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As I've pursued this little project, my research has taken me in many directions, including to this forum! -- so if I never get another link, buying Arelis will have been worth it :)
But my research has made me less, rather than more excited about getting serious. Here are a few of the reasons:
1.) When I downloaded the Google toolbar, I discovered that the two sites I'm planning linkage campaigns for already have PR6. This without having much in the way of links. And I've seen comments that linking to a lower PR site is like marrying beneath you. So I wonder, should I bother?
If it's harder to go from PR6 to PR7 than to go from PR3 to PR4, then will all the hard work matter? Unless of course I get more traffic from the new links. But then...
2.) I took a very cursory look at my logs for referrals from sites that already link to me and found zilch in the way of traffic. (The exception is a lot of links to a dictionary I have on one of my sites, many of which I never asked for.) Now I know this was just a "spot check" and maybe I should do a more thorough search through my logs, checking for ALL linking sites... but still I wonder, will getting more links get me any additional traffic? At least enough to justify all the work?
3.) I've noticed that link directories created by Arelis and Zeus all tend to look alike (and the Zeus ones seem really ugly). Also, the majority are not exactly what you'd call "tightly focused." I also noticed that key phrases like "built with arelis" and "themeindex" make these directories easy to identify (by surfers and SEs alike). After reading some comments here, I wonder if there is the potential of being penalized, either now or down the road, by SEs if you have a link directory with these telltale signs?
If I DO create an Arelis directory (and the jury is still out) I think I'll take steps to "disguise" its origins. So I wonder, am I being smart or paranoid? Or is it smart to be paranoid?
In short, I have started to worry that going whole hog with a big reciprocal links campaign might do more harm than good (not to mention consume a lot of time and energy). After all, I tell myself, my sites are building nicely and one is a considerable money maker.
So here I sit, Hamlet like, wondering should I or shouldn't I?
Anyone want to weigh in on this?
You are starting in with a bang and some great questions.
I have a few opinions, go figure.
Products like Arelis, Zeus or any number of directory software are tools. Do not let them take over your project but use them to customize a directory for your resources.
Have a plan. This is a great start; you are gathering information and seeking advice.
Have you researched your industry online along with your online competitors? What are they doing with their linking?
The bit about the dictionary is good, have you worked that? You are getting natural linking so it might be time to look at that area and freshen it up, perhaps add a bit of optimization, enhance itís appeal to both bots and humans. Make sure if folks are coming in through this area that youíve clearly defined a path home. Pass them through quickly.
What do you want from a linking strategy? What do you expect to get out of it? What are you willing to give in exchange?
Have you determined how can you bring the elements of what you expect to get out of your linking with what you are willing to give? That will determine how you set your policy, what efforts youíll put into the campaign, and how successful youíll be with it.
Youíll get lots of feedback about the specific questions you raised about the toolbar, the software and so on. I want to get you thinking about the specifics of creating a plan before you jump into something.
Reciprocal linking is only one branch of what can be a very successful linking strategy. That means there are obviously other methods of increasing PR. Youíll also hear about PR, pro and con as it relates to linking, again use it as a tool but donít let it take control over your strategies.
You see how the dictionary works for you so now I wonder if there arenít other things you can be doing internally to create content that would appeal to a wide audience.
This should be cleared up. The PR the toolbar gives is just an estimate, and it's measured on a log scale. This means that it is indeed harder to go from 6 to 7. However, the real PR that Google uses to rank pages has fractional value, that is, your actual PR isn't 6, it's 6.xx. Increasing your PR within the range defined by PR6 will still increase your rankings, i.e. going from 6.1 to 6.2 will still help you even though you won't notice a difference on the toolbar.
Having said that, if your site is already PR6, you can probably go a long way with keyword-optimizing your subpages, and get more traffic, at least in the short term, than you can by spending the same work time on linking. Also, adding content gets you more internal PR, and with a PR6 homepage, you can make a lot of reasonably high PR subpages which should rank well.
Links are still a good idea, though, especially if you can get your keywords in the anchor text. So I say go ahead and do the reciprocal linking thing _and_ add some nice fresh keyword-optimized content, you should get a major increase in performance.
IMHO, you should not be too paranoid about reciprocal linking. The folks that draw penalties for it are probably extreme cases of link farming and crosslinking, and doing a little bit of either probably won't hurt you as long as you have lots of diverse inbound links. I have exchanged links with an extensive "neighborhood" of related sites in my industry, and I have yet to see anyone in my neighborhood get hit with a gray bar, dispite the fact that some of them use somewhat shady practices (I try not to link to those).
