Is a URL only in an inline reference a good idea?

+11 votes
I've run across a couple of profiles that contain only a URL in the inline citation. Clicking the citation number results in you going to the linked site immediately. Both citations in the referenced profile work that way.

 Is linking in that manner permitted? If so, is there a recommendation for or against it?. I, personally, was not amused to be taken to a different site with no warning.

Maybe a more fundamental question is what are the ramifications to the SEO of WikiTree when users are moved to a different website with no warning?


edited because forgotten commas are the bane of my existence
WikiTree profile: John Swann
in Policy and Style by Debi Hoag G2G6 Pilot (347k points)

I personally don't see a problem with just a URL as long as the domain name is visible. On the profile in question, it is clear where the sources are located ( and

Unless source links contain coding to open new pages or tabs, won't they open as you described anyway? I generally right click and open a new tab whenever I click any of the source links.

Perhaps different browsers react differently (I use Firefox). When I clicked the citation numbers WITHIN the biography (as opposed to the links under the Sources heading), I was taken down to the sources section and not to the source page itself.

Lindy, it reacted the way it did for you because Dale had already edited the profile. That's not how it worked when I asked the question. Originally, you couldn't even see the links without editing the profile.
The problem was no one added the <ref></ref> around the source link and used [] instead. The <ref></ref> is the recommended way to do this.

5 Answers

+13 votes
Best answer
Debi, I don't know what "SEO" means (Search Engine Optimization?), but there is a problem with any site if a link is broken.  There are stable urls, but they are difficult to come across. Most people would probably click on a reference that shows that is came from FamilySearch, as long as they can see the url, but we all know that websites are spoofed all the time.  Personally, I prefer to see the information about the source, as well as the url.  That way I can choose whether to click or not.
by Vic Watt G2G6 Pilot (336k points)
selected by Liz Shifflett

SEO the noble art of getting "more" attention by Google

This is one reason why we always merge to the lowest ID so that we get better Search engine ranking. 

As we all love when Wikitree is shown at the top of a search result list...


There are browser security settings plus firewalls, malware detection and anti-virus to minimise the risk from spoofed websites,. If only people would update them regularly. Risk is everywhere, we just need to manage it - It doesn't mean we should stop using URLs. Also, the information provided when you go to the URL (or at least a summary) ought to already be in the bio, in a perfect world.
+6 votes
I can not answer most of your question but I will say this, I try to avoid using just a URL in any citation but sometimes it is all I have and I have always maintained that any source is better than no source. I do try and find a better source citation and change it out but some on here feel that even the URL is too much and just change it to a phrase that links to the source.
by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)
Dale, I don't mind it working the way you have set it now. That's how I usually do it also. It was how the profile was originally set that concerned me. With it the way it was originally, the user had no warning that they were going to be leaving WikiTree.
Here's a tip: If you hover over the offending words, but don't click, down at the bottom of your browser is your status bar, which will show where you are going.  So you could see it was away from WikiTree. :o)
+8 votes

Not quite sure what the deal is.  In MediaWiki, if you write [http://blah/blah link text] this appears as link text.  You click on the link and it takes you there, but you don't see where you're going.

If you miss out the link text, the system supplies one.  It could have been the word "link" or something, but confusingly it supplies a number in square brackets, which looks a bit like you're only going to a footnote.

Ideally, the link text on any external link would just show the protocol and site name.  But this needs to be done by the browser, without any override.  Indications that come from the server are worse than useless, because they train users to trust what can't be trusted.  Just because you're looking at something that looks like a URL doesn't mean you know where you're going when you click on it.  The real URL could be completely different.


by Living Horace G2G6 Pilot (573k points)
edited by Living Horace
RJ, I may have missed something.   I was reading the question to say that the citation ONLY contained a url, with no other information.  I would like a citation to tell me where the information came from, not just a url, which may or may not work later..
Vic, Yes indeed.
The citations did contain just a URL and nothing else.  They still do.  What Dale has changed is that the URLs are now naked whereas previously they were hidden by being in square brackets.

(Dale has also moved them to footnotes, but that's a separate issue.)

The details of the source were given under the Sources heading.
+4 votes

I think we have an profile where the writer is mixing the same source in more places which is not the intention when you have inline sources that you easily could reuse 

What we have is just two find a grave source and the user are both using them as inline sources then repeat them again at the end plus also include a FamilySearch record that points on the same source....

My advice/opinion
A) Use one style of sourcing. You dont have to have the same source as inline source and then use it again. For me it's just confusing and it adds no more evidences...

B) Using just FindAGrave as a source is normally a weak source
B-1) This profile had a good FindAGrave record. Why not copy those sources to the profile and check those sources if possible

C) I get a feeling that the user is not the best friend with how a link is written using [ <url> text]
* His mother's detailed Find A Grave Memorial# 142654602 []

Could have been written as 

* His mother's detailed [ Find A Grave Memorial# 142654602]

Then its easier to understand that when you click you will jump to Find a Grave.....

by Living Sälgö G2G6 Pilot (276k points)
+5 votes
I realize this is an old post, but it begs a succinct answer: No.

URLs are ephemeral, thus broken links are common. Websites, including, WikiTree have many of them. In my opinion, if you are going to use them, you have an obligation to maintain them.
by George Fulton G2G6 Pilot (507k points)

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