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Are answers that just contain links elsewhere really “good answers”?

Are answers that consist solely or almost solely of a link poor practice? I mean, assuming that the question isn't "where do I download X" in which case just a link really is a complete answer to the question.

But for example, this answer to the question of how to escape JavaScript code inside an XML document originally consisted entirely of this:

Yep - http://www.w3schools.com/xml/xml_cdata.asp

This is just an example, and the answerer in that case was quite gracious about my copying an example from the linked article into the answer. But I've actually had people argue with me when I've suggested that link-only answers were not best practice.

To me, link-only answers are not a good idea, because:

  • It requires that anyone reading the answer follow the link to get the information and/or determine whether to vote up the answer.
  • The linked resource may disappear, be moved, etc. — e.g., link rot.
  • Having the question and the answer not on the same page may reduce the odds of someone finding the answer if they have a similar question.

Instead, by all means link to a resource (or several!), but at least briefly answer the question within the text of your answer.

Or am I off-base?

  • What site(s) are you talking about? Stack Overflow does not allow them, while other sites do allow them. I'm not sure when Stack Overflow moved against link only answers, but there's a flag reason for it.
    – user173448
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 15:17
  • @jww: This has since been settled rather definitively. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 15:19

3 Answers 3


I would only call it a "poor practice" if that's what we'll call any answer that isn't "top quality".

If we look at how this behavior resolves in other situations, citing the information that is enclosed within the link tends to attract a lot more upvotes than simply providing the link. The link-only answer suffers from the flaws that you detail, but ultimately it does answer the question. So it's not a really good answer, but I wouldn't call it a horribly bad answer (up until linkrot, at any rate).

It helps to nudge people to add the information here when plausible - for example, if the link goes to a special online calculator, then you can't exactly host that on the Stack Exchange site. But if it is just text information, I suggest commenting that it tends to make a better quality answer in having the content on the site.


When I ask a question I am very happy if someone posts a link that quickly that solves my problem! - This is much better than if they decided they did not have enough time to post a “good” answer.

However when I read an interesting question I would rather I could learn something from the answer without having to look at other websites etc.

There is nothing stopping someone else that has more time reading the linked page and writing a more complete answer – then we get the best of both worlds.


yes, it's poor practice because it provides no context for crawlers.

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