Having said that I encourage anyone entering into any form of link campaigning both internally and externally, to take the time to figure out a plan first.
In the research phase of developing that plan you will want to explore various ideas and opinions. Before you take someoneís advice make sure you understand exactly what that advice is, who is offering it and what their experience, results, and statistics are, otherwise proceed with caution.
Iím not trying to pick on anyoneís advice, I want those reading this to understand that we may not have enough information here to agree or disagree.
We havenít yet as an industry agreed with any degree on what linking practices may or may not be risky. We do have enough discussions here at Webmasterworld for anyone making decisions about their linking to find out what has worked or not worked for the various members who have weighed in and shared their experiences.
I hope people continue to use the site search to research and keep asking questions.
[edited by: heini at 6:49 pm (utc) on Mar. 17, 2003]
I agree with the comment about making a plan. I went out and got one of the linking programs and discovered as I worked with it that, while it may automate some processes, it doesn't really do any thinking for you.
My personal experience lately has been that sites I have seen which have a lot of reciprocal links are doing well in Google and have not received a penalty. This is all I can say.
I agree that there is no agreement on this issue. Also, it may depend a lot on what industry you are in, what is standard practice in one area could get you in trouble in another. With that in mind, perhaps the best strategy is to research what is working for your competition.
Great threads here....I have to say that a tightly themed link campaign put our site on the map-in one week we went from PR2 to Pr5, and am now receiving requests from the outside, so less work for me. I only do recip links, I went to a site in our industry with a link dir. but half were broken and the rest were all outbound.
I can't see that this is a good strategy.
IMHO done thoughtfully, link pages add great value!
I completely concur with that. There are are PR5, even PR4 sites out there with relatively few inbound links trumping by far for high rankings PR6 sites with multiple hundreds of inbound links, in some cases over 1K inbounds. Strictly by plain vanilla, old-fashioned judicious site optimization and internal linking structures that are both PR and user-friendly.
PR6 is much harder to get than PR5, considerably harder than going from PR4 to PR5. We've had people with PR7 sites/pages and great numbers of links asking in the Google forum why their sites ranked several pages in while others with much less PR and relatively few links were in the top 10 or top 5.
We're admonished not to put all our eggs in one basket in reliance on one search engine only. Likewise, it's a foundation built on sand for long-term site goals to rely on one technique alone. Links can be lost or devalued, and the latest widespread emphasis on link text is something some are speculating can't last forever. PR can also vary in degree of relative weighting it carries at any given time.
Fads come and go as webmasters get savvy and search engines get savvier and wiser about what webmasters are onto. Single-minded attention to what the latest hot thing is, whether it's meta tagging, link pop or chasing down PR, isn't as safe as covering all bases - and what's done with building quality optimization into a site doesn't depend on external factors or transitory whims.
It doesn't take much for a search engine to incorporate a tweak that will end up with hundreds of posts from webmasters piling in, not knowing what in the world hit them when an update takes them down. And it'll get harder and harder to figure out what caused the spit to hit the fan.
>>Also, adding content gets you more internal PR, and with a PR6 homepage, you can make a lot of reasonably high PR subpages which should rank well.
That's been the experience and represents the collective consensus of many.
It's like diets being the rage for a season - first it's high-protein, then all carbs, then the grapefruit diet, the cabbage soup diet, then the macrobiotic diet. Same with optimization fads.
IMHO the key is staying balanced for long-term health.
>>my sites are building nicely and one is a considerable money maker.
Kelly, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
I admit that my own personal experience is limited to a few sites in a couple of areas, but mostly I'm just reiterating the "party line" as it were, that you should focus both on developing content _and_ getting reciprocal links. I have found this to work well for me, and so have others.
I do think that some people get overly paranoid about linking. Let me put it this way: many people advise you to forget about the search engines and do things as if they do not exist, (except for standard keyword research and placement, of course). Well, in a world without search engines, why would you ever decline a reciprocal link from a genuine, related site? What reason would you have not to link? Who knows, it might actually get you some traffic!
Admittedly, most reciprocal linking stragegies are aimed at increasing PR. However, the fear of penalization seems to me to be the only argument against reciprocal linking, and I don't think you should let that fear stop you from doing something which has legitimate value for your site. If you organize your reciprocal links well and stay focused on your theme, your links page could be a useful resource rather than a liability. So I really think you should do both link and content development, and try not to lose sleep over it.
Just my $.02, take it with a grain of salt and all that, I'm not claiming to be an expert, just an intelligent observer...