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The insane world of “No linking Policy” – what happened to the interNET?

15 July 2010 BY

I have been working on a big social media project for one of my clients for the last few weeks, we were going live yesterday but were stopped at the last minute from the clients lawyers “I’m sorry you cannot go live before you have checked that you are allowed to link out to all of these sites”, What the F@~!£??? Seriously, I thought, who in their right mind would prevent someone linking to their site. This is the internet, free speech = free linking, surely!? Or is it?

So, I quite confidenentaly wrote an email to the lawyers saying in essence (although I put it slightly more eloquently of course) “you got to be kidding and don’t be silly there is no UK company that would have a no linking policy”, BOY was I wrong. After a quick question round on twitter, asking my followers whether they had heard of such “no linking policy” for any UK websites, I was shocked to find out there are LOADS of website doing this.

(A big thanks to @rishil @chappers @wiep @nicholastott @mattuk @harrybailey @theEdword and  @tomsmith1984 for your quick replies to my tweet). And most of all thanks to @malcolmcoles who has spent significant time looking into all of these instances of UK “no linking policies”.

Malcolm’s most recent blogpost is a must read, giving you a list of examples of UK websites that has such “no linking polices”. These are all BIG UK businesses that have decided for one reason or another to prevent people from linking to their site.  Malcolm has written several blogpost on this subject, the first one being a list of UK newspapers which has this no linking policy, then the second blogpost gives another list of major UK companies including the AOP (Association of Online Publishers) permitting websites to link to them without permission. Now I find this particularly funny as AOP is of course all about “online publishing”, pah!! (EDIT: After publishing this blogpost it was brought to my attention that the AOP no longer have a “no linking policy” in their T&Cs.

Here’s a list of UK companies with a “no linking policy” or “linking restriction policy”:

Anglo Irish Bank
Apple
Barclays Premier League
BBC Active
Channel  4
Daily Mail
Daily Mirror
Easyjet
EDF Energy
Edinburgh Fringe
FT
Jimmy Choos
Kent Online
Manchester United (to be fair who would want to anyway..lol just joking)
Money Saving Expert
MTV
News International Jobs
Right Move
Royal Parks
TalkTalk
The National Autistic Society
The Sun
The Telegraph
The Times
Ticketmaster
TimeOut Tickets
Vodafone
Which.co.uk

**

But my absolute favourite is………….. The Post Office, yes that’s right, Royal Mail don’t allow you to link to them without……………… get this………….. “a paper license”.

I am still a bit gobsmacked really, why would anyone prevent sites linking to them. That is kind of the whole POINT of the World Wide Web.  There are so many reasons why restricting linking could completely screw up the internet. For example, how could you trust that someone is right if they can’t back it up with a link to the original source (imagine the students doing their dissertation without ANY reference to where they got the content from). Or how about our very own field of the search engines! How would the search engine rank if links had nothing to do with it, it’s a whole separate blogpost right there. Do these sites even know what impact it could have on their search engine rankings and traffic? Or do they have some special deal with Google…

I’m sure that when Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, he sure as hell didn’t  mean for links to be restricted, I dug up this article by Tim (yeah we are so on first name basis) about Links & Laws where he says “There is no reason to have to ask before making a link to another site” but at the same time “You are responsible for what you say about other people, and their sites, etc., on the web as anywhere”. This of course makes totally sense. In my head (and this is just an interpretation of what it says in his article) it simply means if you don’t want people to view it don’t put it on your sodding website.

At the end of the article he says “It is difficult to emphasize how important these issues are for society. The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States, for example, addresses the right to speak. The right to make reference to something is inherent in that right. On the web, to make reference without making a link is possible but ineffective – like speaking but with a paper bag over your head.“

Hear Hear, indeed like “speaking with a bag over your head”, OR like playing Pictionary when someone asks you “who told you that”, and you have to reply; “Ehm, first word, you get it through a little hatch in your door. Yes, Post! Second word, you go there to work and sit with your computer, yes Office. BUT HUSH don’t say it all together, you might not be allowed to!!

** If you know of other websites that has a “no linking policy” please feel free to add them in the comments and I’ll try to make one big list, also I have only looked into UK websites, I’m sure there are loads all over Europe.

AUTHORED BY:
h

Lisa Myers runs her own SEO & Social Media Agency; Verve Search based in London (UK). She is also founder of the SEO blog; SEO-Chicks.com and was co-founder of State of Search.
  • http://www.e-business.ie Ann Donnelly

    OMG! I cannot believe the number and profile of those listed here! I knew there were a few paranoid types out there, but this is significant.

