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To Deep Link or Not To Deep Link
Deep Linking is Good Linking

 5:47 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

In a article last month Jakob talks about Deep Linking:


The first time I read that a few weeks ago, I really thought it was a dated "deadline is due-this is all I got" article for the nervous corporate crowd.

Earlier today, I had a request if it was ok to "deep link" to an article here on WebmasterWorld. This utterly surprised me. That may be the third time it's happened in 7 years to me through tens of thousands of requests.

How do you guys feel about deep linking? Is it ok if someone links down into content for you? Do you deep link? Do you give it a second thought?



 6:07 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

This was a huge issue in the Netherlands a while ago. Some students set up a newspaper overview site(actual site: kranten.com) linking to the internal pages of the different Dutch newspapers. It became a court case of the big newspapers against two 19 year old studens with TV-coverage and all. The Newpapers claimed they wanted visitors to enter via their main-page (with all the normal relevant advertising). The newspapers lost - the site became a hit.

For me personally: the more deeplinks the better - but then I have no advertising.


 6:35 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Deep linking is one of the most basic concepts behind the World Wide Web.

When Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web, he envisioned it as a vast library or network of linked documents--not linked sites. Indeed, I think it's fair to say that the concept of a "Web site" came AFTER the idea of hypertext links between pages (documents) on the Web.

The principle of linking to specific pages isn't new, by the way. It's the Internet equivalent of citing specific pages in a bibliography or in THE READER'S GUIDE TO PERIODICAL LITERATURE. In fact, the READER'S GUIDE is a perfect example. When you look up an article on widgets in TIME Magazine, the READER'S GUIDE doesn't refer you to the table of contents in the issue where the article appeared. It refers you to the specific page where you'll find the article.

Owners of Web sites who object to deep links need to be told, "This is how citations work, and it's how the Web works. If you aren't comfortable with the World Wide Web's fundamental principles, find another playground--or hide your pages behind a firewall."


 6:45 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

I remember I think that one of the major map sites states outright that others should not deep link to their content. That's fair enough. But they go further and state that "deep linking is illegal"!

no kidding. We can respect their wishes, but that bald statement is just plain incorrect is it not?

We also had a university write to us last week and ask permission to link. They also described briefily why they wanted to link and what their site was about. On second thoughts it was a nice idea. It made us have a look at their site and we it was such an informative section we linked to them too...

Of course we asked first!

Their strategy was not to get us to link to them, but I thought that this is a nicer and understated way of getting reciprocal links than the normal "IId show yours if you show mine" approach.


 7:00 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

I do deep link and I don't mind deep links with some major exceptions: some deep linking would kill my site.

Sometimes pages on my site relate well to a page on a another site, though our sites don't really relate well in general. I think it would be a waste of time to send a user through the front door and find the related materials themselves. However, I offer free resources with no advertising on the actual resources, but advertising on the pages that host the resources for teachers and if another site linked directly to those resources, they would be stealing my bandwidth and I wouldn't get the advertising revenue to cover those costs.

I encourage deep links to my site as long as they don't link to an actual resource, but instead link to the page which is hosting the resource. Although, the user bypasses all the advertisements down to the deep link page, I still think it's valuable because their immediate impression is that my site is useful - they found something they wanted-and they might just come back through the front door and be willing to spend time searching for more.

I don't think their is a hard fast rule except. Perhaps, deep linking should be specified in terms of use sections. And if it's not there, it would be polite to ask.


 7:13 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Good poing Booglesworld. We have many PDF's on our site, and people do link just to them rather than the HTM page that introduces them with our branding. The PDF's themselves do not have our branding. They are rotated a fiar bit so we also get lots of 404's because of them.

We always assumed there was nothing we could do about it, and dont wish to go to any trouble like scripts solutions that may cause other problems, and will probably only do something when it really does start to cause us a bandwidth problem. We view it as just bad neighbourliness or ignorance, a bit like direct linking to graphic files.


 7:18 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

I don't give a second thought about deep linking. This is the web, one big public library.

If people link deep to me and I don't want them to I just catch the referer and swing them to where I want them. No big deal. Most companies have no idea how much power they have over their own site. They can prevent anthing if they know about it. The problem is being a webmaster doesn't require a degree.


 7:47 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

For interesting articles on linking (including the legal aspects), see:

The Link Controversy Page

Can Millions of Internet Users Be Breaking the Law Every Day? An Intellectual Property Analysis

A key point in the "Can Millions..." article is the assertion that linking (including deep linking) is illegal only if the linking site circumvents technological barriers that the linked site or page owner may have set up to prevent linking, because of the copyright law's "fair use" doctrine and the "implied license" to link that occurs when material is placed on the open Web.


 8:12 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

thx europe.that second link ezpecially is so comprehensive.


 8:34 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

I prefer to deep link whenever possible, saves the viewer time and underlines the links' relevance.

I'm also quite happy to receive deep links, the more the merrier; IMO it shows the site has plenty of specifically relevant content which MAY at some future date have a bearing on PR.

