The term “hyperlink” is frequently used in references to online content. What exactly is a hyperlink and how is it used? Learning the answers to these questions will help anyone create content optimized for Web users. Readers of online content should be able to quickly and easily access the information they need and hyperlinks help them do it.
The Hyperlink Defined
A hyperlink, also called a link, is a reference that online readers can follow directly. The link points to a relevant section of online content or to an entire online document. Each hyperlink has an anchor, which represents the location in the document from which the hyperlink is followed. The document that contains the hyperlink is called a source document.
Hypertext is text that features hyperlinks. When a reader follows these links, he or she is referred to as browsing or navigating the hypertext. Some hypertext features bi-directional hyperlinks so both ends serve as an anchor and a target. There are also more complex setups, like many-to-many links. The basic arrangement is all a novice content writer needs to know.
Why Hyperlinks are Used
Hyperlinks are used to reference glossaries, bibliographies, footnotes, tables of contents, and other reference sources. They may also be used to reference definitions, a product or service (this is what most website owners use to create backlinks to their site), or content featuring expanded information on a given topic. The link is usually displayed in a distinguishing way by the Web browser, such as a different font or color. Most graphical Web browsers display uncached links in underlined blue text and cached links in underlined purple text. A pointer in a graphical user interface may convert to a hand to indicate the presence of a link.
A Web URL that refers to a Web page or position on a page is the most common destination anchor for a hyperlink. If the link target is not an HTML file, the program needed to open the file may be activated. For example, a link to a PDF document will open Adobe Reader. Users who do not have this program installed must perform installation in order to access the link target.
Hyperlinks were key to the development of the Web because they link online information. The term originated in the mid 1960s, when it was used to scroll within a single document. Hyperlinks are now used to connect content throughout the Web. It is one of the primary tools used the SEO services industry to increase traffic and the site’s Google ranking. Though not all sites appreciate being linked to, the act of hyperlinking Web pages has become intrinsic to the online world.