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I assume if you are planning on utilizing reciprocal linking as a branch of your strategy that you've considered all the risks/benefits. If not, it might help in your planning if you ask yourself a few questions.
1.) Do you understand the terminology? If I were to talk about crosslinking, interlinking, internal linking, external linking, canonicals, subdomains, directories, hubs, reciprocal, static links, dynamic links, or authority to name a few, could you follow? In other words, have you done your homework? Key: use the site search feature and take notes. Keep following the discussions and write down questions that come up and keep searching until you get your answers. Almost everything is here in one form or another. If you still have questions after all the research then bring those to the board where we can pitch in a figure it out.
2.) Why are you thinking about a linking strategy? Common ideas I hear are most often to do with Google these days and include PR (Pagerank). Other reasons are to build authority, increase traffic, generate targeted traffic and to build a strong foundation, including establishing a presence.
3.) Have you researched your online industry, competition, and opportunities? Are your online competitors who you really think they are? What are they doing about linking? Is there an industry presence, forums, newsgroups, or associations to name a few? What's the buzz?
4.) Do you know who your audience is? Have you researched where your audience does their business, where they search for their information, or what else they buy or are interested in when they think about what you have to offer?
5.) Have you thought about what you want from a reciprocal linking campaign? What are you willing to accept for an exchange? Are you exchanging banners, text links, affiliate links and in what form from static to dynamic?
6.) If you determine to follow a strategy that includes an anchor text, have you worked out what the anchor text would be? Have you considered all the risks/benefits and potential opportunities? Hint: Run a site search again and narrow in on ideas about anchor text and titles/descriptions, writing titles, link text, we've talked about this although I think there are more levels we haven't reached on this yet.
7.) Have you considered what you are willing to give to a reciprocal campaign? Hint: Please, move beyond the random link page and begin to establish a focus for how you host your partner's link. Are you willing to create a link directory, weave links through your site, create content as bait, or create individual pages for each partner?
8.) Have you established a linking policy, published it on your site as well a clear method for communication? Pet peeve: I visit your site and it appears you are following some sort of reciprocal linking but I you don't tell me right out what it is nor how to contact you.
9.) How much time to you have to put in to implementing and maintaining a campaign? Do you have any idea how long it takes to get even 10 good sites to link to you?
10.) Have you thought out your communications for establishing contact with potential partners? How are you going to handle the gathering information, record keeping and reporting?
Each of these questions will lead to dozens more. Just about everyone knows, at least around here, that you shouldn't be making decisions regarding your site without considering the pro/con and working from a plan. A reciprocal linking strategy can take on many levels, there may be risks, and of course we wouldn't even talk about it if it weren't for the benefits. I think we're just starting to get the idea that what once worked with reciprocal linking isn't working as well today and that there might be reason to take another look at reciprocal linking.
We know that reciprocal linking is not for every site and that sites that practicing reciprocal linking are offering it up without consistency and in many different packages. I wonder if we've as yet explored all the create ways to work reciprocal linking. It's refreshing to be tripping through sites, one site to another through their linking and see someone with a clearly defined policy and easy to navigate communications. I feel like sending them the paynt linking seal of approval.
I wonder what else we should be thinking about with regards to reciprocal linking. I spend a lot of time in the linking bowels of the net and it's an ugly place. What do you think about reciprocal linking? What kind of benefits and risks should we look at, what ideas for implementation? If it wasn't so ugly out there I wouldn't waste anyone's time bringing this up. I think people really need help with this.
How easy is it for you to find legitimate, clean links in your industry or audience? Are you happy with your reciprocal linking possibilities and opportunities and if not what can you do to raise the standards?
One comment on slow responders & no responders - I'm one of them! :) On the sites I manage, I've stopped replying to link requests from cheesy affiliate sites, PR0 sites, spammy-looking sites, etc. I found that it took too much time both to decline and then engage in a dialog about WHY I declined. (I had three outraged e-mails from a guy whose site consisted of nothing but affiliate links telling me how great his site was...) I DO try to get back to legitimate requests promptly.
