So now you're convinced of all the good reasons to link out to other blogs and posts. You've gathered your articles, blogs, addresses of useful sites... but now you're stuck. What do you do now? How are you supposed to do it?
Isn't there a trick some people use to format their links?
Well yes, there is, and yes you do need to spend a few minutes formatting your links. Otherwise when you drop them in they'll look kind of ungainly, like this:
Luckily Typepad and other blogging platforms will do most of the donkey work for you - although there are a few additional things it's worth thinking about to make sure you're getting the maximum impact from your links.
How To Format A Link: Basic Version
1. Type in the words for the site or article that you're linking to. It might be the name of a site, the title of a blog, or even a particular blog post. As an example I'll take Practical Tips for Business Bloggers - a post from the archive here.
2. Highlight or select those words using your mouse, then click on the picture of the link in your dashboard. (It'll be a picture of links in a chain, like this.)
3. When you click on it a pop up window will open, asking you for the URL you want to link to. (If the window doesn't appear, check that your pop-up blocker is set to allow pop-ups or 'scripted windows' from Typepad.com.) Add the URL you're linking to there. You can type it in or (more likely) copy and paste it. Then hit OK and...
4. Hey presto, you're done! Your text now shows up (in draft) as underlined, and when you publish your post it'll have the link built into it, so when people click on it the link opens up to the site. In my example Practical Tips for Business Bloggers now looks like this.
More Tips on Formatting Links
That's not quite the end of the story I'm afraid. There are some other things you'll need to think about when you're linking out.
One is how you want the link to open.
There are two main options. One is to leave it as it is - which takes your readers to a different site (unless they're experienced web users and know how to use tabs so they don't lose their place.) The other is to format the link so it automatically opens a new window without your reader doing anything. This means if they go away and look at the site you're linking to they won't lose track of where they started (your site).
This is the option Claire uses and recommends. It is particularly useful if your readers and visitors are not experienced web users.
To create the 'open new window' effect you used to have to use a little bit of code. Typepad users will be pleased to hear that this is no longer the case; now you simply have to select 'open in a new window' in the pop up box, but for the sake of those of you not using Typepad, here's an old post explaining how to have a link open in a new window.
The last point is to preview and test your links.
It's really easy to cut and paste the wrong URL, to forget to paste the URL in at all, to have an address with two lots of http:// at the front (which means it won't work). You don't want to point people to the wrong site or use a link that won't work. Of course you can test them after you've published but you will save yourself a lot of bother if you check before you post.
To do this you need to go into preview mode. (The links won't work when you're in drafting mode.)
Make sure you're in "draft" status (ideally you should have this as your default anyway to prevent you from accidentally publishing before you're ready). Click save to save your work up to now (it's often when I go into preview and check that I find I lose work, so save first to avoid this happening). Then click on preview.
Now your links are 'live', so click on them to open up the pages you're linking to. Do they go where you expected? If not, go back and repeat your steps. (And preview and test again as a last step.)
If they're okay, you're ready to publish and away you go.
Postscript: I realise these formatting details sound kind of time-consuming and a little off-putting. It will take you a little time to begin with but it is worth getting the formatting right, and it really is worth putting the effort into linking out - to get people to come back.
And once you've been doing it for a while you'll be linking and formatting your links without a second thought. Just like putting a full stop at the end of the sentence or a capital letter at the start you'll soon be working links in naturally and easily - an easy and automatic part of the way you run your business blog.
Previous episodes include:
Intro: Showing off Your Content
Part 1: Should I Have A Welcome Post On My Blog?
Part 2: Use Bold And Bullets To Break Up Your Posts
Part 3: Break Up Your Posts With Quotes
Part 4: One Simple Programme That Can Save You Blogging Time
Part 5: "Continue Reading" With Style
Part 6: How Do I Format Links?
Part 7: How A Footer Helps You Blog for Business
If you'd like some practical coaching assistance with formatting links on your blog - either fixing something that's gone wrong or keeping yourself right in the future - you can now book business blog coaching sessions with Business Blog Angel Claire by the hour.
Follow this link for more details and access to the booking calendar.