Skip to Content

Web Watch: A Survey of Links to UK University Web Sites

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend to friendSend to friend

Brian Kelly reports on the number of links to University web sites.

Background

On 10 February Phillip Simons sent the following query to the web-support Mailbase list: "Can anyone tell me if there is any way of detecting who is linking to a particular URL? We want to see who still has our old URL on their links pages." [1]. The replies suggested a couple of approaches: looking at referer (sic) fields in server log files and using the link feature provided by a number of search engines to report on pages containing a link to a resource or web site.

A number of services are available (including LinkPopularity.com [2] and LinkCount [3]) which provide an interface to the "back-link feature of a number of search engines. Why have such services been set up? Why are web managers and information providers interested in details of links to their sites? There are a number of reasons. The LinkPopularity.com site makes the following points:

Need to find additional sites that might link to you?
Run a Link Popularity report for competitors' sites and contact sites that link to them.
Thinking about buying a product on the Internet?
Run a Link Popularity report to see what other sites say about it.

Links to your web site not only help to generate traffic. Due to recent developments in search engine technologies they can generate additional search engine traffic to your site - search engines such as Google make use of citation analysis to rank hits, so that a resource which has many links to it will be given a higher ranking that one with few links.

Since the number of links to web site resources improves access growth in the numbers of links may be a useful performance indicator for your web service. A comparison with the numbers of links to one's competitors may also prove interesting. And as Roddy McLeod, manager of the EEVL subbject gateway said on the lis-elib list last November [4]:

On 4 Nov, Brian Kelly helpfully suggested using info on the number of sites linking to a service as the basis for impressing potential advertisers.

I tried this, pointing out to a potential advertiser that EEVL had, according to HotBot, 1099 sites linking to it, whilst there were only 18 sites linking to their site, and suggested that what they needed was more exposure.

It seems to have worked, as they have agreed to buy an ad on the soon to be released new design EEVL site. For how much?...well, its not a lot of money, not even enough to buy a plane ticket for the BARD to return from his Himalayan retreat where he is currently "resting", but its a start. It also helps that the site in question is the sort of information service which might just fit in to any future perfect portal (or whatever they are being called today).

The Tools Availalable

Two popular web services which can be used to report on link popularity are LinkPopularity.com and LinkCount.

The output from LinkPopularity.com is shown in Figure 1. As can be seen it gets its results from the AltaVista, Infoseek and Hotbot search engines.

Figure 1: Results from LinkPopularity.com
Figure 1: Results from LinkPopularity.com

The output from LinkCount is shown in Figure 2. It gets its results from the AltaVista search engine.

Figure 2: Results from LinkCount
Figure 2: Results from LinkCount

As can be seen LinkCount enables the results from two sites to be compared.

Caveats

Although a number of popular search engines can be used to report on links to a web site a number of caveats should be noted:

  • Only links from conventional static web pages will normally be recorded. Links held in databases will not be recorded.
  • Link information held on resources which are not harvested by search engines will not be recorded. This could include password-protected resources, Intranets, bookmark files and pages which are protected by a robots.txt file.

In addition to the limitations on the information stored by the search engine vendors, it should also be noted that there are several issues associated with the reporting process:

  • Should internal links be included in a survey (e.g. links from www.foo.ac.uk to other resources on www.foo.ac.uk)?
  • Should links to subdomains be included in a survey (e.g. links from www.bar.foo.ac.uk to resources on www.foo.ac.uk, links from www.foo.ac.uk to resources on www.bar.foo.ac.uk, etc.)?
  • Should links to alternate versions of a domain name be included (e.g. www.bham.ac.uk and www.birmingham.ac.uk)

Conclusions

The results published in the Appendix provide a useful snapshot of the number of links to institutional web services. The survey has helped to identify a number of deficiencies in the use of the AltaVista and InfoSeek search engines for monitoring back links, namely:

  • The incomplete coverage of the search engines.
  • The volatility of the results, especially in the case of AltaVista.
  • There is a requirement for link information to be provided in reusable format for post-processing.

Perhaps the best advice is to treat link popularity information with the same healthy scepticism that you would treat web statistics.

