The web development world was thrown into a bit of disarray with the requirement from the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services that each website on the ZACR registry (any website that has .za in its domain) needs to link to the SA Coronavirus Portal. The first question is – is it real or fake news? The next questions is why?

Yes, it is very real. Although the Government Gazette says that it is a requirement, it doesn’t say what the consequences are for people who do not comply.  Quite a few businesses are scrambling as they either no longer have a web developer that looks after their website, or they can’t get hold of them. Many other developers are advertising adding this link as a service, making money off this in troubled times.

The next question is why – why would the Department require a hyperlink – not a mention or a specific piece of content – but a hyperlink? They don’t ask for a specific way for it to be displayed or for specific wording, the only thing specific is the URL the link needs to go to. We understood immediately what they needed – incoming links for SEO. You see, the SA Coronavirus portal is a relatively new domain. Although it has great content, it is competing with all of the news websites, department websites and even Wikipedia to reach the top of Google for anything Coronavirus-related. They can’t use Google Ads, as Google has blocked advertisers from targeting keywords that are coronavirus or COVID-19 related. So, the department faced a dilemma – we are the main source of factual, up-to-date information for South Africa, but nobody is finding the site when they search. How do you overcome that problem as fast as possible?

The answer is links – as many incoming, high-value hyperlinks from other websites as possible. Incoming links are a vital part of SEO, and a good link building strategy can result in dramatic improvements in domain authority and ranking. Links are also more valuable if they are only one-way i.e. my domain links to yours but yours doesn’t link to mine.

What the Department has done is mandated an immediate high value link farm. We love it, it’s genius. Every company should get behind this and implement it as a way of showing solidarity with the SA Government, a small way to help get the right information out there. So what if your homepage looks messy for a few months – think of the brand impact of publishing something along the lines of “We support the efforts made by all South Africans to bring the Coronavirus pandemic to an end. For accurate information please visit The SA Coronavirus Portal.”

We know that some people are irritated and against the idea of government mandating what they we have to publish – but let’s be honest, there are no negative consequences. Do your best to get a link on your site now that you know why it’s needed.