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Link Exchange Primer
An Introduction to Link Exchange
Initially, when the internet was in its infancy, webmasters used links as a way to complement the content of their website and to help their visitors find information. As the importance of links increased, the focus shifted away from helping the visitor to helping the webmaster.
This came about as a result of the Grandaddy of all search engines Google begun to implement its concept of "Page Rank" to classify websites in terms of their importance and perceived authority. Essentially Google defined links from any given website as a vote or endorsement of the site pointed to - the more significant the originating site, the more significant the endorsement. This in turn affects search engine results position as Google's ranking algorithm gives significant weighting to this ratio.
To webmasters in search of ever more traffic, Page Rank or "PR" thus became an all important factor in choosing link partners, with the original purpose for linking getting lost in the stampede ? helping your visitors navigate the net more easily.
Linking to other websites is nonetheless critical to any site, and crucial to a new site, which will be hard pressed to find any traffic at all. There are two basic reasons that a website will seek out link partners:
Obtaining Traffic from the inbound/backlink
Your new website will have a task to obtain traffic as it will be some time before the search engines index it and include it in their search databases. Therefore you will have to find other ways to give your website the exposure it requires to generate traffic.
One way is to " borrow" the traffic from existing sites. If you already have an established website, this would be easy ? simply put a link on your old site to your new one. However, if you are just starting out, or your existing site does not complement your new one because it is in a completely different category, you will need to seek out other sites that might agree to carry your link. In this way, you can tap into their existing traffic.
To improve search engine exposure
Search Engines especially Google place great stock by the incoming links that a website has. As explained above, these incoming or backlinks are an endorsement or vote for one site by another. Google considers them a recommendation of one site ? carrying the outbound link ? for the other.
When a website links to another, it passes on some of its Page Rank (without losing any itself). This boosts the PR of the website with the backlink, improving its search position. This in turn increases the chances of the website being found in a search for a particular keyword/phrase and obtaining free targeted traffic.
How to Link
If you are convinced about the benefits of linking, the question in your mind must be
- "Yes, but how do I go about obtaining incoming or backlinks?".
There are various ways you can go about this, depending on whether you are seeking pure backlinks - the best kind; or whether you are prepared to settle for reciprocal links ? the most common; or whether you want to do someone a favor and give them free publicity by unilaterally placing an outbound link on your site without one in return ? the easiest to do ? just to it.
One Way Backlinks
A one way backlink can only be obtained if there is website that carries your link without one in return. This happens when your site is linked in an article, directory, by request, or cited as an authority or resource site by another due to its superior content.
When a website has fresh, unique, informative and interesting content, when it is a recognized resource in as given area, other sites will naturally link to it if only to raise the profile of their own. For you as the webmaster, there is the double bonus of not having to communicate with the linking site. In practice, the context in which your link is carried would in all likelihood be complimentary to you, further raising your profile.
The search engines in order to improve the relevance of their SERPs are constantly on the lookout for such sites. Websites that achieve consistently high search positions do so because of the content aspect of their sites.
Writing and syndicating articles is probably the most effective way to obtain one way inbound links. In recent months this has become all the rage as blogging has taken on force of its own. The idea behind all this frenzied literary activity is not a new enlightenment, but the opportunity for people like you to plaster their website links in as many places as possible. One guy claimed to have had an article he wrote carried by 17000 websites, ezines, article directories etc. This would have greatly boosted his "link popularity", organic targeted traffic, and overall business prospects ? assume just 1% of the visitors and readers of all those websites and ezines clicked on his link ? lots of traffic!
These days there are lots and lots of website directories on every theme imaginable. While they vary in the way they operate, they all have the effect of creating one way incoming links to your site, which as we have seen is both a source of direct organic traffic as well as a boon to your search engine defined link popularity.
The more significant the directory the more beneficial the link from them will be. A basic objective for seasoned webmasters is to get their sites indexed by and included in the DMOZ, and Yahoo! directories. These are the two major online website directories, and inclusion in either would be of greater benefit than inclusion in many of the smaller ones.
These days, most webmasters will only consider a reciprocal link exchange. However, there are still a few webmasters who would consider a one way outbound link if they considered it beneficial to their own visitors, depending on the nature of their website. These will typically be personalized sites, intranets, or non- directory information sources.
Peruse such sites carefully to assess fit, and if satisfied that the website complements your own, contact the webmaster as politely as possible and request that they carry your link as well. Invite them to visit your site to make their own assessment, and do not be put off if they request a reciprocal link in return. However you will get the occasional webmaster who will not object to a one way link. Give it a shot ? what's to lose?
As the term suggests, reciprocal links are a mutual exchange of links with another website. They constitute the vast majority of links found on the internet, and are established by mutual arrangement.
"So how do I get websites to link with me?"
Identifying Link Partners
The first thing is to identify websites that would make suitable link partners. These are sites that complement your own, and therefore have a similar visitor profile to the type you are looking for. For instance a website selling health food might link up with a website about physical fitness. Be creative about your choices; set up a spread sheet to keep track of your approaches.
