Last week Britannica.com decided to adopt a “first click free” strategy allowing web publishers to link directly to article pages. Readers who clicked through to the page were allowed to see the content of that article for free and if they wanted to explore further they need a subscription.
This is a very interesting piece of linkbait from britannica.com and one that could see them challenging Wikipedia if they can sort out their on site SEO strategy.
Currently the site has over 1.6 million links to the homepage compared to Wikipedias 4.3 million (for the main homepage) so clearly it has the potential to gain top rankings. The main problem (and one that is being addressed by last weeks announcement) is that britannica.com has only 2.2 million links to the domain compared to 117 million links to Wikipedia.
Wikipedia has allowed deeplinking for years and as a result has been gaining links at an astonishing rate. The best part of these links is that they quite often have the right anchor text and are totally natural. In short the link profile is 100% perfect.
Britannica has a long way to go to catch up with Wikipedia but they can certainly start to challenge them in the long term. The first step has been taken, the second step is to sort out on site SEO and offer the first click free to spiders as well (content is king). Finally they need to structure the site in the same way as Wikipedia with cross linking between articles.
The main question I have is would Google want two encyclopaedias ranking for each search result?