General advice: if you expect me to link to you, or at least reply, PLEASE submit only legitimate, unpenalized sites with content that users of my site will find valuable. I suspect I'm speaking for many WebmasterWorld members with this request. ;)
I've also been getting these weird requests lately from somebody who wants to know if I'd be interested in linking to her client and them describes the site but doesn't give the URL. I don't know what the point is of asking for a link request and not telling the person the URL, but I know sure smells fishy. I think most webmasters don't really have time to play games like that.
Strategic reciprocal link development.
Always remember that the web is intangible - no definitive size, or space, and no clear cut paths of connectiveness, you actually define these yourself.
The object is not just to get links, quality ones or otherwise - as these to are quite intangible to (what is of quality today can be crap tomorrow and vice versa).
Reciprocal linking strategies (from your perspective) places you in the center of the web universe - the "hub" if you will.
Maximizing your time, and effort (researching, searching, requesting, and implementing) is doubly important since the faster your process is the greater the return.
One of the best processes is research out a single link partner and appreciate every aspect of them - including there linking partners.
The obvious - if the site is related to you - the likelihood their reciprocal links are to - as well as the likelihood that these site owners will reciprecate, and the easier your task is.
What isn't as obvious is the links by proxy.
Site A - your chosen link partner
Are Site A's link partners and your chosen partners
You exchange with Site A (receiving PageRank & relevancy and giving back the same) - which also adds to Sites AA, AB, AC, AD's PageRank & relevancy. (remember that your passed PageRank goes to all links therefore the more of those you get coming back to you - the more of your own PageRank is returning - plus theirs).
You in turn develop link exchanges with each (receiving PageRank & relevancy and giving back the same)
The effects of sites AA, AB, AC, AD each adds more PageRank & relevancy to site A and each other which adds more of the same to you.
Moving on - you have developed a relationship with sites AA, AB, AC, AD and each of them probably have other reciprcating partners not shared which, you can continue the effort... and each time those new recip add to the network of sites around your growing "hub" with you in the center.
Developing the relationship (in an expanding network) works exceptional well and sharing your knowledge with those that can help you can never hurt.
I assume if you are planning on utilizing reciprocal linking as a branch of your strategy that you've considered all the risks/benefits
For those engaging heavily in reciprocal linking:
Ask yourself, how many of these links would you have given anyway, if they were not reciprocated? Are your outbound links now real votes of reference and quality?
If you were a search engine, would you neutralise any beneficial ranking effects of exagerated reciprocal linking?
To me, there is a thin line between predominant reciprocal linking and cross-linked (domain)farms, it is a thing of the past, a no-no.
This is a good discussion, when folks jump in share it helps us all learn.
Reciprocal linking is a strategy folks are using (or trying to use) to help their promotion along. In itís simplest and most modest form it may not be a strategy that works for every site. Remember though that reciprocal linking simply means two sites agreeing to link back to each other. If you do this with just one site then you are practicing some form of reciprocal linking. In that case I think most of us can do with a bit of a step back to evaluate just what our policy is and how we intend to approach the next reciprocal linking decision before it gets here.
My mom used to say, ďdonít cut off your nose despite your faceĒ. I take that advice to mean it might be in my best interest to keep my eyes open, my ears perked and my mind on the big picture.
Having said that I can move on with other ideas coming up around the idea of reciprocal linking.
Rogerd, Iím glad you showed up. I always hope to see you jump in as I know you too have an interest in linking.
Thanks for drawing attention to the fact that there are many other reasons than PageRank to establish a link campaign - Rogerd.
Funny, I thought I mentioned Pagerank once, hehe. We talk about PR all the time and the Google forum is the best place for those really focused discussion. Iím laughing because I know PR is an issue for linking, Iíve cautioned restraint more than once concerning possible problems around PR. Iím glad you pointed this out again though Rogerd because people reading here may be wondering why Iím not making a bigger deal about it or why itís not a larger part of this discussion.
My take on PageRank, itís a tool. Itís a pretty good tool and gives me a visual summary of a site but itís only a part of the information I use to evaluate whether to link or not. When I look at a site and Iím balancing the plus/minus of course PR is a consideration, maybe an important one. There are some industries where no one has any PR to speak of and others where it would seem impossible to try and compete because the PRís are so high. Again, each industry is different. Maybe I can give more time later to more of how I think about or use the Pagerank information, for now youíre right Rogerd, reciprocal linking is more than PR.
