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Link Exchanges and More
Jul 07, 2004

There was a time when link exchanges were the stock-in-trade of SEOs, but things have changed. Read on for an up-to-date approach to linking.

Types of Links You Want to Seek Out

There was a time when link exchanges, if created selectively between or among sites that were similar in theme or topic were one of the key search engine optimization techniques. But news is, that time is gone. Such links may be valuable for assisting your customers to find add-ons or extensions to your products, for example, but they don't have the same play with search engines that they once did. What the search engines are seeking now is one-way links that reveal visitors' recognition of your site's merits: its authority, relevance, or value in itself.

How do you get a link without giving a link and without paying for one? The key seems to be developing your site following good White Hat practices, one of which has a very odd sounding name: linkbaiting.

What Is Linkbaiting?

Linkbaiting is a strategy that even the head of Google's Webspam team, Matt Cutts, recommends (http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-advice-linkbait-and-linkbaiting/). Sure, Cutts knows that bait has negative connotations. Nevertheless, linkbaiting is the term he uses for the types of legitimate site enhancements that will leave your visitors coming back for more. But besides Cutts's recommendation, its just common sense this article has all rights reserved and is copyright by 100 Best to do things on your site that will bring your visitor back and encourage them to bring others along for the ride with a link.

As a concrete concept, linkbaiting is fairly new, can definitive categories have not been mooted. But these are the types of SEO practice that have been accepted as white hat linkbaiting:

Provide Analysis—use graphs, stats or text to give your visitors results of original and interesting research.

Promote Interaction—offer interactive opportunities for visitors with assorted surveys, quizzes, contests, or other invitations to get involved.

Scoop the Competition—be the first one to carry a report of site-relevant news.

Build Community—create an atmosphere and content that build a community of visitors who come to your site to meet each other as well as you.

Let Loose with Creativity—explore your own unique vision and invite visitors as witnesses.

Provide Something Useful—give a freebie app, tool, or service.

Provoke Controversy—can you critique without libel? Can you judge without being snide? Give it a shot and get your visitors engaged in debate.

Be Reliable—follow a consistent schedule for site updates, when possible, and keep the new material flowing.

Be Original—do something different or do the same old thing better.

Link Exchange Done Right

When link exchange is good for your visitors, there's no reason to stop using it. Follow these steps to make connections with colleagues whose sites will be attractive to your visitors, without drawing them away.

1. Create a links page with appropriate categories. Keep it offline until your ready to test it.

2. Perhaps you already know some sites that you wish to exchange links with, but it wouldn't hurt to do a little research. Your categories may help you in your search.

3. Make your links and organize them so your visitors will easily be able to find what they need.

Use the anchor that displays linked material in a new window:

<a href="url" target="_blank">Text to be displayed</a>

instead of the standard anchor

<a href="url">Text to be displayed</a>

so your visitor doesn't have to do a lot of backtracking to find your site again.

4. Go live and test all your links. Put notes in your calendar to retest periodically. There's nothing like a bunch of dead links to convince a visitor that your site is not well-maintained.

5. Decide which of the links you would like a link back from (it may not be all of them) and send out emails to their contact email addresses. Include this information:

• your name and contact information

• the name and URL of your site

• the location of your link to them (with URL) and (maybe) some praise of their site

• a request for a link exchange and an explanation of how this would be of use to their site's visitors

• the text you would like used in the link, provided in html, and a suggestions for where it might fit on their site, if you consider this appropriate

Remember that the webmaster may be on vacation or working five other jobs, and give it some time before you try again. Also, before you resend your email, check to see if the webmaster posted the link and just didn't reply yet.

6. If you receive a positive response, do the following:

• check to make sure that the link is actually put in place and that it works

• thank them

• promise to inform them of changes to your site that would affect their link and ask that they return the favor

• keep your promise

7. If you receive no response or a negative response, seek other sites that will fulfill the same role for your visitors and try again.

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