References

  1. web-support archive, Posting to Mailbase list, 10 Feb 2000
    http://www.mailbase.ac.uk/lists/web-support/2000-02/0113.html/
  2. LinkPopularity
    http://www.linkpopularity.com/
  3. LinkCount
    http://linkcount.mycomputer.com/
  4. lis-elib archive, Posting to Mailbase list, 10 Nov 1999
    http://www.mailbase.ac.uk/lists/lis-elib/1999-11/0015.html

Appendix 1: Survey Results

The AltaVista and InfoSeek search engines were used to count the number of links to UK University web sites. The survey was carried out between 14-18th February 2000.

The following table contains details of the number of links to UK University web sites. Column 1 gives the name of the institution and a link to the institutional web server. Column 2 gives the number of links to the main web server (e.g. www.foo.ac.uk), excluding links from the institution's own domain (e.g. excluding links from foo.ac.uk). Column 2 gives the number of links to the all web servers in the institutions domain (e.g. *.foo.ac.uk), excluding links from the institution's own domain (e.g. excluding links from foo.ac.uk).

Note that in the survey the syntax of the search string used was: link:www.foo.ac.uk -host:foo.ac.uk (numbers of links to central web server) and link:foo.ac.uk -host:foo.ac.uk (numbers of links to all web servers).

Note the following limitations in the survey:

