Building Links With Content? Get Your Point Across!

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Before you read the rest of this post, think about this: if you’re trying to build links by having great content, you need to be very careful about how your points come across to people. Just because you know what you mean does not mean that others will. Unfortunately, the written word does not come with all the tones and gestures that go along with other forms of communication.

Here’s a sentence written (or typed, rather) with words that depend upon inflection and context in order to get its actual meaning across to the world.

“Of course, I’d be utterly thrilled to babysit your nine children for free.”

Sincerity or sarcasm? Responding to the question of “what would you charge?” or actually making the offer to babysit for free? Making the offer when you haven’t yet been asked to babysit or agreeing to do it after feeling terribly sorry for the mother with these nine kids? It’s very difficult to tell, without proper context and some sort of cue.

Just the other day, for example, I emailed my staff that things would be better once our company was comfortably ensconced in a bigger office, and this, to me, meant that we were looking, but to others, it meant that we’d found something suitable. Very easy to see that both ways, I think. If you tend to be a bit wordy, like, um, me, well…if you write like you talk, you could be in trouble.

In person, there are miscommunications in almost any conversation, even when the people involved know each other relatively well enough to pick up on all the nonverbal cues that go along with it. With actual human users reading your content, you have to keep in mind that your point may not actually come across as you’ve intended. This could get you into all sorts of scrapes and, sadly, not get you the links you want. As writers, some of us tend to not be overly literal at times, but just because we are flowery and love to throw in weird references and turns of phrase does not at all mean that the people reading what we write will understand what we mean. How many times have you written something and had someone take it the “wrong” way when you never, ever saw that coming?

Here’s a headline that I just saw on a local news site:

State Leaders Recall Jim Long at Council Meeting

Well…to my mind, since I didn’t know that Mr. Long had passed away, this suggested that they’d voted to remove him from his post. I was excited to suspect something nefarious on his part because I like some good local conflict. Not the case, apparently, as they were simply “remembering” him. Recall, remember…not the same connotations to me. If I were searching for information about those lively council members remembering Jim Long, I’d not use the word “recall” in my search query. How many people would? I wouldn’t click on a result with that wording, either, even though it is actually what I’m looking for, nor would I link to it (obviously, as I wouldn’t read it!) Therefore, even if you did read the article and could easily get the gist of it, it’s not going to show up in a typical search for it, which is kind of a loss for link building isn’t it? I say this as if loads of searchers are grasping for results on this topic…but it’s a good example. (Please note that I in no way intend to make light of Mr. Long’s death.)

Here’s another one from CNN:

Pope Urged to Act on Holocaust-denying Bishop

OK the meaning of this is highly obvious to me because I am somewhat informed about what goes on in the world, but let’s pretend that I am my mother, Pat. (shudders, husband shudders even more violently) I see this and think that the Pope is going to do something (not sure what, not quite sure about exactly who the Pope is, wondering if this is actually Max Pope who used to be the principal at the local school) about the Holocaust, despite what some bishop wants. I can seriously see her spreading that rumor, just as she did when she told everyone my cousin’s wife was leaving him for another woman when it was, in fact, another man but that’s neither here nor there. I’ll stop right there.

Thinking about this should help you learn how to write better content that will get across your intended point, even when we’re dealing with bots. Taking into account all the rumors of bots becoming more in tune with picking up on context, I’ve yet to really see any good examples where that was the case, but it’s definitely important to see your content as both a user AND a search engine will see it. Otherwise, who’s going to link to that great content?

Julie Joyce
Julie Joyce owns the link development agency Link Fish Media, is one of SEO Chicks, and contributes to Search Engine Land and Search Marketing Gurus.
Julie Joyce

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  • dianne

    very nice and informative site. I really had a great time reading some of you post.. keep it up and looking forward to read more soon.

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  • Web Templates

    I follow the simple rule that educated consumers are better customers. They require less support and tend to be happier if they make an informed purcahse.

  • Niche Blog

    I think sometimes it is useful to leave things open to interpretation but of course you are right. The clarity of the message you are trying to convey must be cofirmed

  • Bingo Guy

    So true. I have had to watch my sarcasm and tone in posts too. Titles and excerps need to be always clear.

  • Agent SEO

    Interesting article. Being someone who is trying to educate people, I always have to make sure I’m not coming off wrong, while making sure I still maintain my own style.

    Tough to balance sometimes. Great article!

  • KentC

    Just to nitpick…

    In your second example (Pope Urged to Act on Holocaust-denying Bishop ) there is only one reading (the intended reading). Hyphens, well, hyphenate words. They do not serve as a means to inject parenthetical information into a sentence. Parenthetical information goes within parenthesis (imagine that) or emdash’s, depending on its relevance to the statement.

    Now if it read (and I pray the code words here) “Pope Urged to Act on Holocaust—denying Bishop” then the meaning would be different, in fact it would be the meaning you described.

    Now its true that we tend to misuse hyphens in the internet world, but most news publications editors are on-the-ball enough to understand the use of a hyphen versus the use of an emdash.

  • Julie Joyce

    Kent, I agree that there is only one way to read that example from the perspective of most educated people. I believe that most editors understand this, but my point is that I could see my mother taking this the wrong way…she’s a very intelligent person but she reads things a certain way, as do many other people.

  • Jaden Beck

    Thanks for sharing. Obviously building content is the best way to build links both onpage and via link bait. Thanks for your wisdom.