Monthly Archives: August 2011

There’s no such thing as bad hyperlinks

So today I found out Superhero of the Month has been the victim of Internet Plagiarism, as announced in the SHotM post Plagiarism isn’t cool.

Superhero of the Month is one of my favorite web sites, and not just because the SHotM staff are kind enough to feature my sub-par artwork.

This is not an uncommon occurrence nowadays – uncredited stealing of material on the World Wide Web – but I find that so often the victims always make the same mistake. They link back to the plagiarizer, and people seldom realize that that is a pretty silly thing to do.

Hyperlinks are the blood of a web site. If there are no links to a web site, that web site might as well not exist. Links bring a web site traffic, customers and search engine ranking. In this way, hyperlinks have a huge influence on which web sites are successful on the Web. They’re practically like the Spice Melange of the World Wide Web; he who controls them controls the Universe. When someone links to your site, there are pretty much no disadvantages.

…unless you suffer the SlashDot Effect.

All that to say that when you link to a web site, you’re doing them a favor. It doesn’t matter if you linked to them in a blog post about how much you hate plagiarizers; all that matters is you linked to them at all. Maybe you know the old saying "there’s no such thing as bad publicity" – well on the Web, there’s not such thing as bad hyperlinks.

Which is why when someone steals your content, it’s important you don’t write something like…

Click here to see who stole my work!

… because you’re only doing them a favor. Instead just offer a plain-text URL, but not a clickable hyperlink.

Visit http://plagiarize.example.com/leguen.ca/ to see who stole my work!

Linking to the web site makes it easier for new customers to find them. It encourages your readers and consumers to visit there, probably bringing ad revenue and potentially exposing them to malware. It raises the offending web site’s Google Page Rank. The victim of this kind of theft should not offer these kinds of benefits to the offending web site.

This is part of why I think websites like You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice are kind of stupid, since it’s free advertising for thiefs.

On top of the "free advertising" side of things, Web sites involved in Internet Plagiarism are more than likely already involved in some black hat search engine optimization. That means they’re already cheating their way into better-than-normal search engine rankings. If – on top of whatever sneaky tricks they’re already pulling – popular web sites like You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice start linking to them, their page ranks go through the roof, and that’s how a plagiarizer’s content can end up scoring higher in search results than the original.

Don’t think scrapper/plagiarizer sites can out-rank the original material? That was a big problem being faced by StackOverflow in the early 2011s.

So don’t link to plagiarizers. Any end users who would have followed that link and left a mean comment are smart enough to follow a plain text URL. There’s a world of benefits you’re handing to a web site when you link to it; never offer those benefits to thieves.