A Beginner's Guide to Exchanging Links
Copyright 2004 Suzanne Morrison
Reciprocal linking is an effective, free way to get more visitors to your website.
Exchanging links with other webmasters can help you in two ways.
- Firstly, by getting your link displayed on other websites you are increasing the number of paths leading back to your your own site. This in turn will increase the number of visitors.
- Secondly, exchanging links will increase the chances of getting your web page ranked more highly in the results returned by search engines.
The reason for this is that for most search engines, the number of links pointing to a site plays a huge part in determining where that site ranks. Why? Well, wouldn't you be more likely to visit a place that had been recommended to you by a friend? The same reasoning applies to search engine positioning.
A link from site A to site B is like a vote for site B. The more votes that site B gets, the higher it is regarded by search engines.
However, quantity is not everything! A link carries more weight if it is from a high quality site - in the same way that a recommendation from a trusted friend would be taken more seriously than a recommendation from a casual acquaintance.
If have been reading up on the subject of search engine positioning, you may be familiar with the term "PR", or "Page Rank". Page Rank is Google's way of measuring the "importance" of a web page. In simple terms PR is a number between 1 and 10 and can be viewed by downloading the Google toolbar.
It is easy to become hung up on or obsessed by page rank, but my advice is to try to take your focus away from that PageRank icon on the Google toolbar and focus your efforts instead on building up a good set of reciprocal links. If you do this well, the PR and search engine rankings will come.
So, how do you start reciprocal linking?
The first step is to find other sites that you want to link to. Use search engines and links from other websites to find sites that complement your own and try to request links from sites that you think would interest your visitors.
You can find some linking directory resources to help you with your searching on http://www.homebiz-direct.com/Link-Exchange-Resources.html
You may have been recommended to avoid linking with your direct competitors. Whether you do this or not is entirely up to you - the main disadvantage of doing this is the chance of losing business, whereas the advantage is the extra traffic that you will gain by doing so.
Personally I feel that the additional traffic gained from linking to competitors outweighs the potential chance of losing business to them.
Before you start your linking campaign here are a few tips to help you:
(1) Ensure that there is a visible link to the "Links" directory on the index page of the site you are requesting the link from and that the links directory is organised. It's unlikely that your link will be found by visitors if it is one of the 100 links on an unorganised links page.
(2) Follow the above rules for your own website - it's only fair.
(3) Once you have found a page it is good manners to add a link to your own site before requesting a link from another. This way the webmaster of that site will know that you are serious and will be more likely to link back to your site.
(4) Being highly organised whilst requesting links is also important. Using link management software to keep track of all your link requests and automatically add them to your web page literally halves the time taken to request and manage links.
(5) Keep track of all the links you have requested, either through link management software or in a spreadsheet. Add the URL, date requested and contact information for all the links you have requested and update this everytime a link is approved or declined. This will help you to keep track of your reciprocal linking campaign and prevent you from looking stupid by requesting a link from the same site multiple times.
(6) Use tools to help you decide which sites to link to and to help monitor your own progress. Tools that I use include
- Alexa Toolbar - http://www.alexa.com/
- Google Toolbar - http://toolbar.google.com/
- Link Popularity tool - http://www.marketleap.com/publinkpop
Finally, set yourself a goal to request a specific number of links per week or per month. Keep going until you meet this target. It may be boring, but once you get into the way of doing this, it will seem like second nature and you will start to reap the benefits in the form of increased traffic to your website!