I wonder if I should link to this site. It is only a related site. But then, if I put the link so early in the text, a reader could click out and become distracted. What if they do not come back? Will they think the other site is more interesting or more informative than mine? Maybe my content is not eye-catching enough. Maybe I should just add an image or GIF instead so they do not click out. I can always put the link at the end…

Those images, though. They could distract from the content too. One or two should be okay. Maybe a graph would be a good idea. It could stay on topic and actually add credibility. Ah, but I don’t have a graph of my own! I would have to use someone else’s. I do not mind attributing the owners, but usually you have to link to the source. What if the reader follows the link because they think a source that did its own study is more credible? I bet if I put the attribution in really small print and in the caption, next to nobody would use it. No one reads captions, anyway!

Ooh! This would be a great opportunity to link to that other spot on my site. Not many people dig far enough to find it, so I can utilize this more popular section to promote it!

…but I might have people choose to leave this page and not come back. I really would like a reader to read this whole page before clicking out. Still, they are still on my site so that is good. What if they don’t like that other page, though? They could refuse to come back to this one. They might just condemn the entire site as horrible and never come back! Or worse! They could tell their friends how horrible the experience on that page was, and I lose their potential visits, too. Oh, no! What if they post their opinion on Facebook? Or Twitter? Maybe they have a club on the same topic that they tell. They could do all of those things..!

No…that page could never suck that bad, and even someone really passionate on an opposing side would never hate it that much.
Maybe that link isn’t too bad. At least they stay on my site. They don’t have to click it anyway.

If worse comes to worst, I can reorganize the content a bit so that section with the links is towards the bottom of the page. Then they will have read all or almost all of the page before clicking out. As long as I can get away with that, I mean. I can’t have it messing up the legibility after all. Getting people deeper into the site isn’t worth messing up the context they came to see in the first place. I’ll have to be super careful about that.

Now I’m at two — maybe three — links. Is that getting to be too many? I’ve seen some sites with an overwhelming number of links. I don’t want to be that guy. Links tend to fill up the space regardless of how many of them there actually are. Because the color is different so people know they are links, they stick out more and dominate the space. I don’t want the links to be more important than the actual content! Kinda defeats the point, I think.

Three links shouldn’t be too bad, overall, but if I come back later and update the page, add more content, I might need to put in an extra link. Will four be too many?

Maybe it is just how many a reader sees at once on their computer screen, not how many are on the whole page. Lynch and several other sources have said that people forget what’s gone off screen pretty quickly. I wonder if that is because we are ridiculously single-minded, forgetful, or just inconsiderate of the work others have put into the pages! Anyway, if it is so easy for readers to forget, it should not matter how many links I put on the page as long as they are spread out enough so as not to be overwhelming.

I wonder what the deal with Wikipedia is, then? That site probably has more links than the whole rest of the web combined. Sometimes it is hard to find what I am looking for because the links are so distracting. I suppose it is a reference site so it need to link elsewhere — in and out of the site — in order to prove its credibility. I bet the same links are repeated throughout pages at times, maybe even going to the same places. Maybe I should try that. It could improve my SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Then again my pages are so much shorter than more Wikipedia pages, so it would be more obvious if I did it.

Do other people really care in the end? If I load up my site with links — relevant or not, internal and external— would readers notice or just ignore it? Maybe just get irritated and leave my site forever? 

I think that the longer we have technology, the more people adjust to its formatting. The more people adjust to its formatting, perhaps the more they will get use to reading text with links. That way, eventually, more links will become more acceptable. 

Then again, I could just be making wild conclusions that have no basis in reality.

All I know for sure is that, when I read sites like Wikipedia, I completely ignore the links and just search for the information I need or want. Links make it difficult to skim material, unfortunately, because when one skims, one scans for eye-catching headings, fonts, separated paragraphs, and key phrases. All those blue links catch the eye, but often hold little to no relevance to what I’m actually searching for.

Dammit. To each their own, I suppose. Maybe I should just skip links altogether..? Might be easier…

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