When I search Google for link:www.site.com, do I have to go through all the results to find sites to request links from, or do I only need to go through the "most relevant" results? For example, when I search for link:www.site.com, I get 3500 or so results. However I then get the message:
"In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 634 already displayed.
If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included."
Do I need to wade through the omitted results as well? I tried before but it seemed to yield almost no new sites.
Also, when I currently ask for links, I simply don't offer a reciprocal link. I think ultimately sites should link to mine for its own merits and its intrinsic worth to the market, as reciprocal linking seems rather false.
many thanks for your comments and help,
Believe me, I think we all should be cutting our teeth on themes, once again that is a foundational issue, developed along with keywords at the very beginning of the site development strategy itself. By the time we get to the linking strategy portion of the plan all of that has been figured out, unfortunately all too many sites seem to be leaving steps out along the way, sidestepping. Thatís why Iím here now harping with all my pet peeves.
There are different ways I approach determining who my reciprocal partners will be, where they fit into my audience. Looking out at an audience full of potential linking partners, knowing my production is dependent on their participation, well it gives the whole planning process an extra zing. Itís really more like selecting the jury. Top trial lawyers spend big bucks in determining who that jury is.
Think for a moment about who you want to link to you. Where can you find your link partner audience? If I am selling blenders as Jane_Doe kindly suggested, then sheís right I canít think how a mail order bride site fits. Of course I can get real creative and create content around new brides, draw it into how the right blender will be the defining issue on whether the marriage will work, and tie it back to immigrants and they might not have understood that when they married. Seems like a lot of work, too much stress to figure out and Iím not so sure about the return.
With blenders it would be easier for me if I started with the other kitchen products, kitchen designers and contractors. I can get creative and think about new brides (not mail order), first-time homebuyers, or recipe clubs. I just have to be dedicated to creating the content and building out the site around this audience so it makes sense, Iíve given them a reason to want to link back to me.
The top three sites in my catgeory are the industry powerhouses. In analysing them I notice that while we have a similar number of links they have a lot more one way links. This in my view gives them a huge edge.
Getting one way links is much harder than it used to be as websites become aware of the importance of links to their SE rankings. After giving it much thought, I believe that the best way to get these one way links is by offering something beneficial and free to other sites.
The good thing is, there are a lot of "Free" sites have very high PR. We have written an eBook which I offer free to my visitors on my site. I will definately get off my butt and begin listing it in these sites. This will definately give me a hell of a lot of one way links.
I would love to hear other ideas.
Love to post more now but I've gotta run.
When I first created my site, I didn't optimize things in such a way that would attract other webmasters into linking to me. That is, I had lots of valuable content that I created, but my site structure was such that it didn't attract webmasters into linking to my pages.
Originally, I created pages that made it easier for me to manage, which resulted in fewer pages. But I soon realized that by changing the site structure, and organizing the content in different ways, it created lots more URLs, and thus more webmasters found reasons to link to my pages.
Today, I'm at a point where I don't need to ask other webmasters for links. They continue to add links to me.
You have to understand your vertical market very well, in order to figure out what it is that other people, and other webmasters want.
If I had a database of movie actors and actresses, logic says to create a simple database-driven site with a search engine, and alphabetical directory. The problem with that is that it is too generic, too plain vanilla.
Instead, create several specialty pages. Create a page just for African American actors, so that AA sites will have a reason to link to you. Create a page just for Oscar award winners, so that Oscar award sites will link to you. Create a page just for actors who are military veterans, so that military websites can link to you.
Doing this also allows you to take advantage of even more keywords for your SEO campaigns.
It's a lot more work to manage these extra pages, but lot's more traffic never comes too easily.
This discussion is great! It got me to thinking and planing what my goals are for linking... and those are a bit different that most peoples. Just as food for thought, I thought I would post my ideas and solutions.
First of all, my site is not a sales site, but an informational one. Whereas you may sell widgets, we provide a LOT of information about the various widgets made through history. Our goal is to be the authoritative site on widget information... and that is how we position the site.
So, rather than reciprical linking, we want people to deep link to our site. When they talk about red widgets from the seventies (which we all know are different than red widgets from 1980!), I want them to link to my 1970's red widget page.
Anyway, I looked at my site, and we did have a "Link to Us" page, with how to do test links, button links, and banner links. But- after reading this- I decided that that was not enough. I wanted to first keep pounding away that you CAN deep link, and then make it easy to do so.