Visit the top 10 or 20 sites ranked in Google and Yahoo! for your keywords and do some research on their link partners. You will find not only do they have several link partners, but partners that are quality sites for their content, linking strategy, aesthetic appeal and so on. These are the sites you should target for a link exchange request. Note: The major search engines are reducing the number of links they'll show for each site, to cut down on search engine spamming. You may thus find a specialized tool is necessary. A good one for his purpose would be SEO Elite which is a complete reciprocal links exchange management tool.
Assess the sites you short-list for their relevance and complementarities to your own. Ensure that they are quality sites (if they are link partners of the top ten sites in your niche they generally will be, but take nothing for granted).
Assess them for:
Linking Website - this is the specific website linking to the rival websites in your niche that you are benchmarking. In order to find all of the websites that link to them go to Google and enter this search criteria: link:www.targetedwebsite.com. Once you do this Google will return a list of websites that link to www.targetedwebsite.com. You will get a larger list by going to Yahoo! and entering link:http://www.targetedwebsite.com. Note: that for Yahoo you must include http://
Anchor Text used - is the actual text used within the link, linking to the specified website. For example, the anchor text in the following link would be "health food". Health food website.
Page Rank - is the actual Google Page Rank of the webpage linking to www.targetedwebsite.com. In order to see the Google Page Rank, you'll need to download and install the Google Toolbar for free from: http://toolbar.google.com
Link Popularity - is the number of links that are pointing to each of the webpages pointing to www.targetedwebsite.com. The more the merrier. Go to a website like http://www.linkpopularity.com to find each link partners link popularity quickly and comprehensively.
Page Title - is the title of the page that is linking to www.targetedwebsite.com. Does it contain the main keyword(s) for your niche? If so, you should bookmark the url (web address) of those pages. You'll want to approach those websites and try to get them to link to your website.
* Getting links from webpages that contain your main keyword in the page title is extremely powerful and is something many people often overlook.
Number of Outbound Links? is the number of links located on the webpage linking to www.targetedwebsite.com. The fewer links there are located on the page, the more a link from them would increase your ranking.
Once we've collected all of the information, we now can see www.targetedwebsite.com's linking strategy. We'll need to calculate the percentage of websites that contain the main keywords/phrases in the page title, and the percentage of websites that contain the main keywords in the actual anchor text linking to www.targetedwebsite.com.
You'll have to do this for the top 10-20 websites in your keyword niche in order to properly establish the most beneficial websites to seek link exchanges with.
The most beneficial sites will be those that:
a) Allow you to specify the anchor text that will be used in their link to your website.
b) Websites with a PR OF 4 or more ? don't get too hung up on page rank though.
c) Websites that will preferably carry your link in a relevant page. Failing that, a website that has a well-organized links page with a visible and hopefully prominent link in the navigation bar, so that visitors can find it easily.
d) Should the website use a special links page, then ensure that it carries no more than 30 links, otherwise the PR benefit from that links page will be so diluted as make it worthless. Also, there'll be too many links competing with yours to get any significant traffic boost.
Making Your Link Request
Now that you have established the websites you want to link with, you need go out and actually ask them. How you do this will determine whether your linking campaign will be effective or not; it would be a great pity to do all the work above only to mess it up with a shoddy links exchange request.
Firstly, websites that are worth linking to receive hundreds of link requests. In order to get your request any attention, prepare well so that it stands out from the crowd. You want to show the webmaster that you have taken the time to peruse his website and that your links exchange request is well considered. You need to convince him/her that your website would make a good fit with their own, that it is interesting, and his/her own visitors would find it useful and beneficial. You also want to make it as easy as possible for them to link up with your site.
When you write the links exchange request letter, personalize it by using the webmaster's first name if you can find it on his/her site, make sure you have specified the website's name, and note and comply with any instructions the website may have for exchanging links e.g. a web-based form, a code to cut and paste on to your site and so on. Failing to do so would not just be irritating; it shows that you have not really browsed the site.
Be creative and bold with your email subject header. Being timid and using a generic subject header like "Link Request" will probably see your email deleted unread. Explicitly state which page you'd like your link carried on and why. Oftentimes, interestingly, you'll get your links request approved without a reciprocal link exchange. Some webmasters will consider either that it may not make sense for them to have their link on your site, or that your site is a valuable enough addition to their site without a link in return. Most times though, a reciprocal exchange will result.
Do not balk at approaching your competitors. Since no two business entities are identical, it is possible for competing websites to carry each others links and still benefit from the total traffic carried by all. Imagine sites that sell unique and therefore hard to find gift items. While obvious competitors, if a surfer fails to find what they're looking for on one site, they may find it on the other, and vice-versa.
A word about Page Rank. PR is a measure of a website's significance derived and used by certain search engines chiefly Google. While a positive indicator, you should not get too hung up on it when identifying link partners.PR is gained and lost often (every 3 months or so) so current PR is no indicator of future trends. Further, PR is largely an indicator of link popularity, is obscure in its derivation, and does not tell you how suitable a website is as a link partner. Use it as an indicative measure rather than a deciding factor.
Google PR increases as your link popularity does. Building links with quality websites many of which will have low PR initially, but websites that have the type of traffic your site needs will invariably lead to a higher PR evetually.
Enjoy your Link Building.
Al Bert is the owner of http://seoelite.mywebhut.com Visit his website to discover the best link exchange management software.
For a preview of SEO Elite 3.2 go to http://beam.to/seoelite
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