News websites and external linking - the debate continues...

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 24 January 2011

There has been another flurry of blog posts looking at the way news organisations link to external sources. Or rather, how they mostly don't.

Kevin Sablan wrote about The Google-newsroom conspiracy theory, suggesting that only payments for driving users into Google's search arms could be behind the consistent refusal of news sites to link out. Amy Gahran took that idea and developed it into a blog post about two positive ways that journalists can try and counter the bad old habits.

I thought it might be worth pointing back to my blog post from last year - "5 ways that The Guardian puts external links onto web pages". As well as inline links within articles, we pull in feeds from external sites, use Delicious and Google Reader to populate components on pages with external links, and have networks of bloggers in niche content areas whose content we regularly feature.

I also blogged about how and why we include inline links to our topic pages, and some thoughts about why, from a user experience point of view, the issue isn't as simple as just chucking a few relevant links onto a news page: "External links from news sites - what should the user experience be?"

Following up from my 'dofollow' comment spam posts last week, I also thought I'd point out a comment that was recently left on the Guardian external links post:

"Don't even try comments linking on the Guardian, their comment section is NoFollow. I found that the hard way."

By "the hard way", I assume they meant leaving loads of links that proved to be worthless and were moderated off, rather than simply doing "view source" and seeing that they were going to be nofollowed. It is absolutely right that we "nofollow" links in comments on guardian.co.uk. I dread to think the volume of spam we would attract if we were offering links that search engines value in that way to simply anybody.

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