Because the site is Dynamic, I was able to create on each specific page, a link that says, "Link To <widget name>" and pop up window which provides the exact code (and text reference I want!) to that deep page. Twenty minutes, and I was live with it!
OK, Deep links may not add too much to my PR, but that is a side-goal. The strategic goal is to be the "authority" in this subject.... and I think by putting this in your face on every page, and making the code easily available like this, it can help. Escpecialy for the neophite webmaster.
I also have a Links page, and because of the goals there, I do not think I want to disrupt that one. It does provide DIRECT links back to a website... but I reserve that for people who contribute to my website. Sort of a thank you link. Reciprocity is not an issue, and I have already benefited from their help.... but in almost all cases, I do get a link back anyway!
We also offer a search link from someones website to ours, so a user can search for specific widgets from a distant website, and get results from us.
We do not actively solicite reciprical links.... I REALLY do not know what I would do with them, or where I would put them. The way I am set up now, and additional links page would look like an afterthought, and I doubt would even be visited. It just would not fit in with the "flow" of my site. I guess- as a question to the group- how do you integrate a reciprical link page so it does not just look "stuck on?"
Anyway, that is my perspective... right now, when I google Link:wwWebmasterWorldidgetsite.com, I see about 47,000 links back. Not too bad, huh?
I have put up a Theme based Reciprocal Linking Program on our website a couple of months ago. I am getting great response for it.
Main page is PR6 & inner are PR5 & PR4.
I request you to kindly let me know if you can find any mistakes or any suggestions for improvement on this.
I have sent ya a stick mail.
I have just started a new stand alone site and everything that has been said here will be implemented. I am confident that it will work for all.
I have a question though. How can you find out if someone that has linked to you has a dodgy site or content eg. if they have hidden text or links etc, if they are trying to hide the fact that they are dodgy.
I have a question though. How can you find out if someone that has linked to you has a dodgy site or content eg. if they have hidden text or links etc, if they are trying to hide the fact that they are dodgy.
This matters not.
1. If a dodgy site... visitors will be coming to a good site (if any at all :) ).
2. A link from a bad site, or neighborhood can not harm you (they just don't help either).
3. As long as you don't link back to a bad site/neighborhood... no problem.
Iíve been getting stickies, which I hope to get to all of at some point today, and it sounds like folks are starting to look at their sites, applying some of these questions and coming up with new answers to help improve the site. Thatís really good and I thankful if this discussion has helped.
Iím making my way through the posts here and will continue to comment.
how many of these links would you have given anyway, if they were not reciprocated? Are your outbound links now real votes of reference and quality
This is a serious consideration in planning for what a reciprocal linking campaign will be for a site. We have to ask ourselves in the planning phase just who we want to see the site attached to, and for what purpose. Is it just to increase link popularity in hope of increased Pagerank? Thatís the biggie and folks are really get stuck on that point, which can limit the possibilities with reciprocal linking.
Corporate sites and larger business, professional particularly are more often concerned with the link means vote idea. Itís possible to create a reciprocal campaign for these businesses, they just might take on a different form than what many of us are used to seeing. One method suggested, and I wish I could find it and credit (I think it was Liane but maybe not) about contacting all the sites that mention the product or service of your site and get them to turn the mention into a link. The power of a possible link back can act as a motivator.
Since you talked about reciprocal linking specifically at the beginning I'll try to limit any comments to that.
What I would say is that your tactics depend very much on which industry you are in and how educated that area of the web is about the concept of linkage.
I would argue that in some areas the level of knowledge is insufficient to understand the value of a link, and, in other areas, the knowledge is there, but not the willingness to think outside the box, which you are always at pains to stress.
Not only that, but one's own willingness to create content (or sites) in response to the linkage requirements of the area that you are in is another major factor (and I'm pleased to see that this is now being covered in these debates). This even spills over into the area covered in the Directories Forum.
Thus the value of a reciprocal linking strategy is as one of a range of tactics to be used in certain situations. It may be more effective in some areas to concentrate on getting one-way links from willing authorities, or to create your own hub.
