An Outside-In View Of Websites


The concept of looking Outside In on almost anything brings to mind a whole series of possible issues.  Here are just some:

  • different viewpoint
  • different motivations
  • different values
  • alienation
  • not included, and so on.

Outside In And Customer Service

Outside In has now been suggested as an approach in thinking about customer service in organizations.  What counts is how the customer perceives what is being done for them.

It very much relates to the notion of an organization as being customer centric.  In other words, this is an organization that focuses on customer needs.  Many traditional companies concentrate on producing high quality products and are sometimes described as product-driven.  They may not be adequately sensitive to customer needs.  The Outside In approach forces the organization to consider the perceptions that customers will have looking from the outside.

Outside In And Websites

This Outside In view also has merit in thinking about websites.  Many website owners are proud of the online presence they have created.  As they explore what they have created, they may well rightly feel that they have produced a website with a mass of useful information for their prospects and clients.  As they look from the inside, the online structure they have developed may well appear most impressive.


Taking the Outside In perspective may produce a different answer.  A visitor from the outside only sees the page they land on.  With Google searches that may possibly not be the front door: the Home page.  They may check out a few other web pages but are never fully aware of the hidden mountain of information that they could explore.  If a site map is provided, they can certainly see a long list of what is available but few visitors probably do that.

This different view of the website might appear just a question of different amounts of knowledge, but in fact the Outside In view is a better reflection of what this website notion really involves.

Websites Are Not What You Think

That Outside In view that sees only a series of web pages is in fact reality.  The alternative view that in some sense there is a website on the Internet which represents a closely related set of web pages is false.  If you do not find that statement sufficiently outrageous, then for simplicity let us say that websites do not exist.  A website is just a loose definition of a group of web pages connected by hyperlinks.  If you try to make a precise definition of a website, you will find that it does not fit most websites in real life.

Although an owner of an online property may feel a certain group of Web pages constitutes their website, the web pages are quite independent of each other and there is no simple tag or label that indicates which website they belong to.  Each web page does contain hyperlinks of course and these may well link with other web pages that are owned by the website owner.  The search engines only index web pages and they too have no tag or label that indicates which website any given web page belongs to. 

This is not just playing with words.  Of course the front end of the URL of a given web page may well be identical with the front end of other related web pages.  If so, any hyperlinks between the two web pages can be called internal links.  However at no stage of this analysis is a website label attached to each of these web pages.

This is not intended to fuel a philosophical discussion.  Rather these distinctions have very important consequences in how the group of web pages should be monitored and managed.

The Outside In Big Picture Of The Internet

The best big picture view of the Internet is that it is a huge population of web pages which are interlinked via hyperlinks.  Any association among a group of web pages is really determined by these hyperlinks.  It is not determined by whether or not those web pages exist within the same domain or sub domain.

You may occasionally hear that it is important to get inlinks or backlinks to a website in order to make the website more search engine visible.  This should really be interpreted to mean that the particular web pages that are the target of such inlinks will be more search engine visible.  It will also give more authority to other web pages they link to.  However the authority that passes through these hyperlinks will be the same whether these hyperlinks target closely related web pages or quite independent web pages.

The Outside-In Challenge

This outside in view of what we call websites highlights the challenge.  It is not sufficient just to get a large number of inlinks pointing to the Home page of that fuzzy collection you call your website.  This will get a highly diluted amount of authority for all other web pages that are buried deep within the website structure. The best working view is that every web page must create its own visibility through its own inlinks.

This is the difficulty with a traditional website.  You add a web page but the only inlinks it has are those created within the website architecture.  Special efforts must be made to generate backlinks specifically for any given web page.

This is where a blog becomes so much more powerful.  Every new web page (blog post) that is added automatically generates its own inlinks from a variety of sources.  Such things as Technorati tags or references are one way.  To this we can now add social media such as Twitter and Facebook, even though the initial references may have nofollow tags.  As human viewers see the references, they may create blog posts themselves that reference (link to) the new web pages.  In addition you have the whole slice of the Internet that is set up to handle RSS news feeds with other social media such as FriendFeed to spread the buzz even more.

So forget you have a website.  It is sloppy thinking and you will not target your efforts in the best way.  Realize that what you have created is a group of web pages.  Some of those web pages are much more important than others.  Those are the web pages that should be highly visible to the search engines.  Plan carefully how you can concentrate your efforts on those ‘money’ pages.  You will get much more bang for your buck.

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An Outside-In View Of Websites — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback: An Outside-In View of Subdomains – Questions | Search Engine People | Toronto

  2. This article is astounding. You are officially blowing my mind with this web site! ;)

    One thing though – I’m not quite sure that the authority that passes through hyperlinks will be “exactly” the same “whether these hyperlinks target closely related web pages or quite independent web pages.” How did you find this out?
    In my investigations into ranking, it “seems” that in-bound links score higher than a site’s internal links. I might be wrong – this is just observation and opinion from doing general link profile analysis of a large number of web sites – I measured inbound links and internal links pointing at a large number of pages, and while there is a definite correlation, it appeared that the inbound links had something more of an effect on ranking.
    I think wikipedia is the perfect model. Each page generates its own status and highly targeted link authority irrespective of the home page, which serves to define the “meme” / theme of the site rather than as the most important point of entry.

  3. Pingback: Home Pages Suck | Search Engine People | Toronto