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

by Eric Ward 

Originally published February 2002

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 many years for consumer 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 first called this concept "linkability" at a web conference in 1998.  Some sites have a lot of it, others have very little.  Linkability can be thought of as a continuum. A site with nothing worth linking to will fall on the left side of the continuum, and a site with significant linkable assets will fall on the far right.

Case in point. On the far right side of our linkability continuum, I give you the National Library of Medicine web site, which as of this writing has nearly a million links pointing to various pages of their site.  Why?  Because they have great content, many linkable assets, easily located and with short URLs.  See why they are on the right end of the linkability continuum?  On the left end are three page marketing sites, aka glorified business cards, and/or sites with little content or with content that's hidden within databases or behind pull down menus or buried within Flash 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 on the web after 60 days.  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.

Eric


About the Author

Eric Ward founded the Web's first services for announcing, linking, and building buzz for Web sites, back in 1994. Ward is best known as the person behind the linking campaigns for Amazon.com Books, Weather.com, The Link Exchange, Rodney.com, the AMA, and PBS.org. His services won the 1995 Award for Internet Marketing Excellence, and he was selected as one of the Web's 100 most influential people by Websight magazine. In 2009 Eric was one of 25 people profiled in the book Online Marketing Heroes

In 2010 Eric teamed with AdGooroo to create Link Insight, a link quality control and linking intelligence tool. Eric has spoken at over 100 industry conferences and now publishes LinkMoses Private, a subscription based link opportunity and strategy service. Eric has written linking strategy and advice columns for SearchEngineLand, MarketingProfs, ClickZ, Search Marketing Standard, SearchEngineGuide, Web Marketing Today, and Ad Age magazine. Learn more about Eric and his content publicity and link building services at ericward.com

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Selected Link Building Posts and Columns

- Migrating from Blogger to WordPress
- Link Building for Personalized Search
- The Curly Theory of Link Building
- A Peek At Google's Future
- Who Controls Link Building Success
- Why Reciprocal Links Will Always Be Viable
- When Cheaters Win
- Everything You Know About Link Building Is Wrong
- Riding The Twitter Link Waves
- Helping Clients See The Bigger Linking Picture
- Why Reciprocal Links Will Always Be Viable
- Up Close Look at Eric Ward's Link Building Desktop
- Best Practices for Feeling Sorry for Yourself
- Revenge of the Librarians
- How Twitter Can Impact Link Building
- Announcing Link Insight
- Paid Links from .edu's - Good, Bad or Ugly?
- Best Practices for Flickr Link Building
- Backlink Research Best Practices
- Rules Of Linking Engagement
- Joe The Plumber and Link Building Best Practices
- Outlinking Best Practices - Rule 1
- The Great Link Race Has Begun, But To Where?
- Why Link Building Must Go In-House
- Link Building Podcast and Transcript with Eric Ward
- Helping Clients See The Bigger Linking Picture
- After The Basics - Now What?
- Social Media Links - Spam 2.0?
- Where Trust Lives - An Example
- Why Reciprocal Links Will Always Be Viable
- Yahoo Directory Paid Link Best Practices
- Best practices for submitting to directories?
- Anchor Text Best Practices - Update 8-24-09
- What is the meaning of life, and link building?
- LBBP - The Weekly Delete
- LBBP - The Weekly Delete - Avis Edition
- How do I determine good link targets?
- Social Network Linking Addiction
- Thirty Link Building Rants and Commandments
- Picking The Right Shovel (LinkMoses Resurrected 4)
- Interview with my Alma Mater
- LinkMoses Linking Commandments
- A Linking Campaign Primer
- Five Things You Don’t Know About Eric Ward
- Yahoo Daily Wire Says Goodbye
- LinkMoses On The New Google Link Analysis Tools
- What My Four-Year-OldHas to do With Link Building
- Social Media Optimization - 3 Rules
- Artificial Linking and Search Rankings
- Social Link Spam and Cigarette Butts
- Google's Custom Search Engine Service and Links
- The DMOZ Ship Has Sailed
- .edu Link Fallacies Explained
- Link Penalty Anxiety?
- Where Is The Mother of All Links?
- Link Bait Kool-Aid?
- Is White Hat Link Building a Myth?
- Are You A Link Whore?
- For the love of God please stop
- How does Google collect and rank results?
- The Case for Topically Irrelevant Backlinks
- Linking's Holy Grail: Passively-Obtained Backlink
- Looking for Links In All The Wrong Places
- The Yahoo Link That Can Make You A Star
- Link Popularity and the Myth of the Guestbook Link
- What Makes a Web Site Link-Worthy?
- Build A Free Link Clipping Alert Service (Parts I & 2)
- Linking Legalities. What You Need to Know
- A Technique For Selecting Sites For Link Requests
- Potpourri of Linking Facts and Fiction
- Linkability - Some Sites Have It While Others Don't
- Under the Radar: Tracking Online Media Coverage
- Using Google to Identify High Quality Link Targets
- Automated Link Generators - Not Worth It
- Linking Mistakes To Avoid, Part 1
- Linking Mistakes To Avoid, Part 2
- Make The Most Out Of Emailed Press Releases
- Taking The Plunge in the Pay-Per-Click Link Pool
- Now Is The Time For A Portal Link Audit
- A Linking Campaign Primer - by Eric Ward
- Spotting Unnatural Linking Patterns
- Five Things I Hate About Linking
- Aggressively Seeking Links: How Much Is Too Much?
- Link Building's Cult Of Reciprocity
- LinkAnalysis Beyond Search Rank - by Eric Ward
- Portrait Of The Perfect Link Builder
- Social Link Manipulation
- Link Building Tip - Links by Association
- Teeny Weenie Bikini Linkbait
- Ten Things to Ask Before Hiring A Link Builder


 

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