I am somewhat sceptical of the value of the traditional link campaign - not because it doesn't get you the links, but that the links that one does get tend to be SEO-knowledgeable type links, which may be the first to be downgraded if this area (as it surely must be) becomes a source of focus for the engines.
And, in the spirit of thinking outside the box, here's a concrete suggestion: I've been having some success with the use of images.
Most webmasters react with horror at the thought of someone pirating their images. Instead why not think of it as an opportunity? Check your logs to see which ones are being taken. Write the user a polite mail, saying that you have no objection to them using your image, but could they please put it on their server and provide a link which reads "yadda, yadda, yaddda".
The pages where you do want links (.edu, .gov, or blogs, for example) may well be covered with embarrassment and only too happy to provide you with what you have politely requested. Look at the images that are wanted, analyse them and provide more of the same type on your sites.
It's another way of being an authority.
Reciprocal linking isnít a campaign for everyone, nor should it be. I tend to agree that Iím not usually in the market of chasing Pagerank, although many folks are and Iím happy to help with any advice I might share that could help. The folks in the Google forum though have more focused advice to offer on that. I also suggest reading up about these dilution concerns regarding Pagerank, weíve had many discussions focused on that thought specifically and a site search should bring those up for people interested in discussion that theory further.
Even_Steven Ė great post, thanks.
I tend to talk to folks more now who are in your same position. A lot of sites have been going along and doing quite well but then they hit a point where they want try something different, mostly itís when they see the efforts theyíve been making not pushing them ahead like they want. Iím always glad when that takes them to evaluate again what their strategies are.
Developing content to attract people to link can be a very effective strategy. As you also suggest, how the site is laid out can be important on many levels but again, itís not wasted effort to consider the layout of the site in terms of how it might draw in more linking. Are people thinking about that? I hope to bring this out more in the one-way link discussion I hope to start when this one runs it course.
Itís great when your content draws your links in. Thatís when you really begin to see the power you hold, to return a link back. Instead of begging links you are in a power position. In the world of linking today thatís a nice place to be. Believe me, you donít get that position by your Pagerank alone.
Linking for me is about making connections. Yes, in common terms itís just a link, but oh it can be so much more than that. I appreciate those of you who are ďLinking Outside the Box [webmasterworld.com]Ē, thinking outside the box, and especially those planning now about what form your linking strategies will take. I applaud all of you, who upon reading this discussion are taking action with your own site, if only to evaluate.
Reciprocal linking in its simplest form is one site connecting to another with that site connecting back. Nearly every site practices some form of reciprocal linking. It never fails to amaze me how worked up some folks get about reciprocal linking strategies with comments like, ďWE donít reciprocal linkĒ, or ďReciprocal linking isnít a practice suited to OUR businessĒ, or ďOh, is this discussion about reciprocal linking? Well, then thereís nothing in it for me.Ē Ok, again with the cutting the nose off despite the face idea my mamma spoke about.
You all know now what I think about those long ugly link pages with lists of unrelated links, tons of affiliate banners, no unique content. I donít have to keep going there. Hopefully if nothing else this discussion will live on long enough that sites using this form of acknowledgement of their link partners will at least clean house.
Ultimately my plan here with this discussion on reciprocal linking is to encourage folks, if with nothing else than pure peer pressure to
1) Acknowledge that the exchange of even one link between sites constitutes Ďreciprocal linkingí.
2) Clean house, straighten up your where, when, and how you present your link partners links.
3) Think about who the partners are and why before you link.
4) Make it clear and evident on the site what your policy is about linking and offer a clear method for communication. <aside>I intend to bring this up further in discussion because I can just hear the hair rising on the necks of some of you, especially corporate folk or wannabes. See, even with a list we always have something else to look forward to, <wink and wink>.
5) Have to know (as in research and analysis) your industry and competition in order to compete.
6) Consider seriously the risks/benefits before implementing any strategy.
7) Understand the lingo. If you donít understand the terms we use to discuss these issues then you canít follow the discussion. We have a great glossary here and site search so please use them.
8) Encourage each site to be unique with developed content.
9) Be creative, make your reciprocal linking interesting.
10) Treat your partners with respect, as if they were real people not just a link in virtual reality.
11) And oh the bliss once we begin to take the discussions of linking strategy to a higher level. I know Iím holding some of you back and Iím sorry but there are just too many people here that just arenít ready yet but they are interested. I donít want to lose anyone, I just can't carry on multiple leveled discussions right now and work in my real life.
