I found this link in the book "The Weblog Handbook" (2002) by Rebecca Blood. I think this is all still great advice - I wonder how one would alter it, given 20 years of hindsight.
Here are the tips (for forming linktext or directory entries) from the article:
- Make the descriptions more descriptive. Tell your visitors precisely what they'll find when they click the link.
- Express your own opinion. What adjective best summarises your feeling about the target? (Don't gloss over your doubts, either. Your readers will probably share them.)
- Extract some pull quotes that capture the best the page has to offer. Nothing 'sells' an article better than a sample of how good it is.
- If the target is an image, clip the best (approximately) 200*200 region of the image and offer it with the link. Occasional small graphics make any page look nicer.
- If the target offers a list of items (ten great ideas, five best songs, etc), extract the list. (Editors have been conditioned to play coy, as a way of drawing in readers. This backfires on the Web.)
- Don't just link to the top page of a site-- pick the best page. Readers in a hurry will be grateful, readers at leisure can find the rest on their own.
- Have you checked for similar pages that do the same job even better? Look at them all and link only the best.
- If a version-for-printing is offered, link to that. It will load faster and is usually easier to read, without all the distracting side-columns.
- Warn about formatting oddities. Does it take a long time to load? Does it require Java or RealPlayer? Are there annoying interstitial pop-ups?
- Choose the most descriptive word (or three) within your long description to highlight as anchor-text. Lots of underlined-blue is hard to read, so limit it to a word or two that describes what the page is: "essay", "hotlist"; or what it's about: "tutorial on animation".
- Offering the visible URL as the link-text has the advantages of showing where the target site is, what sort of file is being linked (html, txt, ram), where it fits in the host site's hierarchy, whether the URL includes a date, etc.
I agree with many of these, some I don't. But those I agree with I'm taking to heart:
Be more descriptive in my entries. Before I was being dispassionate (neutral) in my descriptions now I'm trying to give a fuller sense of what is available on a site.
Editorialize more: Say why I like the site or why it is useful or why I have reservations. The last happens rarely, because if I have reservations about a site it probably won't make it into the index.
I investigated displaying the URL of the listing, thinking that it would encourage more users to click through. It can be done but the templates for individual listings are very complex and a bit beyond my ability to edit. I'll revisit this in the future.
I'm considering thumbshots again and that these might also encourage click throughs. Gen X and later Gens are very visually oriented. Potential Problems include: 1. I have a lot of obscure sites for which thumbshots may not be available, 2. they add clutter, 3. They slow loading, 4. Thumbshots of slicker looking sites are more likely to get clicked upon while homely sites may get ignored so it becomes a beauty contest. 5. Thumbshot services are a third party silo. 6. Rendering on phone screens might be screwed up.
Still it's really a matter of flicking a switch back in the Admin panel, I can always turn it off again. If I'm going to experiment, it is easier to do now while I only have a modest amount of listings than later when the index is bigger so I might experiment with it for a year.