I’ve been publishing online about search for nearly 11 years now. My work, or my comments, have been quoted in mainstream publications on the topic of search for virtually the same time. Much more often than not, those references never include a live link back to my web site, not from the websites of those same mainstream publications where links are totally possible.
Over the years, I’ve watched others in similar situations get upset about this. For me, it wasn’t a big of a deal. I was glad to be mentioned, and not getting links from mainstream publications just seemed part of the territory. They don’t link. But earlier this month, something different happened. I got a live link from a New York Times article. Seeing the traffic made me want more.
I’ve been quoted many, many times in the NYT. Heck, I was even profiled way back in March 2000. Not once do I recall seeing a link to my site or any of my work. That changed on March 15. Google Adds a Safeguard on Privacy for Searchers was an article that cited me at the end, including a link to Search Engine Land.
I don’t know if there’s a policy change there are not. All I know is that I quickly noticed visits coming in. Hundreds. To date, 645 visits in all. A lot of people read that article — and hundreds were interested enough in what I said or in my site to click through from the link.
To me, that underscores why for the mainstream media, enough is enough, when it comes to not linking. You need to be linking out to sources. For one, it’s the right thing to do in the ecosystem of the web, where people link back and forth between each other. Plenty of blogs and other sites point at mainstream media articles. The mainstream media needs to support the ecosystem by linking back.
For another, it’s the right thing to do for readers at these sites. As I said, plenty of people clearly were interested enough in my site to want to visit. Old school mentality is that outlinking means these people are then lost. They aren’t. They are people who will appreciate that the New York Times (or other sites) have provided them with information and made it easy for them to find out more.
Here’s an example of how not outlinking can be very bad. This week, Photobucket got profiled in a Fortune article carried by CNNMoney. But the CNNMoney version didn’t link to Photobucket at all in the story. The entire story is about Photobucket, but no link to the service? That’s a bad user experience.
Now, I’ve been guilty of the same thing. Often we’ll write about Google or Yahoo or Ask but not link to them, simply because we figure our audience pretty much knows how to get to them. But still, even with these service, we often link. But in a profile about a service headlined "The biggest Web site you’ve never heard of," no link to this unknown service? C’mon.
I’m not expecting a situation where every word becomes a link, that every reference to any company has to get hyperlinked. But it’s probably overdue for more linking to be happening from the mainstream media sites in particular. I’ve written before that I have seen spikes even from non-linked press mentions. I understand that being mentioned has benefits even without a links, and I’m grateful for those (which, by the way, often come from spending long amounts of time answering questions from reporters, nor do you always get a mention — again, that’s part of the territory).
Still, I want to see more links for everyone. I hope they’ll come.