In/Outbound Link Management for the In-House Crowd

I am pretty much the entire extent of the newly created web services department for an old (~80 years old) , privately held manufacturing company. As I’m hip deep in a complete overhaul of our primary site, I haven’t had the luxury of digging into the seo issues very much, but one of the things I’ve come across recently is the completely laissez faire method of managing inbound links from vendors, showrooms, retailers, and channel partners.

I’m sure I don’t have to regurgitate the value of good anchor text and the value of inbound links, so I won’t 🙂 I’m also sure you’ll understand why I was so squicked when I saw some sites linking to our corporate site instead of our primary site (the corporate site really isn’t what we want to have the highest visiblity), some sites are using really weird words and phrases for anchor text, some places are using images with no alt text, etc. Everything is just completely inconsistent and very little of it is beneficial.

I’ve also had a couple reciprocal link requests come across my desk, and one or two, “Hey, we’re one of your vendors and we’d like to add a link to your site on our website… for $1000 a year.” (Um, yeah.)

At first, I just kept explaining the way things ought to be dealt with and why to people, but I found I was repeating myself so much that it was ultimately going to be easier to just write up a new policy about how these issues are to be addressed. I know “policy statements” and guidelines just reek of corporate politics, the fact is, I *am* in a big corporate environment and people only adhere to guidelines that are in writing and are official company policy. I can’t expect them to completely wrap their brains around the import of these policies, but once they make it to “official policy” status, I can expect them abide by them because they are officially official.

Here are the items I addressed in my policy (obviously, you’ll want to tailor your policies to match your specific situation and write it according to your own company’s specs), but I’m hoping this provides some food for thought and good starting point for crafting your own document.

  1. Outbound Link Requests
    1. Who handles these requests and instructions for routing to the proper parties
    2. General policies regarding outbound links (in case anyone is wondering)
  2. Inbound Links
    1. General policies, including will we pay for links? If so, under what circumstances? If not, why? Etc. (People are more likely to abide by the policy if they have at least some understanding of the rationale behind the edict.)
    2. Preferred anchor text, correct destination URI, code examples.
    3. Who handles these requests and instructions for routing to the proper parties
  3. Mail and Phone Solicitations for Online Directories, etc.
    1. Designate one person/team to handle these requests/calls, so that there are no surprises like “What do you mean we’ve been buying links on pr0n sites?”

Ultimately, the goal here is to establish guidelines that are understandable and easy to follow for the unwashed masses at your company, and you want to train them to funnel these types of issues to you so you (or whomever is primarily responsible for SEO) not only know exactly what’s going on as much as possible, but so that you also have a means of enforcing your policies and ensuring compliance throughout your organization.

Start a binder or a little section on your intranet for your SEO policies. Teach your team why this stuff is important to the overall effort, and put some effort into getting their buy in. Writing policies and guidelines are busywork/p.i.t.a. type of jobs, but the long term rewards are worth it.