Pure speculation this, but if I was G, a deep link might well show it was there for a "legitimate" purpose, and be less likely to trip a filter.


 8:59 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

I suppose the alternative to deep linking is they just come and steal the resource and post it as their own. I know you can claim the IPR but it's catching them in the act that can be difficult.

I think chiyo alluded to PDF's earlier, I have a few on my site but I have "branded" them, so anyone downloading can click links within to get to the site, so if someone wants to link to them I'll pay for the bandwidth for the d/l. If someone steals them then I'll generate traffic from the internal links within the PDF's, oh and I also protected them so people can't tamper with them.


 11:25 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Interesting, I don't even think about Deep Linking, I just do it.

For my Hobby Site it is even mandatory. When people are looking for a Search Engine Glossary [searchengineworld.com], then that's where they want to go. They don't want to go to Search Engine World and then work their way through the navigation, albeit very well constructed (grovel grovel) to find what they want. So I deep link.

And in Thousands of links, not one complaint.

I agree with glengara about deep links and Pigeo.., er, Page Rank. Theoretically a deep link should be more valuable as the implication is it is linking to specific content rather than the site as a whole.

Deep linking? it/s what the net is all about.


(edited by: Woz at 12:25 pm (utc) on April 2, 2002)


 12:13 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

In my world deep-linking is not only ok, it's essential.

When I work with content rich websites, I create what I call a trapway site.

A Trapway site is a large collection of small (about 1,5 A4 page of content) articles. Each article is interlinked with a number of other articles in the same arear of content, and when the collection gets big, I create digests with links to all the articles in the content specefic collection.

Deep-linking to these "clouds" of articles serves the purpose of the trapway site, To draw the user into the information he or she is looking for and pointing to more information in the same arear of interest.

By me deep-linking is welcome, linking to the index page might not draw the user ind and keep him

(edited by: bufferzone at 12:43 pm (utc) on April 2, 2002)


 12:37 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

I used to deeplink to another hobby site that had information that my readers enjoyed.

That website put up a new set of 'terms of service' that said they didn't want anyone to do that.

So I emailed all their sponsors with THEIR new terms of service and pointed out they were losing traffic because I could not 'link' to their page anymore.

3 weeks later, the linking policy they had was gone. The sponsors($) spoke up...and I was free to deeplink again.


 12:47 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

I, too, am a fan of deep-linking - that's what the web is all about. If I want to provide visitors to my web site with an answer to a technical question, a link to microsoft.com won't do them any good at all - they need a link to the specific tech note, press release, etc. that addresses their need.

For the sites that I work on, I try to be sure that no matter where someone lands on the site, they can orient themselves and find other relevant content. Deep links from other web sites aside, Google and a few other SEs are the masters of deep linking & delivering users to the content they are searching for. (As an off-topic note, I'm bugged by search results that heavily weight the home page - whether or not that specific page has the content I searched for...)


 1:42 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

The concern that deep linking will "bypass the advertising" shows a lack of understanding of visitor behaviour. If visitors get sent on a convoluted path to hunt down content they've been told about, they will seldom "see" any ads along the way anyhow, and any ad that is intrusive enough to get noticed will more than likely be a source of annoyance.

In my less-than-vast experience (half-vast??), a relevant ad on the page with the sought-after content will be far more effective in terms of connecting with the visitor and generating actual sales than any number of promotional bells and whistles along the way. Deep linking makes a better experience for the surfer, which in turn reflects better on the sites at both ends of a link.

Anyone who complains about deep linking should be very, very careful they're not overlooking an opportunity for viral marketing. Including branding info and links in PDF files is a good example. If you have resources that others want to link to directly, why not rework them a bit to tap into the viral marketing possibilities? Done well it could result in some well-targeted free advertising.

brotherhood of LAN

 2:28 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

I like what Lisa said : "I don't give a second thought about deep linking. This is the web, one big public library"

There is a degree of your own individual perception of the web there ;) its the same as mine and many others i beleive


a. Running a web site and linking to external content, I want the content to be directly available from the link i offer (i.e. the deep content)
b. Problem is "link rot". I prefer to link to the home page because its more likely to stay where it is
c. Illegal to link????? sounds crazy
d. Asking to deep link????? Its getting to the point where having to ask to link is going to make the web one big long strand of red tape

I dont mean to downgrade the thread in any way, but reasons against "deep linking" are in the same category as EU laws against bent bananas IMO


 3:23 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Link rot can be prevented by a 404 handler. You just put in where you moved the content to and have it redirect to that location.

Deep linking can be prevented by technological means. You maintain sessions or cookies, or some such, and if it is not set by the home page, you redirect there.


 3:38 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Back to the original question, any link be it deep or shallow is a good link to my site.

Since a lot of the pages are protected, there is no way to link to them externally. All other pages are already public, so forcing someone through a single page is futile.


