We are getting questions more and more questions from our clients about linking policies.. Such as "what is a linking policy?" .. "What should be published in our linking policy?" .. "And are there any do's and don'ts to publishing a linking policy?"
I think all of this started when an engineer from a large search engine suggested that all sites publish a linking policy when he spoke at Pubcon back in November.. then a few sites started blogging about that bringing more attention to the whole matter.
So after explaining what we thought of linking policy a few dozen times, I decided to put it in words what were telling clients and then thought it might make a good post here on WebmasterWorld. :)
A linking policy is basically a simple statement, generally not more than one or two sentences long, explaining what types of linking requests you will accept and what types you won’t.
Curious as to which webmasters are already publishing a linking policy? Google "linking policy" for an example.. you will see all sorts of linking policies from the simple and well written to the mundane / long winded / somewhat absurd.
You might find it interesting to note that most sites showing results for "linking policies" in major search engines are fortune 100's and 500's, not small businesses who tend to engage in link exchange more aggressively than larger businesses with mega-dollar advertising budgets. ;)
If a linking policy is not absolutely necessary, what makes it a good idea?
It may discourage a few people from bothering you with inappropriate link requests. Not to many, because most people who send unacceptable link requests don’t spend a lot of time looking at the sites they proposition. But it will discourage some bogus queries and it will also give you something to point to when people whose requests you deny pester you for an explanation.
But that’s only the secondary reason for posting a simple, brief, concise linking policy on your site. The primary reason is because it sends a very positive message to anyone considering offering a quality link, a beneficial link that could drive qualified traffic to your site (and improve your search-engine rankings for those of you that believe in that sort of thing).
High-quality links all have one thing in common, they originate from high-quality websites. Sites do not have to be unethical to be a poor link partner. A link can be relevant, located at a good address and in total compliance with good web practices and still be a terrible addition to your link page if it comes from a bad website. Not an evil website, not a dishonest website, just a bad one. A site with illiterate grammar, terrible spelling, ugly graphics and an overall trashy ambiance.
Giving your customers a link to a bad site negatively reflects on your site. We are all, like it or not, judged by the company we keep – in real life and in the virtual universe. So operators of good sites tend, just like you, to be very picky about whose links they add. They do take a close look at sites requesting links from them and they will notice your linking policy and be reassured to find that you are just as particular about who you allow on your site as they are.
What you put in your linking policy depends on your site and your personality. For some people, a statement that sites requesting a link must contain relevant content useful to your visitors is enough. In other cases, if your site is highly specialized for example, you might want to specify the “relevant” content, as in “This site accepts and exchanges links solely with other professional websites centered on international immigration law.”