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Linkability - Why do some sites have it while others don't?

Linkability - Why do some sites have it while others don't?

Teacher: Eric Ward

Linking from one web site to another and from one web page to another is the fundamental essence of why the Web was invented. In a nutshell, researchers needed a way to link between similar documents, and before any dot com even existed, the Web was helping academics and scientists do just that.

Having built and executed content linking campaigns for 7 years for consumer oriented content sites, I've found that most brand web sites fail to provide the type of content that engenders, inspires, or encourages other site to link to them, or online editors to write about them. I call this concept "linkability". Some sites have a lot of it, others have very little. Linkability can be thought of as a continuum.

The National Library of Medicine web site has over 6,000 links pointing to various pages of their site. Why? Because they have great content and easily located and short URLs. They are on the high end of the linkability continuum. On the low end are sites with little content or with content that's hidden within databases or behind pull down menus or within Flash design elements.

Ironically, I have also had cases where I worked with sites that did have excellent content, but whose sites were designed in such a way as to make linking to that great content impossible. Like locking away an encyclopedia in a safe.

One major print magazine had a web site where they posted all their articles from the print magazine to the web site after the print issue was 60 days old. Doing this makes sense for them. The problem was that all the articles were buried within a database that could not be linked to in any way, thus negating one of the web's greatest powers; linking from one page to another. The URLs for these articles changed with every page load, further limiting the chance for pass along of the URLs from one person to another via email, discussion lists, etc., since the URL you sent for that great article you were reading would not work for me when I clicked it.

These and other linkability problems are both important and correctable. There are some key site architecture issues to consider from a linking perspective, just as there are from a SEO (Search Engine Optimization) perspective.

But before focusing on site architecture issues, remember that the key driver of links is and always will be the quality of the content. People run web sites, and those people make linking decisions every day. Some sites don't offer links, others do. Some sites want money for links, others don't. Some sites want links back to them in return, others don't. For every web site, there are a collection of online venues (search engines, directories, web guides, topical link lists, discussion lists, writers, etc., that may link to it, based on the subject matter and content quality. The challenge is finding them and contacting them properly.

About the teacher:
Eric Ward founded the Web's first service for announcing and linking Web sites back in 1994, and he still offers those services today. His client list is a who's who of online brands. Ward is best known as the person behind the original linking campaigns for Amazon.com Books, The Link Exchange, Microsoft, Rodney Dangerfield, WarnerBros, The Discovery Channel, the AMA, and The Weather Channel. His services won the 1995 Tenagra Award For Internet Marketing Excellence, and he was selected as one of the Web's 100 most influential people by Websight magazine. Eric also writes columns for ClickZ and Ad Age magazine, and is the editor of LinkAlert!

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