Using links from other sites has two main benefits: 1) it can create traffic from users that are browsing other sites and 2) it can help increase your position in some search engines. At one time getting links on other sites was often as easy as requesting a link on their “links” page. Today, however, like many other aspects of developing web site traffic, getting successful links is becoming an art.
How to best handle inter site linking is not as straightforward as you might think and if done incorrectly it can have negative results. Negative results can come in the form of losing visitors that might otherwise buy your product and it may actually hurt your web site ranking. There are many schools of thought on the proper way to handle reciprocal links and since search engines are constantly updating their programs, what may be beneficial today may hurt your rankings tomorrow. It is important to stay in tune with what is happening in the world of search engine placement. Just as staying on top of developments in your particular industry is an ongoing enterprise, so is building web site traffic.
Generally speaking the best thing a web site designer/owner can do is to be sure that their web site provides the best information possible in a logical manner for their site visitors. This means that having a links page with a few highly relevant links that include comments on what information will be found should be more valuable than having a page with a jumble of 400 unrelated links that your visitor needs to decipher in order to find what they want. Keep in mind that search engine ranking is constantly evolving and their goal is to provide the best information possible for their searches and, for commercial search engines, to maximize their profits.
The next step focuses on combining this thought with your ultimate goal, having other sites link back to you. It is the links back to you that provide visitors and better page ranking in search engines.
Start out by searching for complimentary web sites avoiding competitors and concentrating on sites where someone looking for something from you might appreciate being able to easily find related items. Some SEO professionals firmly believe competitor linking is also beneficial. If you sell custom pens you may want to include links to a printer with a custom stationary specialty. If you provide specialty weather information you may want to include an “Other Sciences Resources” page with links geological information. After you’ve zero in on complimentary topics, use one or two of the popular search engines to find some sites that fit into those categories
- First decide whether the site you are looking at actually does compliment your site
- Try to weed out sites that appear stagnant or uninteresting. The best sites would be those that you yourself would visit.
- Then see if they have anything that looks like a links page or a link request. If their link page is packed with sites and appears
disorganized you may want to move on. There is no definitive answer on this but many professional traffic developers believe that links from these types of pages can ultimately hurt your ranking and if it doesn’t now it may in the future.
- If the page appears to be a logical place for your site to be listed then request a link. Link pages usually have a form or instructions for inclusion requests. If an email address is not included, check the site’s contact page to see if there is someone you can direct an email to. In your email, explain who you are and that you are looking for information on linking your site with theirs. Include your thoughts on specific reasons why you think your site relates to theirs. Also consider asking them if they can offer any suggestions on obtaining links. This not only helps to open a friendly dialog but many people will be happy to share what they’ve learned with non-competitors that are genuinely seeking their advice.
Do not expect a friendly response. Many webmasters will send a response such as “get lost” which is fairly rude but many of them have been jaded and have very carefully developed links and often do not remember that they were once in your position. Using variations of the request suggestions above will help limit these responses but it will not eliminate them. Also note that depending on the trends of the day, linking to a less popular site may have negative effects on the ranking of their site. Remember, however, that when selecting a linking site, a new but dynamic site may not have a high ranking today, it may rise considerably in the months to come.
Some webmasters simply do not reply to requests for links. This can be due to the volume of requests they receive. We do not recommend sending follow up emails for requests unless you have an extreme reason for doing so. An exeption to this may be requests that you’ve made through online forms. Remember that it often takes sites months to update their links.
A note on Context Links: Context links are links that are actually in the body of your site, or of sites linking to you. These are the most valuable links when it comes to search engine placement because they imply a more direct relevance that the search engine programs can pick up. These links indicate that someone besides you thinks your site is worthwhile. These types of links are also the hardest to get. If you are going to suggest such a link from someone else, try to include an example of how and where you think it might be appropriate. It is also a very good idea to have an idea where you might do the same thing for them.
Always follow through on your reciprocal links. If you’ve agreed to exchange links with someone, be prompt in getting their link on your site. Also keep a good record of linking sites so that you can periodically check to see that your link has not been dropped from their site. If it has, send a polite request stating that you noticed that your link has been dropped from their site and what you could do to re-instate it. Resist the temptation to be vindictive since a positive attitude is contagious. Take what you learn and determine if you need to make any changes to your linking procedures.
Remember to tap people who you are currently doing business with. Many of them may have related business sites that would be perfect for link exchanging. This can also help to cement your relationship with business partners.
Try to be conversational and detailed when requesting links from other sites. Let them know that you’ve actually reviewed their pages and why you think you would be a good fit. If you are request “context based” links, try to target sites that already have links within their text and give them an example of text showing how your link would add to their information.
Expect to get negative responses. This happens very often and many times replies can be quite rude. Some webmasters get hundreds of requests and look at them as if they were spam. Understand that and move on.
Many webmasters are taking down link pages or removing links from sites that do not have higher search engine rankings. There is a growing SEO doctrine that says links to lower ranked sites or off topic links can do more to harm your placement than it can help.
This suggests the importance of creating quality links and forming firm relationships with your linking sites.