    So what if we do link to a business like this? The time to check if any require a license and then the time to get the written OK would make the link useless in most cases.

    Do we just link away and then wait for someone to say that we have to remove it? Is it too late then? Can we get taken to court? Guess it depends on the site you have (or client you are working for). If you have a personal blog it may be worth taking the risk. If you are a big corporate entity you’d better listen to your lawyers!

    It will definitely take the fun – and usefulness – out of the web!

    Thanks for the very interesting post!

  • http://www.seobloom.com/davide-corradi-seo/ davide corradi

    Shocking! Why on earth you have a website if you don’t want people linking to it!??

  • http://www.vervesearch.com Lisa Myers

    @Ann Donnley Absolutely, it’s ridiculous. And yeah I think they would probably take it less serious if it was a personal blog than an actual company linking to them. I suppose it wouldn’t be that difficult to “police” such activity, takes very little time to find out who’s linking to you, although with sites such as The Times for example will have hundreds of thousands of links, thousands new ones a week probably, that would have to be a full time person just to “police” the links.

    It might be unlikely you get taken to court, probably start by being asked to take the link off, but you COULD, and that’s the problem, it makes people nervous, and it really shouldn’t. You shouldn’t need to read through pages of terms and conditions before you link to a site..but now you might have to.

    @davide I agree, it’s stupid on so many levels.

  • http://www.esizemore.com Everett

    I thought this post was going to be about companies making it a policy not to link OUT to other websites because some ignorant SEO wanabe told them their page rank would “leak” out all over the place. I’ve seen that several times, but I’ve never seen any “official” policy here in the US from companies that don’t want other sites to link IN to theirs.

    However, I’ve had several emails over the years where some blogger or academic wants to link to one of my sites, or a clients’ site and wants to know if it is OK for them to do so. I always take the opportunity to request specific link text in those cases. Hey, it’s the least they can do if I’m “letting” them link to me. ;-)

  • http://www.vervesearch.com Lisa Myers

    @Everett Ha, and rightly so re: specifiying anchor text, brilliant. It kind of makes sense to have a “no linking out policy” although it’s still “poo” but the other way around “no linking in policy” is just beond me.

  • http://www.seohome.co.uk gabs

    Is it all BS (not your post) as has anyone been taken to court for it ?

    Take mypostoffice

    (I was going to quote it but better not) its says along the lines of, linking at your own risk, exclusions and limitations of using the site maybe effected if you link..

    How the F**k is that going to happen?

  • http://explicitly.me rishil

    I dont know of a UK case, but the mot famous one was Ticketmaster vs Microsoft http://searchenginewatch.com/2165311

    Funnily enough – http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2007/oct/20/tvlinksshutdownforlinking there are situations when certain types of links may be an issue…

  • http://www.ukaop.org.uk @ron_n

    Hey Lisa – this isn’t correct, AOP does allow linking (why wouldn’t we?) There’s nothing about this in our Ts & Cs…

    The post of Malcolm’s you linked to is from March 2009, and as soon as it was brought to my attention, I had it updated immediately.

    Thanks,

    Ron

  • http://www.ukaop.org.uk @ron_n

    Malcolm does allude to this himself: http://www.malcolmcoles.co.uk/blog/dont-link-clowns-2010/

    ‘(most of those subsequently removed the offending clause after I pointed it out).’

  • http://www.vervesearch.com Lisa Myers

    Appologese Ron (missed that bit), I will edit asap. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • http://www.twitter.com/petewailes Pete Wailes

    Personally, every time I find one of these sites, I link to them. It makes me happy.

    It’s like the quietest, least effective trolling ever.

  • http://www.sarahcarling.com Sarah Carling

    I’ve worked with post office financial, and I’m pretty sure their digital marketing team is (or at least was) unaware of this. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case in most of these examples, and I wonder how many of these brands would change their policy if marketing were aware

  • http:///www.adamtudor.com Adam Tudor

    Er… what?! I had to re-read this twice and will have to again! They seriously can’t think that they can police this sort of thing, and are there even any legal approaches they could take if you do? They can discuss the issue all they like in their t&c’s but how can they try to dictate what you do and who you link to on your own webspace?

    Basically they’re just impeding free speech on the internet, it’s almost like trying to ban anyone who walks past your house from talking about it. Quite a disgraceful policy, maybe they’ve been taking tips from China.

  • http://www.stockport-seo.co.uk Geoff

    wow..
    Money Saving Expert and Right Move really surprised me with this on I got my head around the no inbound link concept…
    Even if you didn’t get SEO why would you not want links and potential traffic from them?

  • http://bridgerbay.com Tym

    So we’re not supposed to do this Anglo Irish Bank ?

