The Sleazy Practice of Internal Linking

By | August 21, 2007


It’s a small bugbear but I find it increasingly irritating, and I think it reflects a cynical intent to mislead on the part of the people who do it, so I’m going to vent my spleen on it: websites which turn links in their content, not to the site itself, but to another page on their own website.

An example: TechCrunch reviews Helium, a directory of user-generated articles. But click on the word Helium, and it doesn’t take you, as you might reasonably expect, to the website Helium, but to a TechCrunch page about Helium. If you want to actually find a link to the Helium page, you need to go there first.

I find this misleading, annoying and cynical on the part of the websites that do this. First off, time-honored tradition of the net would dictate a website name which is linked to something would be to the website itself. Secondly, clearly TechCrunch and its ilk are trying to keep eyeballs by forcing readers to go to another internal page, with all the ads, before finding the link itself. Thirdly, because I’m a PersonalBrain user and I like to drag links into my plex (that’s what we PBers call it) it’s a pain.

Fourthly, it’s clearly a policy that even TechCrunch has trouble enforcing. In the case above, the original post had the word Helium directly linking to the website itself, but which was subsequently edited to link to the internal TechCrunch page (as noticed by a reader of the site). If you subscribe to the TechCrunch feed, that’s what you’ll still see:

image image

TechCrunch isn’t alone in this, by the way. StartupSquad does it (a particularly egregious example here of five links in a row which don’t link to the actual sites). For an example of how it should be done, check out Webware, which has the word linking to the site itself, and an internal review as a parenthetical link following. Like this, in Rafe Needleman’s look at companionship websites. Click on Hitchsters and you go to the site; click on ‘review’ and you go to a review.


It’s a nuisance more than a crime, but to me it still undermines a central tenet of the web: links should be informative and not misleading. If you are linking to anything other than what your reader would expect, then you’re just messing around with them.

9 thoughts on “The Sleazy Practice of Internal Linking

  1. Justin

    Arrington does it to pimp/pump page views for his “web 2.0 directory”

  2. SB

    For awhile I thought that I was just clicking the wrong thing. When I realized it wasn’t my problem, I was annoyed; and I’m pleased to see that I’m not alone in that.

  3. Karoli

    I hate it too. When I still read Valleywag, I noticed them doing it, and now I’m seeing it more and more. To me, it’s really sleazy. If they want to link to their related articles, they should just link at the bottom of the post to the related article titles, but linking a site name with a post on their own site isn’t a very social way to conduct oneself on the so-called social web.

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  5. Vivek Puri

    Guys, before you start shooting all over, there is a reason behind doing that. Let’s say i tell you “Minekey” is another app similar to one being talked about. Now if you are smart user, you would understand that the features are going to be pretty same, so no real fun in trying out the app. Instead you can be better off reading the review and knowing if it is really worth trying out.

    Still you suggestion is taken and i will add “review” linky from now on. Only problem that arises out of this is that it takes double the time for me to build the related link list 🙁

  6. Michel

    Wikipedia does internal linking a lot, but at least there they clearly mark the external links.

    Would be nice if non-reference website do the opposite, and clearly mark their internal links instead.

  7. Brent

    I agree the self-linking is very annoying. I also see it on Gizmodo, Engadget and other popular blogs.



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