Writing on the internet involves obeying certain rules, at least if you want to appear in any search engine and have any readers. There are algorithms for this and the appropriate rules are labeled SEO, or search engine optimization. SEO can be a deep topic requiring nerdy computer skills that are a mystery to most of us. If you want to sell things on the internet SEO and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) become more important. When I write about a topic in politics, the chances of that article appearing at the top of a search list on any search engine, with or without SEO, are practically nil. In any given day any specific political topic offers search results that number in 5 to 6 digits. Obviously the mainstream media and the politics journals like Salon and The Atlantic appear at the top of every list unless you can come up with a truly esoteric descriptor or key word that works like a magnet to attract readers.
SEO algorithms also look for links in the articles internet writers post so using links is part of SEO. They look for links to your own work and external links, links to key articles in the area of interest. I have come to have some distrust of links when writing about politics and political parties and matters of governance. It is usually possible to find an article somewhere on the internet that supports almost any point or point of view. It is even possible to find articles from sources with some clout on any side of an issue.
When I was a teenager involved in my local church we used to play “dueling Bibles”. The minister or the adult in the room would call out a passage and we would all rush to locate it. If you had memorized the order of the Books of the Bible and you had a grasp of the way they were organized into chapters and verses you had an edge and you were more likely to find the passage quickly. There was usually a prize for winning.
Still I was a bit surprised when I had my first exchanges with Conservatives online. It was like playing “dueling internet articles”. I would make a point and my respondent, who was usually more like a lecturer, would not bother to actually state his or her point of view but would instead present me with a list of four or five links to pertinent articles. I did not respond in kind. I did not accept the invitation to play dueling links.
How do you stop in the middle of a verbal (written) debate and go off onto the internet to read a handful of articles and then return to the fray. It tends to end the argument which I’m sure is the intent. There – you are vanquished! I did not come up with my own list of links because I thought we should all use our own words, hopefully based on what we were reading and hearing. I just never got the hang of dueling links. People now use dueling graphics and the dueling links game, played much more by the folks on the right, seems to be temporarily out of fashion.
Links are often necessary because some facts require backup and some of our ideas come from other people or are strengthened because others think like us. Links acknowledge a writer or a source of information and such attributions are required to avoid plagiarism. Links are the footnotes or the bibliography of an internet article.
But that is not how my Conservative responders used links. They used them like a cudgel to beat me over the head and say, “You’re wrong! Just read this and you will know the really true truth.” Well we have been learning a lot about truth on the internet, especially with 45 in the White House and all that “fake news” proliferating everywhere.
We are told that we all live in our own media bubble and there is some truth to this. That’s why I try to stick to sources that have been respected to deliver good reporting for many decades, perhaps more than a century. That’s why sometimes I do not search out links at all. If I am presenting my own argument and it grew out of my entire experience with reading, writing, and life then I defy SEO and forgo links. But there are times when links are necessary and then I include them.
When citing sources from the internet for articles about politics, societies, cultures and news it is a good idea to know where each source stands on the political spectrum. Sometimes you don’t want a source that is too far either to the right or the left; sometimes that is exactly what you want. I included a chart in another post quite a while ago but here is a new one that appeared on Facebook, sent by a friend and it’s more up to date.
I notice that one of the favorite sources on the right used to be American Thinker, which I do not even find on this graphic. Those on the right, once they cited an American Thinker article, thought they could end the argument right then and there – boom, drop the mike. The source may still exist; it may just not be on this chart. However, I never even bothered to pursue articles linked to this source because I had already discovered that it was too far to the right for me.
I will say that there are some who find this chart inaccurate because they feel that it defines sources as mainstream which they consider quite partisan. Those on the right have a more negative view of this graphic than those on the left. It’s all about the bubbles.
All of this is intended to explain why I have written articles that include no links, internal or external. But since SEO counts clicks and links help you get more clicks, if you are dedicated to following the SEO algorithms then links will help you get noticed on the web.