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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.”
However, having one is a good idea; with a date attached, too - to remind you the check the latest SE guidelines on a regular basis.
My linking policy is as follows:
Linking Policy February 2007
Exchange links? Get Outta Here!
Your mileage may vary ;)
[edited by: Quadrille at 10:58 pm (utc) on Feb. 2, 2007]
If I were getting personalized link requests with thought in them, they'd already know whether they were relevant to my site anyway. But, I'm not. I'm getting massive requests from bots and less than bots, humans who don't care. A linking policy isn't going to do any good if a bot can't read them. I'm not saying having one is a "bad" idea per se. I just think its like trying to fight a bull with a term paper.
Part of the problem is time... Some website operators want the quick fix (or their clients demand it). Some website operators won't spend quality time using the search engines to find quality sites to link exchange with.
My point in suggesting a linking policy is that decent webmasters (there are many out there - not all are crooks) will read a linking policy and then make the determination that maybe this is not the site to suggest a link with. Link policies won't stop spam but they might stop a webmaster from requesting a personalized link exchange with an irrelevant site via a business to business personalized email that was not auto generated by spam software.
I get what you were saying... I guess in my mind, they're not much of a webmaster, marketer or SEO if they need a linking policy to tell them whether or not the site is related to their own and whether or not a link from that site would make sense.
I seriously doubt that posting a policy would increase the number of spam requests. The spammers scrap any site for email addresses, whether there is a policy or not.
In the world of reciprocation there are two camps. People who do it properly, and those who do not.
Unforutnately, the rest of the world gets link requests via email from those who do not follow accepted protocol. That is, the bad actors send link requests to sites that don't want them in the first place, or they send in lieu of a provided submission form.
Sites that pursue their link exchnages properly fly under the radar of the rest of the world. They simply ask for links from sites that publicly offer to exchange, usng the preferred submission method of the target site, and that are relevant to their site.
It's a private communiction between those two sites, and the links get placed, when both sides agree that there is relevance and that each side is satsified that THEIR OWN policies have been met. Editorial discretion on both sides.
Using spam techniques is actually quite detrimental to the success of a link campaign. Having expreince at earning tens of thousands of links, for hundreds of sites, from thousands of other sites, I an say unequivocally that the most successful sites at this are the ones that stay relevant, apply editorial discretion, use graciousness in their dealings with other sites, and are fair, in that they don't try to game other sites.
THOSE are the sites that reciprocate actively AND they are the ones holding top positions in search. Google has found ways to distinguish between crap linking and proper reciprocation. It's not always perfect, but a significant improvement.
So, a linking policy that helps all that take place is a very good thing.
keyword link exchange
keyword link policy
keyword link request
and so on are just going to find you. You could always employ some combination of no-follow, no-index and blocking the file in robots.txt but seems like make work to me, and an extra site architecture peculiarity that will get screwed up at one point or another down the road. Since you can't legislate or enforce the way someone links to you, creating a linking policy is like passing a law without any teeth, it's more about CYA and posturing than anything else.
If you explain all that and the person signing the paycheck still wants it, just give it to them.
A site that does not want to reciprocate with anyone does not need a reciprocation policy, since they reject them all anyhow.
[edited by: DomainDrivers at 11:52 pm (utc) on Feb. 18, 2007]