by Eric Ward
As hard as some of us work to seek out and request links for our sites, we often overlook a simple yet effective way to encourage links: a detailed link-instructions page.
Most sites have several different ways that they can be linked to -- a simple text link, a graphical link via a button or badge, or a unique URL link. If your site offers a searchable database of some sort, you've also got a search-box link. But how do you explain to Webmasters just how you'd like those links to appear?
Let's look at an example of a site that does it right. (Disclaimer -- this site is one of my clients.)
MEDLINEplus, which is part of the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, has a vast amount of content and many different ways it encourages other sites to link to it. You can link directly to its home page, to an internal page, or to a preset search-results page; you can even provide the MEDLINEplus search box on your site.
One of the challenges for deep-content sites with extensive topical content areas and search features like this one is conveying the proper way to link. To help folks understand linking options, MEDLINEplus has created a "Linking to MEDLINEplus" page that details the many ways another site can link to MEDLINEplus's content.
What I like most about this approach is that such an instructions page enables you to include the actual HTML code that the linking site can effortlessly copy and paste into its HTML. Another especially nice touch is the code it includes for its search box. It's less than 10 lines long, and when pasted into your HTML it renders MEDLINEplus's search box on your site. If you've used a meta-search site, it's the same principle. It's called remote searching, or searching from offsite. It sounds technical, but in reality it isn't technical at all. A few lines of HTML pasted into your page, and that's it. But most linking sites would never think to do this, or if they did they would have no idea how to grab just the right lines of code from all of your source code.
Another subtle aspect of the MEDLINEplus link-instructions page is that it provides a sample; you, as a potential linker, can see what that link will look like before you go and change your own code. MEDLINEplus also provides different graphic and text options, all with associated code.
Another site with linking instructions is Law.com's dictionary located at http://dictionary.law.com/. It encourages other sites to provide the Law.com pop-up legal dictionary on their pages.
This approach is a little different in that it requires you to fill in a form to get the linking instructions, but it works for Law.com. Its link-instructions page is here.
- If you have more than one way that other sites can link to your site, then you should have an instructions page to explain things.
- For deep-content sites, even if your content is great you shouldn't assume others will link to it the way you want them to link to it. Remember the TicketMaster deep-link scandal?
One last point. An added bonus of having a link-instructions page is that you can use the URL for that page in your outbound marketing efforts. When I was linking the MEDLINEplus site, I would contact sites I thought were appropriate, and as part of my communiqué I would send them the direct URL to the linking instructions. This worked beautifully time after time.
Until next time, I remain,
Eric Ward, the Link Mensch
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