  • http://seo2.0.onreact.com Tad Chef

    I checked the Daily Mail ToS and couldn’t find any constraints on links to the site, just links on the site are covered by the terms.

  • http://www.adamtudor.com Adam Tudor

    Look out Tym!

    The black helicopters are coming for you!

  • http://www.e-difference.nl/ Jeroen van Eck

    Reprocopy, an organization representing some major Flemish newspaper publishers, published a full-page ad in all their papers where they explaned how and when you could link to digital articles on their websites. Guidelines include:
    - Deeplinking should be for non-commercial purposes. (How do you use (non-affiliate) deeplinking for commercial purposes anyhow?)
    - Only the title and a limited number of characters can be reproduced on the linking page.
    - The source should be clear without having to follow the link (i.e., newspaper, title and date of the article should be provided)
    - No framing
    - And my favorite: The links must be removed after 30 days and may not be archived.

    Source: http://www.apache.be/2010/07/krantenuitgevers-snappen-het-internet-niet/

  • http://www.philb.com Phil Bradley

    National Autistic Society is happy for you to link to them, and provides a very helpful page. http://www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/autism-library/websites-forums-and-blogs/linking-to-our-website.aspx

    Post Office says: “If you do create a link to a page of this website you do so at your own risk”

    Premier League say “You are however welcome to link to the Premier League website http://www.premierleague.com on the understanding that you in no way seek to claim that by doing so, the Premier League is endorsing your product/services.” Which sounds reasonable to me.

    Royal Parks request links to their home page. Not brilliant, but not the same as not allowing links.

    That’s 4. I gave up looking at this point.

  • http://www.verticalmeasures.com Arnie Kuenn

    You know how sometimes you skim or read through a post really fast? Well I had to totally slow down on this one as it sure felt like an April Fools joke or some prank — I wanted to make sure I caught the punchline if there was one. But it all appears to be true. Stunning. BTW – love this line: “I am still a bit gobsmacked really…”

  • http://www.mostlyaboutchocolate.com Judith Lewis

    I’m thinking… if I worked for 3 or Orange I’d get a list of links to Vodafone and make those linking there aware of the violation they are comitting. Or if I worked for RyanAir I’d do that for Easyjet.

    I can think of no more effective strategy of harming a competitor than getting links removed.

    In fact, Ticketmaster annoy me. I think I’l go do some completely legitimate sabbotage by identifying where that policy is and emailing every single link site they have and suggest they remove them or face possible legal action.

    Well, not really but just think about it… They could face the equivalent of removal from the index through disallowing links and having a competitor do that. Vodafone et al might want to start getting worried…

  • http://news.motorbiker.org/ Mike Werner

    If a site does not allow links to it, that would mean that all search engines are at fault, wouldn’t it? So these companies can take the Googles of this world to court.

    Strange…

  • http://www.2seo.com/ Teena

    Would they sue you if you do so? are they paranoid or what…they should remove their website instead this is the world wide web…for Christ sake they should make their own version of the www lol…

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  • http://www.searchoptmedia.com Gary Viray

    These days of internet, “interwebs”,social media and all those interlinking phenomena that we have been experiencing and witnessing, I could not possibly imagine those “tink-tanks” of these sample sites with such ridiculous policy. Who are they? Pandora box protectors? Or Inside-The-Box thinkers? Or simply just fools who do not really “get it”.

  • http://Www.britishcouncil.org David

    Lisa, great article! When i started out as a web manager for the Britis Council in France 7 years ago, I usef to get phone calls requesting if they could link to us! Damn yes! Link to my site please!! I used to think :) After a while I understood that there there were companies not allowing free linking to them without permission! Funny!

  • http://www.microsourcing.com MicroSourcing

    Those sites with No Linking policies are overly protective of themselves. In all probability, they dislike the feeling of being ‘exploited’ by link builders. A lot of them also happen to be authority sites, so they probably think that being linked to is not a fair deal.

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  • http://twitter.com/getemails get emails

    yes what you have here is idiots who don’t know what they are doing, and if you are dealing with a blue chip company then you should be prepared to put up with mindless middle management trying to justify their own existence or even worse outside sub contactors like legal teams who without doubt will be earning far greater sums than your company. I’m afarid that if you target these types of companies then be prepared to take all the bull and baggage that comes with the job. Why would you stop people from pushing your brand? God knows and if you sat infront of these dicks and asked them the same quesion they would probably just shrug their shoulders and say ‘we don’t know’ . Tossers.

  • http://www.seoranksmart.com/ joseph

    yes, you are right they dont use links but they will do good onpage work….