Google Blogoscoped

Monday, January 19, 2004

Bloggers Ignoring Link Semantics

You can see it all the time on commercial or amateurish pages: the “click here"-syndrome of funny link text. We all should know better and give links a meaningful text, one that would also be a valid title for the document you are taking your unassuming reader to. And yet some who should know about link semantics (bloggers, that is) still use words like “Permalink” or “Permanent Link to this entry” to point to a static page which is not about to move its location. Or they use a “#” symbol. And some use “Link” to point to the article they are blogging about. Those same words are used repeatedly over the same page with no differentiation among them.

What seems normal to most bloggers and blogging tools these days however is not how links are intended to be written. Blogs are also alienating some people not at home in the blogosphere by their quasi-standards which remain unexplained. (If you don’t read weblogs on a regular basis, you might just not understand the meaning of a simple “#”.)

Again: every link should be a title of the document it links to. And unless that document is about links specifically, that link text is meaningless (we already know it’s a link).

Another rule-of-thumb: avoid verbs. “Read more” is a nice description of what might be done with a link (e.g. following up on it and reading the document), but it’s by far not the only thing. I might just bookmark it. And then I would end up with a “Read more” in my bookmarks. Or I might right-click and print it to read it later. Assuming what will be done with a page is never good advice. Writing content and labeling according to that content is good advice.

The only link text with some value and meaning for blog permalinks is the date and time stamp, because it’s unique for the page and can be meaningful within the context of a blog (and we must assume that context has been established in most cases).

Other than making a page more accessible in a variety of situations, proper link text also ensures the Googlebot and other machines are helped to identify what a page is about, and in how far it is important. While a simple “link” as link-text might boost the page’s PageRank, it won’t label it in semantic ways, and one important feature of linking is lost. Because in the eyes of searchbots, the page that’s being linked to will now be categorized and labeled as: “here”, “there”, “this”, “download”, “read more”, “permalink”, “permanent entry”, and so on. Those are of course nonsensical categories, and we can be grateful link text is not the only way search engines categorize a document. If you have link texts like these scattered all throughout your weblog, just think about how much you are loosing in terms of SEO!

So let’s hope bloggers, and blogging tool creators, don’t forget some of the basics of HTML – and what makes it so successful. The blogosphere especially is a great tool that helps slash a semantic path through the jungle of otherwise unlabeled information, and not just via RSS (the news meta-file). This path is what search engines and other content aggregators follow up on and which makes them define where others will walk.

In other news the inventor of HTML-links Tim Berners-Lee speaks about the fractal Web.

Microdoc Back With Mobile Communication

It’s great to see that Microdoc’s blog (one of my favorites) is back after a long hiatus (several months are a long time in blogosphere). Elwyn Jenkins’ focus slightly shifted from Googlosophy to mobile communication, such as moblogging (blogging via mobile phone) or photoblogging, and cell phones such as the Nokia 6600, which coincides with topics I posted about recently.

“Is Google going to solve this problem – how to find new informaiton in new forms – or is some little upstart going to solve this problem and then supplant Google? (...)

Cameras, phones, PDAs and computers are all merging. Nokia 6600 provides us with a new tool to manage information. What new ways of producing information does this tool give us? And how will that information be stored? And how are other people going to locate that information?”
– Microdoc, Is Google Keeping Up With The Information Revolution?, 01/13/2004

The picture illustrating this post is a composition of photos shot with a Nokia 6600.


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