 3:58 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>Deep linking can be prevented by technological means. You maintain sessions or cookies, or some such, and if it is not set by the home page, you redirect there.<<

The downside of doing that is that people may stop linking to you. (FWIW, I stopped linking to hotels in a major chain because the chain decided to redirect all deep links to the home page.)


 4:12 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Wow, apply this deep linking logic to a retail business like Wal-Mart. Can you even image that a large retail store would turn away business from a bus loaded with customers just because they pulled up to a side door to enter, instead of coming in through the main entrance? The only reason anyone cares about this issue is because of PR and Google. Webmasters linking to other sites should be considered a compliment, not a problem. This is such a strange business. We should welcome quality traffic to our sites, no matter what door they come in to get there.


 4:39 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

> The only reason anyone cares about this issue is because of PR and Google.

Yes, and that's a silly idea. I manage some sites that intentionally create valuable deep content for their industry. Then they actively pursue those deep links. The number of links these pages get means high PR internal pages that spread their happy PR throughout those internal pages.

Sometimes an internal page ends up with more PR (and more page-views) than the home page. That's a good thing, but some people can't step out of their linear, physical-world ideas. Would they want search engines never to send them any new traffic to an internal page?


 6:31 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

From a usability point of view, seems like deep linking is essential. It's much more valuable in SERPs to go in on an internal page that has the desired info than to have to start at the homepage and sift through the site.

When something is posted on the web, that info is basically there in the public domain for anyone to read or do whatever they want with in terms of linking or reading. If the site owner doesn't want people to deep link they should put the entire site on one page. That would make the site about as useful as if everyone had to enter on the homepage and deep links weren't permitted.



 6:59 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>The only reason anyone cares about this issue is because of PR and Google.<<

Naah, it's just corporate ego and the need of companies to feel that they're control.


 7:08 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

If you have the time, I recommend letting the person that you are deep linking to know before you put up the link.

They may not be ready for the traffic you send, and as in my case it can make those deep links last longer. Just yesterday I notified a someone about a link and they said "thanks very much, I'll be sure not to move that page in the future".

Less broken links makes me happy, and telling them makes them happy...and more might come from the contact too.


 7:16 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

It's great to have people link directly to your internal, optimized pages. More link popularity for more pages. Instead of everything riding on 1 or 2 optimized phrases on the homepage, why not have great on and offsite ranking properties for all of your content?


 11:56 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Good topic about what truly makes the Web a WEB!

I deep link extensively. Often when I write a music artist review I will deep link to relevant content.

If a particular song is a cover version, I may deep link to the original artist's discography page or lyrics page. If the song was written by someone who had other notable hits, I may link there as well.

I've linked to pages on University or College Music Program sites, to organizations founded to help young artists and even to personal home pages that added depth to the topic.

The comments I have received have always been positive. Linking to related content and providing source of additional reference moves a page up from mere article status to one of higher authority.

Handled properly, deep-linking can be a tremendous tool for building credibility.

brotherhood of LAN

 12:06 am on Apr 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

its great to hear lots of people talking about the positive aspects of the issue.

It would seem foolish if our priority lied with anyone else but the viewer, i.e. linking to deep content for their pleasure and ease of navigating through the web


 2:19 am on Apr 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hypertext is made for deep linking, and deep linking should be quite ok on the web, There should be no need to ask, though it may be polite to inform in some cases.

The exception is when you create a large collection of deep links into another site. Then you're recreating a substantial part of an index to of a data base. That may be a problem with respect to intellectual property rights, but please ask I lawyer about such matters. ;)

Another linking issue is how you present your links. If you frame the deep linked pages into your own design you may be modifying content rather than linking. If you use frames to match the content of other sites with your banner ads without permission from the content owner you should expect some trouble.


 3:37 am on Apr 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

Greetings and Gidday from downunder folks,

A most timely topic, as I'm currently revamping and link checking a content section of my site, with a substantial number of outgoing links, and had exactly this dilemma with 2 target links.

So, what was my criteria?

I went to the home page and tried to find the target page from their navigation/search system.

In one instance, the local site search brought up similar pages/files in the same archive as my target file, so I had no hesitation in deciding I could link to the resource I wanted to include.

In the second instance, despite having a link back to my page from this site, (which I was alerted to from my referrer logs), I decided not to link directly to the resources concerned, even though it was VERY tempting.

Why? Because I couldn't directly navigate my way via the site map, or navigation or site search on the home page, to the resources.

So, I poked around the site for a while longer and decided I could put a link to the site's home page, where the resources readily available would still be useful.

Then, once I've tested and uploaded the updated pages, I send the target links webmasters an email letting them know I've linked to them, providing the url and asking them to contact me if they want it removed.

When I first started way back when, I'd email before linking, but back in those days, the web was a much smaller place, and I had more time to wait for a response.

I haven't had any adverse repercussions linking first and asking on notification, can't recall anyone asking me to take their link down, mostly they want the description changed or they provide additional suggestions.

Conclusion? If you find yourself hesitating, then don't link, it's your web site after all!

Regards and Hooroo

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