Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Dec 23, 2008
After reading a post on Techdirt where the writer was talking about the NY Times getting sued for linking to another news site, it occurred to me that there are some folks out there who don’t get this concept all that well. So, I thought I’d spend a couple of minutes talking about it, not necessarily for the every day reader of this blog, but for someone who might be a little bit new and wonder what this thing means.
I also do it because earlier this year I linked to someone, trying to give them some love, and she complained because she said someone else told her our businesses were too similar and that I might take business away from her, plus she wanted more control over who visited her site. Yes, it was somewhat ignorant, but it’s hard to overcome someone else’s “expert” sometimes, so you just do as they ask and more on.
Linking is pretty much what the internet is based on. Every time you see something on a website that has an underline on it, and you hover over it and you see some kind of change, that’s a link that’s going to take you somewhere else on the internet. On this site, I don’t have my links underlined, but everything that’s this color (except for that) is a link to something else. Not all sites use underlines, just to get that out of the way.
Anyway, links are important because they help the writer highlight something that will either help the reader gain more understanding, or give the reader something else to read to help the writer, or sells something. Links are good for almost all parties almost all of the time. I’m not going to get into the dofollow/nofollow, but you can click on the link to go back and join in on that particular conversation. It was from back in October; see, having a link to take you back to that discussion saves us both the time and inconvenience of having to write the entire thing out again. And, from my perspective, it gives me another chance to highlight a page on my blog that has some type of significance to this particular discussion.
Anyway, most people know that someone linking to your website or blog is a very good thing, especially if it wasn’t asked for. This is known as “backlinks”, or one-way links, and search engines consider those valuable because, in their minds, the writer has deemed that content important enough to link to without requiring the person to give a reciprocal link back. So, even if the writer is using your content to help them with what they have to say, online it helps the originator of the content more, for the most part; reference that “dofollow” link discussion above for more.
Now, the only time someone might not benefit is if they’re content is being linked with someone whose content is somewhat controversial; yes, that’s a nice way of putting it. If you write about roses and you find your link on a hard core pornographic site, you might not appreciate it as much and want the link taken off; that “guilt by association” thing. However, people aren’t under any obligation to remove your link from their sites, and most of the time, it’s good news for you. It’s also not as beneficial when someone is stealing your content as soon as you’ve written it, but over time it doesn’t hurt you as much.
So, the company suing the NY Times not only got it wrong, but they’re severely hurting themselves. Having an entity like the NY Times helping to promote you without your asking for it would be considered a godsend by many. Having that entity decide that, from this point on, nothing you write will ever be on their site, period, including your name, is bad for you. Having the rest of the world read the article and decide that your name is synonymous with danger and, therefore, not having us post anything with your name or link attached, will definitely be a bad thing also (notice I have never mentioned the organization? They’ll not be getting any free press from me). Their advertisers will slowly shrink up as they’ll wonder why no one is looking at their ads. Links help drive people to your site; no links, and you have to hope for your hard core visitors only. That reduces the scope of the people who might find you and your content interesting; that benefits no one.
Anyway, that’s all I have for you. The regular readers have probably moved on without getting to the end, but that’s okay; I’ll take care of them next time. 🙂