UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Link Strategies for UK Universities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 May 2012

The Commercial Sector is Using Link Optimisation Techniques

We are all aware of the importance of institutional Web sites. Over the past 15 years UKOLN’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) series have provided many opportunities to share experiences and best practices across a range of areas. But I’m not aware of sessions which have been held during that time which have explicitly addressed linking strategies. This occurred to me following a tweet from Martin Hawksey which provided a link to an:

eyeopening summary of Linklove Boston Wondering how many inst. using these techniques?

The resource described a series of LinkLove and SearchLove events which have been held in the UK and US. A summary of the Linklove London conference provided by Hannah Smith of, the company which organised the event, is available. She highlighted the key suggestions from the plenary speakers who covered the following topics:

  • Content Strategy vs Link Building
  • Making Outreach Effective
  • Social Media & Links… a Love Story
  • Link Building Like Michael Winner, or Getting Golden Links
  • Building Targets, Relationships and Links
  • Putting the Love Back into Links
  • Tips, Tricks & Secrets from the Trenches
  • The Critchlow Hierarchy of Needs

The list of attendees at the London event show that this was very much focussed at the commercial sector and it might be tempting to dismiss link building strategies as the unacceptable face of Web site development, especially when you come across some of the comments made by the speakers such as:

There’s a £60 fine for driving in a bus lane in the UK, however Michael Winner doesn’t see it as a fine – he sees it as an investment in getting where he wants to go quickly

But I feel that the higher and further education sector should be willing to learn from others about ways of maximising access to their online content, resources and services and the laudable desire to do this in an ethical way should not preclude institutions from developing ‘white hat’ rather than ‘black hat’ SEO strategies, to use terminology which is described in Wikipedia.

Linking Strategies for the Higher Education Sector

I have already addressed linking strategies in the context of research papers in a post in which I described . In brief I suggested that in light of the popularity of LinkedIn, for which there seem to be over 100,000 users affiliated with the 20 Russell Group universities, and the high Google ranking which this service provides, it would appear beneficial in raising the ranking of one’s institutional repository if those responsible for providing advice on research dissemination strategies were to encourage researchers to provide links to copies of their papers held in the institutional repository. Such approaches should not only help to raise the visibility of the repository itself to search engines, but will also benefit the individual researcher, who should therefore be motivated to provide the appropriate links. In addition providing access tom one’s research publications in a popular environment can also benefit the many users of the service. Such an approach can clearly be seen as a white hat link building strategy.

But what about enhancing the visibility of online resources in other areas? Beyond the interests of researchers, a post which provided an Analysis of Incoming Links to Russell Group University Home Pages showed that Wikipedia, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Microsoft and Google are the most highly-ranked Web sites with inbound links to Russell Group Universities.

Should Universities be seeking to maximise links from such popular sites, which may enhance their discoverability by Google users? But how might this be done, and what are the ethics associated of such strategies?  Perhaps this would be an interesting discussion to have at next month’s IWMW 2012 event. In the meantime,would anyone like to start the discussion on link strategies for Universities? Or do we simply leave such activities to the commercial sector?

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