I was working on a joint writing project with Alicia over the weekend when the topic came up and it just seemed like a blog post waiting to happen, so here I am.
We’re combining our efforts to create an ebook and during our back and forth I thanked Alicia for pointing to resources with links in her part instead of just assuming that people know where to go for something. You’d be amazed and astonished at how many people will put together instructional material and say things like “use Google Alerts” or “go to this tool online” and then not link it up or even provide an un-linked URL for those that might not be familiar with the tool or website being mentioned.
As a writer I like to make things easy for people wherever I can, especially if I’m explaining how to do something. If I’m recommending you go to a certain page or tool I’ll link to it from the document.
As someone who uses information products and guides to get things done online I also appreciate when the product has links to the sites and tools mentions so I don’t have to leave the document and go out hunting for something I don’t recognize right away.
Now, I understand not wanting to link every other word of a document just because it’s the mention of a tool or a resource. That’s fine. If you don’t want to link something common and easily found (like Google Alerts for instance) just put the URL in a parenthesis after the mention (link: http://www.google.com/alerts) so they can copy and paste the link into their browser instead of having to go do a search for it.
I realize a search only takes a few seconds and the result would be at the top of the page in that case because it’s a Google product, but not telling a person where to go online is a little bit like telling a person to meet you at your favorite restaurant and not telling them what street it’s on.