Link trading, link exchange, or reciprocal linking is a web promotion strategy used by webmasters and site owners to increase "link popularity" as well as qualified traffic to their sites.
Page ranking in search engines is influenced by the link "popularity" of your site. The numbers of sites that link to yours, as well as the popularity of those sites determine link popularity. This is a relatively important factor as far as search engine placement is concerned.
You've probably seen sites with pages labeled 'Links'. These webmasters have listed links to their link trade partners, and the other webmasters have done likewise on their sites.
Link popularity is improved when sites with a high page rank link to your site. A link from a site with a topic related to yours is more valuable than a link from an unrelated site. Your link popularity can actually be diminished if you trade links with sites that don't complement yours, or that have low page ranks or poor traffic numbers.
Having extolled the virtues of link trading, I'm now going to tell you about the disadvantages, which I see as being greater than the advantages.
A 'Links' page is an invitation for your visitors to leave your site without buying. Basically you are asking your visitors to go and buy at your competitors' sites.
Why would you want to do that?
I've rarely participated in a link exchange that actually brought worthwhile traffic to my site. Here are a few link exchange programs of which you should be aware.
Before pay per click came on the scene, link trading and links directories were all the rage. I used to spend hours writing and sending emails to complementary sites asking for link trades. I got my site listed in numerous dating link directories in exchange for placing their graphic on my site. Some insisted that I place their graphic on my homepage.
Note: Please don't mistake the links directories that are being discussed here for 'real' directories like the ODP, the Online Directory Project. The ODP doesn't require a reciprocal link to get your site listed, whereas these 'links' sites are in the business of trading links.
You will still see many sites on which the bottom half of the page is a blinking mass (mess) of reciprocal links graphics to links directories. Tacky!
Who benefits from these trades?
It's not the individual site owner, to be sure. Their site can't be located amidst the thousands of other affiliate sites listed in the directory.
Generally, the directory owner is also an affiliate of all the same programs that you are, and you can be sure that their affiliate links are encoded in the banners at the top, middle and bottom of their pages. Let's not forget the buttons on the side, or the 'Superior' listings on their site.
Some of these 'link exchange' directories have proven to be complete scams.
The worst of these in the Internet dating realm was a site called Cupidnet.com. They built a directory and got thousands of webmasters to link to their site in exchange for directory listings. At some point, and without informing any of their link trade partners, the site became an affiliate of American Singles, and the directory disappeared.
In your quest for traffic, you'll probably come across FFA, or Free For All, sites as well. They look OH so promising - 'Submit your URL to have your site appear on THOUSANDS of pages across our Network".
Webmasters list their URL's on the FFA page in hopes of generating traffic to their site. However, when you post to an FFA site, you get one line or a couple hundred characters to describe your site. Chances are good that your link will never be seen.
Don't get sucked in.
FFA's are nothing more than rotating lists of links.
Each and every time a site is submitted, the FFA site owner sends a confirmation email to the contact address provided by the listing webmaster.
THAT is the real purpose of the FFA site. The FFA owner collects email addresses so he can send out his advertising message. He already knows that you, the listing webmaster, are interested in getting traffic to your web site, so he targets his message in that direction.
In most cases, he'll offer to sell you a service that promises to submit your site to THOUSANDS of FFA posting sites and search engines... and all for the low, low price of $59. Wow! In return, you'll receive THOUSANDS more confirmation emails from all those other FFA site owners.
Go ahead; give it a try, if you still want to. Just be sure you don't use your best email address. Here's a warning to that effect that I found posted on an FFA site. That should tell you something.
Warning! Please do NO T use your primary email address for this posting - you will receive many confirmation emails, and he added to many email lists (you will be posting to the entire network!). We suggest using a "backup" email address, or a spare free email address for posting, so you won't affect your daily email use.
For an example of an FFA site, visit the link below. If you can decipher any of the listing titles despite that horrible font, my hat is off to you.
Super Affiliate Handbook As the name implies a banner exchange allows you to display your advertising banners on member Web sites in exchange for allowing them to display their banner on your Web site.
But there's a catch. You must display two banners on your site so just one of your banners will be displayed on another member's Web site.
Hmm... what happens to the other fifty percent? Those would be used by the banner exchange service to display their own advertising.
There are 5 big drawbacks to the banner exchange scheme for traffic generation.
• Banner exchanges don't generate significant traffic.
• You have no control over the appearance of the other members' banners.
• You end up with unrelated material appearing on your site.
• Banners suck up good bandwidth and slow your pages down.
• Banners rarely get clicked on and their conversion rates are terrible.
My advice - don't even think about it. Banner exchanges are another waste of good time and effort.
New Hope for Link Exchanging
Ken Evoy has just come up with a scam-free way to make link exchanging work without the hassle of putting hours of work into email requests.
It's call the "Value Exchange".
You register your site as one that is willing to trade links with other relevant sites.
The Value Exchange then searches for other registered sites that relate to yours.
Ken's team keeps the "Exchange" free from low quality and questionable content Web sites.
Value Exchange is brand new, so the jury is still out on it's effectiveness.
Because the search engines love links between related sites, let's hope that Ken's Value Exchange truly gives us value for a long time to come.
Rosalind's Rules for Linking
Essentially, try to keep all the links on your site productive. By 'productive', I mean that any link that leaves your site should be a revenue-generating affiliate link.
I can think of only a few circumstances when adding an unprofitable link to your site is warranted.
Here's one example. When I started my Internet dating review site, Internet dating was in its infancy. People were afraid to try it, and horror stories about dates gone bad offline were freely bandied about. To counter the bad press, I directed my visitors to one of the first online sites specializing in background checks - Whoishe.com. They didn't have an affiliate program, (and still don't!) so I didn't earn a commission for the referral if my visitors bought their product.
However, my rationale for putting up the 'leaky' link, was that if my visitors invested in a background check after coming to my site, they'd probably met someone through one of the dating services that I promote.
Basically, the only time you should put up a non-affiliate link, is if you consider the other site's information absolutely integral to your own. But keep looking for affiliate program products to replace that 'leaky' link as soon as possible!
In a nutshell - Links 'in' are good. Unpaid links 'out' are bad.
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