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9 Tips For Evaluating Link Exchange Offers

How to decide whether to exchange links or not

If you have a website, your most likely receive e-mails from other webmasters asking you to exchange links with them. But how do you know whether you should link to their website or not?

Here are 9 rules of thumb to help you decide whether to exchange links or not:

  1. Is their website relevant to yours? This is key, and more and more important these days. If the answer is YES then it’s worth thinking about. If it’s off topic then you may want to think twice before swapping links.

    A link from a relevant website to your site is the preferred choice as it can help reinforce your website theme and potentially send some useful traffic your way.
  2. How many links are on their links page(s)? When your link is being placed on another website, you ideally want that page to contain as few outbound links as possible. 15 or less outbound links is good, 150 outbound links is not so good. If there are a high number of links on a page (such as 150) then the value of each link out is weakened.

    While we can only make assumptions about "link weight" some Webmasters will use a cut off point of 50, 75 or even 100 links on a page as a top end maximum. Anything over 50 outbound links on an average resources page is certainly quite high. However if your link will appear on the page of a good quality site or "authority site" an exchange can still be worthwhile.
  3. What is the Google PageRank of the page that will hold your link? Some webmasters focus a lot on Google’s PageRank as a measure of a website. If you download and install the Google toolbar you will see a measure of 1 to 10 shown via a horizontal bar for each site you are on. Typically the higher the page rank, the more important a site is perceived to be.

    A link from a PR 5 page is often seen as a more powerful link than one from a Pr1 page. However, Google’s Page Rank is only meant to be a rough guide and should not be taken too seriously. Tip one should always preside - a relevant link is always what you want.
  4. Is the links page categorized? Personally, I prefer a well organized links page. If you're citing a resource in context of an article you would link from the paragraph, but for the purposes of resource links it is a good idea to organize your pages into relevant themes relating to your website and business.

    If the site containing the link you are being offered is placed on a page with 200 links all mixed up and covering every topic under the sun, then it’s not ideal. If you’re an online shop selling Art Prints should you really be on the same links page as Hosting Companies and Travel Agents? Make the effort to organize your resource pages, even if some link partners don't.
  5. Is the links page being "crawled" by search engines? It is important that the page your link is on can be found and read by search engines. The page should be no more than 2-3 clicks away from the homepage. You can even test if the web page is in the Google index by visiting Google and typing into the search bar cache: with the full domain and page name extension after it.

    So your query in the Google search bar could read:

    cache:www.mywebsite.com/thelinkspage.html. The page should then show in the Google index. If it does not then there are a couple of possibilities. 1/ The page is very new and hasn’t been crawled yet or 2/ the site has a problem being crawled by search engines due to poor internal linking.
  6. What if a Webmaster asks me to link to one site, but links back to me from a different site? This process is sometimes referred to as "3-way linking" or a "linking triangle".

    There is nothing intrinsically wrong with 3-way linking as it can sometimes be done for convenience. However the first thing you need to do is 1/ Evaluate the site you are linking to and 2/ Evaluate the site and page you are getting the link from.

    So is the outbound link destination relevant to your site, and is the inbound link you are going to receive also coming from a quality related website?
  7. Do I want to associate my business with this particular site? It is a simple question to answer and this should form part of your decision making process. If you think you have been approached by a good website then the chances are others will feel the same and possibly the search engines too.
  8. How do I know if my link partners are still linking to me? You can do this manually by keeping the information for each link partner in an Excel spreadsheet or similar and then periodically check the exact URLs your link should appear on.

    However if you get to the stage of having hundreds of link partners this may become rather impractical. At this stage a reciprocal link checker might be advisable.
  9. So what are the best links to go after? One answer could be “the ones that deliver lots of relevant traffic”. However links can mean different things to different people. Natural linking (when people link to you without you asking) is a great reward, but it is also wise to ensure you have some links from quality sites in your industry.

    Teoma can be a good place to find such sites as it focuses more on human edited results than say Google for example. Simply make a search with a good key phrase on Teoma and you will quickly see which websites are the ‘authority’ sites. Set about trying to get listed on as many of the best ones as you can.

About the Author:

Gareth Davies is a web design consultant at GSINC Ltd based in London, UK. GSINC delivers practical web design solutions and effective online marketing strategies for business.

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