Is the hyperlink headed for extinction?

10 years ago people needed hyperlinks from page to page because finding stuff was so hard. We needed a human being to tell us where other relevant stuff was, via those handy instructions baked right into the content.

Google then exploited these links as a way of determining which page is most relevant, creating the famous PageRank mechanism.

I’m wondering if people use these in-content hyperlinks less these days. After all, relevant stuff is just a search away. With the advent of browser toolbar search boxes, it’s even easier for people to search instead of using hyperlinks.

Will content writers continue to link to stuff, as the use of those links decline?

In many ways Twitter adds to the problem for Google. Lots of links point to a page but there’s no anchor text and the content is very transient.

This might start to undermine a fundamental aspect of determining relevance, eroding the quality of the results. Or are they already so washed-out that it makes no difference?

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  1. Andres G. says

    (idiom alert)

    Chicken or egg? The tail wagging the dog?

    So hyperlinking did start off as a way for a human to point us to relevant content. A search algorithm of course isn’t human so an important part of finding new/relevant content is reliance on human created hyperlinks. I see your point about it being way easier these days to find the content we need, but if hyperlinks went away tomorrow, how would the search engines find new content as efficiently?

    I also think that since the hyperlink/algorithm thing is pretty common knowledge (not just for us marketing nerds) I don’t know that many people out there are going to simply stop hyperlinking. After all I don’t know that the search engines have found EVERY bit of content just yet.

    The ever expanding size of the internet, and this is one of my fave movie quotes, “is like your aunt Edna’s ass, it goes on forever and is just as frightening”.

  2. says

    Here’s a refinement to my thinking: I don’t think hyperlinks themselves will go away. I just worry that in-context hyperlinks within pages may become less prevalent because of all the other methods for finding content, and that will negatively impact the ability of a search engine to clearly decide that a certain page relates to a certain term. It’s not a disaster, but it is a curiosity.

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