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The Net Takeaway: "Backlinks"


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"Backlinks" · 09/12/2007 06:19 PM, MetaBlog

A relatively recent change in some leading blogs is leading to lots of teeth knashing and annoyances. Its not just a UI issue, or a journalism issue, or an SEO issue… its also about greed.

The latest post on this issue is from Louis Gray but you can see it on any recent post at or

Basically, almost half the links in their entries link back to category or tag pages in their site, instead of the obvious target. So, for example, the links above to Engadget would actually not take you from my site to, but instead to another page on this site listing other entries I’ve written about Engadget. If you click on a link which looks like an external site, you naturally expect to go there. And if its ambiguous, say a story about a person or a place, the hotlink text should say where it’s linking you, either through a symbol or in the hypertext itself.

Ryan Block, the editor of Engadget, has posted his explanation of why he does this but it reads as you’d expect: a dancing around the issue and a defense of a practice which is reflects a pure greed: keeping people on your site when they don’t expect to go creates new pageviews, and therefore ad impressions. If you want to help users, you make sure your links clearly communicate where they are going.

I enjoy reading Techcrunch and Engagdget, and its a quandry. Because I hate supporting sites which do scummy things. Let’s hope the noise get’s them to change their practices. If you are writing about events and items which are not part of your enterprise or organization, and you include a link, readers expect such a link to direct them to another source, or even the actual home of the event or item. If you want to direct people inwards, simply use the language and give users a clue that you are sending them to the archive. Its easy to do… and because its so easy, the choice not to do so is very telling.

Look, there are lots of scummy things out there (did you see the free page counters who hide 3rd party links in your pages to get free search ranking increases?) and this is not worth hurting people over. We just all expect better from the leading bloggers (“they’re just like us, only they make money from this stuff!”) so when they abuse their position or our trust, it feels worse than if some desperate newspaper does similar tricks.

PS: Even the big guys dislike it: Look at Jeremy Wagstaff’s post entitled Sleazy Practices.

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