Domain Name Variants
The survey will not detect links from unusual domain names used within an institution: e.g. a link from www.maths-lse.ac.uk will be included in the numbers of links to www.lse.ac.uk.
Short and Link Domain Names
Institutions which make use of a long and short form of their domain name (e.g. www.bham.ac.uk and www.birmingham.ac.uk) will have misleading results.
IP Numbers
Links from sites within an institution which have an IP number rather than a domain name will be included in the lists of links.
InfoSeek Limitations
The InfoSeek search engine appears to report on pages from other servers in a domain when this has been excluded.
Table 1: Numbers of Links to UK HEI Web Sites
Institution No. of Links
(Main web site)
No. of Links
(All web servers)
Current No. of Links Search Engine
Aberdeen 17,445
3,048
25,459
4,400
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Abertay 991
223
2,129
387
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Aberystwyth 17,664
3,399
21,652
4,191
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Anglia Polytechnic University 5,086
815
7,357
1,639
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Aston 8,184
643
7,049
1,424
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Bangor 3,740
694
8,725
1,571
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
UCL 12,147
6,107
76,150
20,442
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Bath Spa 362
114
585
115
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Bath 23,368
4,592
40,122
6,937
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Belfast, The Queen's University of 6,574
1,186
20,045
3,874
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Birkbeck 3,935
721
13,018
3,275
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Birmingham
NOTE: Used <www.bham.ac.uk> and not <www.birmingham.ac.uk>
12,379
2,356
54,360
7,540
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Bolton Institute of Higher Education 855
133
2,062
399
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Bournemouth University 1,432
261
3,470
657
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Bradford 11,681
1,814
22,840
3,640
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Bretton College 98
24
155
25
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Brighton 1,932
350
4,608
800
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Bristol 1,374
349
10,785
545
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Brunel 6,993
1,257
17,797
3,365
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College 651
128
836
128
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Cambridge 9,501
2,866
231,339
42,198
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Canterbury Christ Church 2,309
230
2,938
256
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Cardiff 1,701
382
5,662
473
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Cardiff, University of Wales Institute (UWIC) 240
41
629
89
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Central England, University of (UCE) 1,144
210
1,630
252
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Central Lancashire 2,181
424
2,853
470
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Central School of Speech and Drama 37
7
43
7
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Cheltenham and Gloucester College of HE 1,128
222
1,306
234
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Chester College 522
318
675
346
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Chichester College 212
39
281
39
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
City 4,210
1,277
21,380
4,068
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
College of Guidance Studies 16
8
37
8
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Coventry 1,091
237
3,176
567
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Cranfield 8,609
1,330
8,246
1,587
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Dartington College of Arts 198
50
247
50
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
De Montfort (DMU) 6,531
1,049
15,683
3,193
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Derby 1,642
339
3,703
823
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Dundee 8,175
1,639
18,972
3,798
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Durham 23,046
4,010
26,693
5,559
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
East Anglia, University of (UEA) 7,370
1,204
24,502
4,297
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
East London 4,027
815
6,093
1,391
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Edge Hill 667
166
1,377
280
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Edinburgh 13,310
3,523
125,603
23,481
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Essex 4,295
997
17,960
3,991
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Exeter 22,720
4,977
31,923
6,758
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Falmouth 223
56
540
99
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Glamorgan 1,275
270
2,725
527
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Glasgow Caledonian University 874
143
2,799
502
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Glasgow School of Art 425
142
482
149
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Glasgow 15,180
3,181
57,375
10,582
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Goldsmiths College
NOTE <www.goldsmiths.ac.uk> and not <www.gold.ac.uk>
158
66
336
66
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Greenwich 4,511
876
5,468
1,299
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Harper Adams 210
46
270
51
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Heriot-Watt 6,070
1,297
26,956
5,359
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Hertfordshire 2,240
487
5,813
1,247
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Huddersfield 2,519
585
3,333
655
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Hull 6,915
1,584
12,623
2,357
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Imperial 3,402
953
125,417
20,555
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Institute of Education 817
246
1,400
320
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Keele 9,614
1,824
10,971
2,336
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Kent 3,296
666
17,676
3,449
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Kent Institute of Art and Design 171
33
262
43
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
King Alfred's College, Winchester 330
74
565
83
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
King's College London (KCL) 5,663
1,262
15,300
2,769
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Kingston 2,544
856
4,142
1,023
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Lampeter 1,668
327
2,329
413
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Lancaster 10,918
1,897
27,395
4,857
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Leeds 16,850
4,010
99,801
12,239
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Leeds Metropolitan University (LMU) 1,666
344
2,356
374
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Leicester 6,280
1,352
16,587
3,324
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Lincolnshire and Humberside 93
40
172
54
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Liverpool 15,571
3,834
29,046
5,490
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Liverpool John Moore 3,539
828
6,163
1,139
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Liverpool Hope 286
73
386
75
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
London Business School 691
237
1,189
281
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
London Guildhall 3,277
760
3,696
791
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
London Institute 281
86
1,134
232
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
University of London (Institutes) 622
206
3,967
617
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) 3,143
872
9,134
1,875
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine 689
217
1,652
281
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Loughborough
Note <www.lboro.ac.uk> and not <www.lut.ac.uk>
3,965
900
11,312
2,165
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Luton 786
183
1,411
231
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Manchester Institute of Science & Technology (UMIST) 2,397
607
14,988
2,387
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) 2,084
561
10,036
2,187
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Manchester 8,152
2,107
47,996
8,581
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Manchester Business School 548
163
716
168
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Medicine, University of Wales College of 1,951
730
2,008
764
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Middlesex 2,497
548<
5,231
926
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Napier 1,804
463
8,414
1,462
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Newcastle 24,414
4,233
54,121
8,404
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Newman 185
42
238
42
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Newport 257
52
1,357
131
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
North-East Wales Institute of Higher Education (NEWI) 648
146
1,597
303
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
North London (UNL) 2,268
564
3,903
895
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
North Riding College Higher Education Corporation 228
35
305
35
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Northampton, University College 877
147
1,396
155
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Northern College of Education 775
176
987
187
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Northern School of Contemporary Dance 79
16
83
16
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
University of Northumbria at Newcastle (UNN) 5,704
1,388
6,749
1,738
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Norwich School of Art and Design 109
18
127
18
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Nottingham Trent 1,969
872
7,193
2,357
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Nottingham 6,459
1,769
29,842
5,525
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Open University 5,228
1,445
22,629
3,987
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Oxford 6,496
1,312
164,307
28,591
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Oxford Brookes 5,121
1,171
8,761
1,247
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Paisley 980
171
2,587
318
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Plymouth 303
93
3,337
192
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Portsmouth 1,415
313
7,194
1,328
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Queen Margaret University College 821
181
1,324
250
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Queen Mary and Westfield College 4,303
1,199
24,889
4,630
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication 221
41
297
41
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Reading 9,164
1,589
14,545
3,089
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Ripon and York St John, College of 259
47
459
52
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Robert Gordon University 2,698
694
4,153
903
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Roehampton 1,045
261
2,504
294
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Rose Bruford College 42
11
61
11
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Royal Academy of Music 184
54
246
56
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Royal College of Art 506
115
894
187
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Royal College of Music 322
70
353
73
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Royal Holloway 1,545
376
7,617
1,614
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Royal Northern College of Music 134
36
185
48
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama 178
44<
207
44
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Royal Veterinary College 145
58
362
64
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
St Andrews 3,513
2,509
31,885
9,597
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
St George's Hospital Medical School 1,804
295
3,494
570
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
St Mark and St John, College of 128
35
197
108
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
St Mary's College 71
19
153
75
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Salford 6,706
1,419
9,722
1,637
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) 1,886
435
3,076
545
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Scottish Agricultural College 557
188
951
192
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Sheffield Hallam University 4,491
1,238
7,473
1,585
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Sheffield 46,286
10,600
69,051
12,669
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
South Bank University 5,276
1,663
6,467
1,967
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Southampton 20,753
4,665
72,904
10,221
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Southampton Institute 866
208
1,771
214
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Staffordshire 3,505
485
6,478
1,034
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Stirling 7,801
1,590
14,725
2,989
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Strathclyde 11,810
1,735
23,800
4,124
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Sunderland 2,199
665
7,329
2,023
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Surrey Institute of Art and Design 462
107
594
113
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Surrey 5,082
876
29,705
4,410
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Sussex 4,360
1,084
9,636
1,371
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Swansea Institute of Higher Education 236
49
401
107
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Swansea 7,626
1,209
9,490
2,011
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Teeside 1,758
256<
3,037
431
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Thames Valley 514
78
1,149
227
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Trinity and All Saints 1,034
234
1,095
238
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Trinity College of Music 110
30
160
30
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Trinity College, Carmarthen 189
58
262
58
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Ulster 4,073
668
12,146
2,357
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
University College London 12,147
6,108
76,150
20,442
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Warwick 14,449
2,183
49,116
6,832
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Welsh College of Music and Drama 91
40<
184
40
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
West of England, University of (UWE) 1,439
343
5,050
971
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Westhill College 109
28
202
29
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Westminster College 362
85
412
88
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Westminster 552
105
2,313
120
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Wolverhampton 5,803
787
12,638
2,537
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Worcester, University College 439
108
620
90
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Writtle College 143
36
182
38
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
Wye College 708
156
740
163
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek
York 23,294
4,067
38,168
6,277
Main - All
Main - All
AltaVista
InfoSeek

