Link, link, link! If you write for the web at all or create e-newsletters you’ve probably heard the advice that creating more links is always a good thing when writing for e-communications. And often this is true.

But is compulsively linking in copy ever a bad thing? Yes, absolutely. Let’s explore when linking can be a trap, rather than a boost.

When to link.

If you’re writing a blog entry, or creating an e-newsletter that’s focused on sharing information, link away. Doing so will help give credit where credit is due, hook readers up with useful resources and, if you’re linking back to your own site, help boost your SEO.

When not to link.

However, if you’re linking within a donation campaign e-mail, or some kind of e-promotional message where you want your user to take a very specific action, steer clear of the shotgun approach to linking.

Even if you’re sharing supporting information, linking to anywhere besides your donation page, or your registration page — whatever the end goal is of your communication’s piece, will shunt away vital web traffic from the primary action you’d like your readers to take.

Here’s a personal experience where I should have been more focused with my links. I used to work for the Minnesota Council on Foundations, where I managed the redesign of the MCF site.

I sent out an appeal to our nonprofit audience asking them to update their contact information in preparation for the launch, because we are going to combine our databases and allow users to manage all account info via the new website.

Naturally because I was writing about mcf.org, I felt the need to link to mcf.org in the text when describing the impending launch, in addition to linking to where users could update their profile information. I thought about not linking to mcf.org, as I feared that folks would go there instead of to their Update Profile page, but it felt, frankly wrong not to link to the site.

After sending out the e-mail, I checked the user statistics, and sure enough, instead of going to their own profile information, the vast majority of users that clicked in my e-mail selected mcf.org, even though the copy explicitly stated the site had not changed at all yet, and that the launch was forthcoming.

The lesson: If you want someone to take a specific action in your communication to them, be very, very selective with your linking, even if it goes against your instincts as a communicator.

There’s that ancient saying — “all roads lead to Rome.” Well, in your donation campaigns and other action-oriented e-mails, all paths should lead your user to a page where she or he can complete your desired transaction, lest your peops be roaming somewhere else.