At SMX Advanced, I asked the following question of a panel which included Alex Bennert, In House SEO, Wall Street Journal:
“Why do WSJ journalists not link to a website they write about, even when the story is ABOUT the website?”
Ms. Bennert responded that she was not aware of any who were not linking and said, “they should be.” Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief of SearchEngineLand.com speculated that perhaps it was because the stories were behind the pay wall.
Today, I double-checked and I can confirm they don’t and they aren’t. I found three recent stories that exemplify the problem, and none are behind the pay wall:
- Groupon’s CEO on Coupons and Start-Ups – This is an entire story about an interview with Groupon‘s CEO without a single link to the website.
- ‘Vanity’ Press Goes Digital – This excellent article discusses various online self-publishing services including Amazon.com, Lulu, Smashwords, FastPencil, Scribd. For some reason, only Scribd receives a link in the story, despite multiple mentions of the other websites, including prominent photos of their founders.
- Single Magazine Seeks Well-Heeled Partners – This story covers a partnership between Match.com and Glamour.com. For some reason, Match.com receives a link yet its partner, Galmour.com (metioned in the very next sentence), does not. Call me old fashioned, but when I see “.com” in an article, I expect to see it in blue and underlined.
Speaking as both a WSJ online subscriber and SEO, the Journal would be more usable if it consistently linked to websites mentioned in stories. Here’s my suggestion: if you mention a company in a story, especially where the company is an online-only entity, please link to it. You could simply modify the software running your blog and publishing system to automatically link anything that ends with “.com” (or other TLD).
One other question I have for the Journal: what’s the deal with using official corporate names of a web companies, (e.g. “Smashwords, FastPencil Inc. and Lulu Enterprises Inc.” [emphasis mine])? To me, it’s unnecessary and in the above case, inconsistently-applied which makes it distracting. Why didn’t the Journal refer to Smashwords as “Smashwords, Inc.” yet included the “Inc.” for the other two companies mentioned? I’m probably the only newspaper geek who notices this stuff, but it’s an unforced error in my book.
You may be wondering, why do I care? A few years ago, the WSJ mentioned ApartmentRatings.com in a story, referring to it as “Apartment Ratings, Inc.” without a link. So much for clicks from the article or Google seeing a quality signal from that story! I was frustrated by that experience and ever since I’ve taken note of the way the Journal writes about websites. I hope Ms. Bennert can help the Journal correct some of these problems.
I also hope the search engineers at Google and Bing find a way to identify companies and websites mentioned in news stories and attribute link juice even if those mentions are not linked. Seems like it would be not only smart but relatively straightforward for them to monitor authoritative news sources for companies mentioned and treat the mentions just like links.