The Power of a Link

I still remember the first time I got an email from somebody asking me to link to their website from my blog.

They addressed me by name, described one of my blog posts in detail, and asked if I could include their link. It seemed so strange. Why on earth would somebody take the time to write me a personal email, just for a silly link—from a random blog that nobody was reading!

Since then, I’ve learned that these emails are common. Indeed, there are entire businesses built around finding ways to send these kinds of emails effectively and at scale. I didn’t know it, but a link is a powerful thing

There’s a lot of reasons for this. Your website won’t appear on search engines unless somebody links to it. Multiple links can improve your search engine ranking. Links can be a steady source of new visitors and they serve as an endorsement of your site. A single link can have a huge impact.

A link, on the open internet, is a vote. It’s your way of saying, “this is great, and more people should know about it.” We talk about how much power the search engines have, but if you think about it, the search engines listen to us. They see what we link to, what we click, and how long we stay.* At the end of the day, we are the curators of what gets surfaced on the internet.

This is one reason why it’s been so disappointing to see so many people leave their independent blogs in favor of social media platforms (like Medium) for creating content. When people post on these platforms, they lose their voice because the links aren’t the same! They’re often altered with rel="nofollow" attributes, which prevents search engines from crawling the links or counting them toward search rankings. There are reasons for this, but the result is that the links you post lose their power.

I continue to occasionally get emails from marketers asking me to link to their stuff. And while it’s annoying to receive spam, it’s also a reminder of the power I wield, just by having an independent website where I can link to whatever I want.

* Of course there are downsides, including the legitimate privacy concerns around search engines watching us too closely. 👀