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Monday, June 27, 2011

Thoughts on cross-linking, back-linking


In the early days of the world wide web, most links to external sites were, in my opinion, "legitimate" rather than contrived. My first site dated back to 1994, and consisted of a landing page along with some samples of my academic writing. Back then, besides having no Wikipedia (but a plethora of Usenet newsgroups to refer to), I was able to mainly browse and select what I considered to be quality sites to which to link, and I gave no thought to soliciting inbound links from those destinations.

Something that I recall about Japanese sites before the turn of the millennium, is that the cultural concept of "giri" was being commonly applied to making links mutual, and more interestingly, that authors of content gave explicit permission to have their content linked to by strangers, with the proper etiquette that when one created an external link, the owner(s) of the destination page would be notified.

Now, most SEO blogs and resources speak of the painstaking road to soliciting backlinks (aka inbound links to one's own web presence), of websites that don't provide link juice (via the "nofollow" HTML parameter). More recently (but when SEO was still nascent), "I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine" links were the easiest way to gain backlinks, albeit at the cost of being obliged to link out to them oneself. But the more orchestrated this arrangement became (pardon me; this pun wasn't intended!), the less valued these links became in the eyes of search engines. Which to me, makes sense - the spirit of creating links has been corrupted by the conscious intent of raising one's SERP ranking.

Since there is so much content on the internet, I do understand that the mindset of "if you build [quality content], they will [link to you]" has to be paired now with keyword awareness. But the idealist in me still hopes that people would seek out useful and well-presented material to link to, regardless of the (un)likelihood of gaining an inbound link themselves.

About Mayo

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Professional: As "Senior Enterprise SEO Strategist" in IBM's Digital Marketing division, I provide consulting and training services for both internal and external clients. Formerly I was involved in Natural Language Processing, software localization, quality assurance and documentation authoring.
Personal: INTJ Nikkei Nisei ex-patriated Canadian who takes photographs and enjoys Baroque through late Classical music. The G+ page shares some of the "best of" photos.