The link controllers really don’t want you tainting their sites with your dirty “links”.

The link controllers aren’t dead — yet

In the year of our Lord 2024, some websites are still trying to control who links to them.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Do people really still try to control who links to their website in 2024? It seems so, according to a little research into linking policy done by Malcolm Coles:

10+ years ago I created an annual list of websites that FORBADE you from linking to them, DEMANDED you write to ask for permission or LIMITED links to only their home page. Royal Mail even promised to post me a paper licence.
Now a decade has passed, let’s see who’s still doing it …

Turns out the answer is ”plenty of people”, including Man United, Bill Gates and Thames Water.

Delightful as it is to see Malcolm blogging again, it’s significantly less so to see so many sites still fundamentally failing to understand how the web works.

Why Which?, Why?

Nick Heer is particularly baffled by the restriction that Which? tries to enforce:

Some of these are even more bizarre than a blanket link ban, like Which? limiting people to a maximum of ten links to their site per webpage.

Ian Betteridge thinks he has the answer:

it’s an attempt (albeit pointless) to prevent sites linking in a way which Google will define as spammy. Low-quality backlinks used to be a bit of an SEO nightmare, and you used to have to disavow them as toxic in Google Search Console. More than ten links to the same site from a single page is classic link spam, hence Which?’s attempt to stop it.

The crucial bit in that quote, though, is “albeit pointless”. How on earth will putting that restriction on your site stop the sort of digital lowlives that trade in spammy backlinks? Unless Which? has confidence that it could enforce those terms through the courts (which feels unlikely), it’s just a waste of everybody’s time.

I suspect most of the restrictions Malcolm found are just boilerplate — a left over from the early days of the web, when companies were still nervous of these weird internet people and their “linking”. \

30 years of digital ignorance

But if you’re still using pseudo-restrictions like that over 30 years into the life of their web, you’re just declaring your ignorance or lack of attention to detail on your website.

I give you full and free permission to link to any page on this site. There are many thousand to choose from…

open weblinkingweb publishing

Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.