Table 2 gives a summary of the top 5 web sites with the most links to the central web server as reported by AltaVista.

Table 2: Top 5 UK HEI Web Sites With The Most Links To Central Server
Institution No. of Links (Main web site) Current Value
Sheffield 46,286 Check
Newcastle 24,414 Check
Bath 23,368 Check
York 23,292 Check
Durham 23,046 Check

Table 3 gives a summary of the top 5 web sites with the most links to all servers within the domain as reported by AltaVista.

Table 3: Top 5 UK HEI Web Sites With The Most Links To All Servers
Institution No. of Links (All web servers) Current Value
Cambridge 231,339 Check
Oxford 164,307 Check
Edinburgh 125,603 Check
Imperial 125,417 Check
Leeds 99,801 Check

Author Details

Picture of Brian Kelly Brian Kelly
UK Web Focus
UKOLN
University of Bath
Bath
BA2 7AY

Email: b.kelly@ukoln.ac.uk

Brian Kelly is UK Web Focus. He works for UKOLN, which is based at the University of Bath

Date published: 
23 March 2000

This article has been published under copyright; please see our access terms and copyright guidance regarding use of content from this article. See also our explanations of how to cite Ariadne articles for examples of bibliographic format.

How to cite this article

Brian Kelly. "Web Watch: A Survey of Links to UK University Web Sites". March 2000, Ariadne Issue 23 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue23/web-watch/


article | about seo