I still hope to talk about maximizing on each links potential. I want to talk about publishing on site the linking policy. Iíd like to talk more about how much of what folks are doing these days with their linking is contrived and manipulated, as is every aspect of doing biz on the web. Some of that manipulation is better than others, almost seamless to the point where it doesnít appear contrived. I donít even think I have to go into again my long list of pet peeves for those folks with the ugly reciprocal linking, although I may throw in a few more, hehehe.
Even among professionals and in conversations with people I really respect I bump into misunderstandings about reciprocal linking, including the judgment statements I suggested above. I think we need to keep talking about that. I try to steer clear of ethical discussions but they are valid and I donít mind hearing debate about that. We can even take some of these ideas that come up and start new discussions, if we have enough interest.
To begin with I plan to start one on one-way linking, I think that will be popular. Iíd like to talk more specifics about building the area of the site where reciprocal links are housed, as in directory development, hub, weaving links through the site, and so on.
I hope we can keep moving forward as a community, encouraging and correcting each other as we can. Sharing strategies and helping others, giving away tips, it doesnít hurt you professionally. What I offer up here doesnít hurt my sites or clients, it can only make it better.
It probably wonít come today but I want to acknowledge the posts by Aravindgp, Carfac, India_max, Skylo, Stever and Australiangirl. Iím sorry if Iíve gotten behind. Now, come join my party in community and tell me why you post. Why you are willing to give up a few of your tips? What is it about this community, knowing there are dozens of folks reading you donít even know about lurking, that draws you in to posting. Hope to see you there and in Boston where we can really talk linking.
I am especially interested in how to build a hub and get established as an authority. I'm very interested to hear what you have to say about:
Iíd like to talk more specifics about building the area of the site where reciprocal links are housed, as in directory development, hub, weaving links through the site, and so on.
Before I move on though, thank you nice folks all. JustTrying thanks for your kind comments and businessezines itís just going to keep getting better. Iíll move quickly into discussions of housing links because itís really important. Weíre all so wrapped up in that, where to put links. Probably because we havenít thought enough about how it will benefit us. There are too many people thinking reciprocal linking will limit them or hold them back. Much of that relates to, ďWhere do I put this link?Ē Iím glad you want to talk more about that.
Iím of the old school or the lazy school but I want every effort I put into a site to pay off ten fold. I think any small effort should be more than worth it, all that maximizing on potential. I should say effort and money. We havenít talked about money yet in this discussion and I think thatís odd. Please, donít let me forget to talk about money and linking, boy do I have a few things to say about that. There may even be a pet peeve in there.
Aravindgp, I just love working with keywords. I do hope Even_Steven returns with response since it is that post that triggered this question.
My take on keywords and reciprocal linking Ė I work keywords on every page, nothing left undone. One way I use keywords is to draw in linking partners. I have to let them know I am linking so those keywords need to be highlighted. Anchor text is one method as well as all the optimization tips weíre used to.
Another way I use keywords is in the structure of the linking program Iíve elected to use. Directories are the easiest and perhaps common method people are comfortable with. A good directory is nothing to laugh at and can compliment many different types of businesses, even corporate. A directory can be offered as a resource or additional services yet allow the site to distance themselves from problems. Ok, in the perfect world where only one person owns a site and every link is a friend this may not be the strategy for you. Then again there are many industries that can benefit by developing a directory for their reciprocal links. Pumping out those keywords into a directory may be one method used to round out a site. The more ways I can find on a site to promote my keywords, the better balanced I am.
Another method of reciprocal linking and keywords is the idea of asking others to provide content in exchange for a link back. Try to think of audiences you want to attract for linking. Now, do some research and see where the holes on information are for your subject and seek out sites that provide quality content on that topic and ask them to provide you with an article. Let them know youíll link back from a bio with the anchor text they want. Give them two links even, one to their main page and one their content area. Of course these arenít competitors but perhaps peripheral industries. Give them their own page but work it. I respond to requests for content. I actually ended up with a perfect business partnership for me that started because a member here asked me to write an article for his hub.
I can hardly wait to talk about keywords and linking without the limitations of this discussionís focus on reciprocal linking. Iím blogging again, sorry.