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The visibility of health web portals for teens: a hyperlink analysis

Leanne Bowler (School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Wan‐Yin Hong (School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Daqing He (School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 21 June 2011

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to analyse the hyperlinks leading to six teen health websites in order to assess the visibility of teen health web portals as well as to discover which websites refer teens to reliable health information.

Design/methodology/approach

An environmental scan of the web was conducted to find sample health websites for teens. Inlink data was gathered using Google Webmaster Tools, and the inlink sources were classified by the type of creator.

Findings

The teen health websites in this study had a low level of visibility on the web compared to general health web portals (such as Medline Plus, for example) and a weak level of referrals from health‐related groups compared to other organisations such as schools and public libraries. Many non‐healthcare related websites are linking to teen health information, demonstrating that teens' health information needs are being met by sources that lack expertise in health care.

Research limitations/implications

Due to the small sample of six websites, generalisations beyond the context of the study are difficult to infer. The Google Webmaster inlink tool does not guarantee 100 per cent coverage and some inlinks may not have been captured by the tool, although this number is most likely minimal. The results of this study present a snapshot rather than an all‐inclusive view of the visibility of teen health websites and offer a starting point for further investigation.

Practical implications

The weak network of inlinks leading from reliable health care providers is a lost opportunity for health care professionals to reach young people.

Social implications

Due to the weak network of inlinks from reliable health information sources, teens may not be accessing accurate and reliable health information. This could have a potential cost in terms of health outcomes.

Originality/value

The study investigates health information for teens, a population that increasingly uses the web as a source for health information. The authors used an approach that has not been used before in the study of teens and health information on the web.

Keywords

Citation

Bowler, L., Hong, W. and He, D. (2011), "The visibility of health web portals for teens: a hyperlink analysis", Online Information Review, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 443-470. https://doi.org/10.1108/14684521111151469

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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