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How Not To Link To Us
Creating a linking instructions page is a fairly common technique for encouraging organic links. It’s also somewhat puzzling. Do we need instructions for this most basic Web action? Apparently, at least 2.4 billion of us do.
A webpage can link to another webpage in several ways, from the basic text link like this, http://searchengineland.com, to a graphical link via an image or logo. Widgets are often embedded with links, and the old free-webpage-counter-with-a-sneaky-hidden-link trick is alive and well, if on life support.
Why Have One?
A linking instructions page is usually designed to encourage others to link to you, and to do so in a way that might be helpful from a search ranking perspective. In that regard, I suppose such pages are more hopeful than practical, since most people link to other pages however they want to.
One could argue that “linking to us” pages are redundant, since the Web is links and anyone can link to any page from any other page, any time, anywhere.
Then again, it’s true that once upon a time sites tried so hard to stop other sites from linking to them that it spawned still another site that discussed and linked to examples of the stupidity of such attempts to control links. See dontlink.com.
There’s a remarkable variety of linking instructions pages. Some are nearly poetic, while others are downright confusing. Some feel slightly threatening; others, on occasion, moronic – see: http://www.twobigdads.com/tandc.htm. (It actually says, “We reserve the right to withdraw any linking permission without notice.” Well then, how would I know to remove the link?)
Not to harp on the futility of trying to stop people from linking to a website, but why have a website in the first place if you don’t want links?
Controlling The Uncontrollable
On a more serious note, it can be challenging for deep content sites to convey their preferences for how others should link to their content. My favorite example of a site that illustrates this challenge is the MedlinePlus site.
MedlinePlus has a Linking to MedlinePlus page that details the many ways another site can link to MedlinePlus content. As good as their implementation is, they still push things a bit, with a “How not to link to MedlinePlus” section that, while well meaning, is an exercise is futility.
Some sites provide HTML code that the linking site can copy and paste into its HTML. This seems logical but is also dangerous, since not everyone uses a universal flavor of HTML like they did in 1996.
Here are more examples of “Linking to Us” instructions pages, good, bad and ugly.
I like the way this “how to link to our site” page says right up front that I can link to them however I want, and doesn’t beat me over the head with caveats and stipulations. They simply provide several linking options in a warm, friendly tone.
Not as good — http://www.symantec.com/about/profile/policies/legal.jsp
Symantec’s “Linking to Symantec’s Web Site” section is 260 words long, and is part of a 2,000+ word Legal Notice page. I’m not sure, but I think I need a lawyer before I link to them. I have to ask a lawyer to see if I need a lawyer. And just out of curiosity, what if I didn’t actually link to their site, instead I just placed a URL that wasn’t clickable? That’s not a link; it’s a citation. Now what?
Lastly, you don’t have to include a “Linking to Us” page on your site. I don’t on either of my sites, but they’ve still managed to attract thousands of links.
One could argue that the result of not giving linking instructions is a more natural backlink profile that will emerge over time. Then again, it’s also likely I’ve missed out on other linking opportunities because I didn’t encourage them more, or provide suggested methods for doing so.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.