
  • Discover related stories: Clicking the ‘Related’ button expands the DiggBar to highlight similar stories.
  • See more stories from the same source: Clicking the ‘Source’ button expands the DiggBar to show you more Digg stories from that source site.
  • Discover random stories: Click the ‘Random’ button and you’ll be brought to an entirely new, unexpected story.
  • As always, let us know what you think. Look for the feedback button right on the DiggBar. Also stay tuned for some big changes to Digg search!

It is very user friendly and I think it will prove to be a real winner.

I became aware of it when someone sent me a message about an item by Nelson Williams entitled, Quebec Forbids English-Only Video Games in Favour of French Language.

Which only makes sense, because game developers are clamoring to translate their virtual worlds to French. The Toronto Star reports that a recent law passed in Quebec forbids the sale of English-only games if a French translation exists. This has caused a certain amount of excitement among retailers, similar to that felt by the dinosaurs right before the meteorite hit.

The Digg Shout I received gave the following link:

http://digg.com/d1nrMu?OTC-em-sh2

which produces the same article but with the DiggBar along the top of the screen.  It is very intuitive and does perform extremely well.

If it is as successful as I believe it will be, then other services will undoubtedly be affected.  Lee Mathews suggests that Digg’s new Diggbar will destroy other short url services.

It certainly seems that way.  However in the short survey when they ask for feedback, I did recommend another URL shortening service, cli.gs.  This is an excellent service which provides a host of other data and statistics.  It was developed by my friend and co-moderator at Cre8asite Forums, Pierre Far.  I believe he is currently on his honeymoon so this may be something for him to take up on his return.

Michael Arrington of Techcrunch seems to be very strong on the use of DiggBar and believes that the DiggBar Keeps All Digg Homepage Traffic On Digg.

I expect it to become my default short URL service on Twitter since it is so easy to create a short URL by simply adding Digg.com/ in front of any URL. It will redirect to a short Digg URL like digg.com/d1npNz, which is this story rendered with the DiggBar.

This will also expose a lot of new people to Digg since anyone that clicks on the link will see the toolbar wrapper with the view count, Digg comments and other information on the top. And it will also increase Digg’s overall traffic substantially – unlike other short URL services, Digg doesn’t simply redirect to the longer URL. It keeps you on Digg and shows any other site being pointed to in an iframe wrapper. You can get to the underlying URL by clicking on the X button on the top right.

Not everyone is so enamored by DiggBar  Daniel Scocco feels that The DiggBar Changes Things At Digg (Some for the Worse).  Check the link for the full argument but the gist of his concern is as follows:

Just head to Digg.com and click on one of the stories on the front page.  With the entrance of the toolbar, you are now redirected to a shortened URL of the Digg story, and the content is presented inside an iframe.  Here are some of the reasons, why webmasters and bloggers may be concerned:

  1. The iframe wrapping technique is quite old on the Web. It started in the 1990s, and many people got angry with what they called content theft.
  2. Digg takes space in the header, which is high value for advertisers. What if Digg started showing CPM ads there.
  3. The address bar no longer shows the URL of the original site so the SEO benefit is lost. Digg’s front page links are now redirects to internal Digg URLs.

Big sites like The New York Times may well have concerns.

Perhaps DiggBar’s most energetic critic up till this point is Michael Gray.  He has a number of concerns and is particularly critical of the security aspects of the DiggBar.  He shows How to Abuse the New DiggBar for Fun and Profit.

By framing everyone else’s website you never leave Digg, so the length of their user visits goes up, and it looks like their site is improving.  They con more clueless VC’s that Digg is actually a valuable website so that they want to keep wasting money investing in it.

Although his post has some humorous elements, it does reflect serious concerns that many will have if the DiggBar continues to function without change.  Hopefully from the feedback that Digg is receiving from all sides, they can identify and retain what is good.  The more worrying aspects could then be modified or removed so as not to jeopardize the interests of so many others.

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