Acceptable Types of Links
At one time selective link exchanges between sites that are closely linked by theme or interest were the currency of the realm, but that day has passed. Though such links can still be valuable for a variety of reasons, such as to serve your visitors by guiding them to content that will be of interest and that is not provided within the mission of your site. The focus today for search engines is on links freely given. One-way links that show that visitors recognize your site for its merit, authority on a topic, or relevance to their own site or interests.
How do you create a site that will encourage others to legitimately wish to link to you? You just follow good linking strategy practice, now coming to be characterized as linkbaiting.
Not only does it make common sense to engage your visitors so much that they don’t want to let you disappear, but it’s the strategy that Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team recommends (SEO Advice: Linkbait and Linkbaiting). Cutts, while acknowledging that the term bait has negative connotations, suggests that baiting can be good in this context as a good linking strategy and give visitors a reason to link to your site.
A fairly new concept, linkbaiting has not yet been definitively categorized, but here are some of the good linking strategy practices that are considered white-hat link baiting:
- Analysis—offering the results of interesting original research in the form of text, graphs, statistics, etc.
- Interaction—offering visitors the chance to interact with your sight by providing contests, quizzes, surveys, and other specific invitations.
- Up-to-the-Minute Reports—being the first with any kind of relevant news.
- Community—building a community of visitors who enjoy each other’s company as well as yours.
- Creativity—offering an artist’s unique view of the world, or sharing your design creations.
- Usefulness—giving away an irresistible tool, service, or application.
- Controversy—exciting people’s opinions with thought-provoking commentary; n.b.: this can be done without going over to the dark side . . .
- Reliability—keeping your site up-to-date and cycling in fresh content.
and the old standby
- Originality—doing what no one else in the world does, and doing it well or doing what many others in the world do, but doing it in a unique way.
White-Hat Link Exchange
Here are the basic linking strategy steps for working with colleagues whose sites expand, augment, or extend the usefulness of yours.
1. Keeping it offline for now, create a link page and appropriate categories, titling the categories so the relationship to your site is clear is a good linking strategy. For example, if you sell rare frogs you might have:
Books About Frogs
Frog Food by Mail
2. Besides sites with which you already have a relationship, preview sites that fit your categories to find those that will best serve your visitors.
3. Use good linking strategy to create links to those sites, organizing them in a rational way (often alphabetical) so visitors see order, not chaos, when they look at this page.
Rather than just creating an anchor like this:
<a href=”url”>Text to be displayed</a>
use the form below to have the link open in a new window:
<a href=”url” target=”_blank”>Text to be displayed</a>
—this way, you send traffic to the other site, but don’t send your visitor away from your own site at the same time, a good linking strategy to keep visitors on your site.
4. After you go live, decide whom you wish to contact to exchange links: it may not be everyone you’ve linked to. Use good linking strategy to determine who to contact. Send each one an e-mail using the contact info listing on their site with the following information:
- your name and e-mail address
- the URL and name of your site
- the fact that you’ve linked to them and the exact location of the link on your site
- a request for a reciprocal link and why you think such a link would benefit their visitors
- the exact text of the link, in html and (if appropriate) a suggestion for where on their site it might go
It may take some time to receive a response. If you don’t hear anything after several weeks, check to see if the link has perhaps been placed anyway, and if not, resend your e-mail.
5. If they agree, do the following:
- check that they put up the link
- send a thank you in which you note that you will inform them of changes to your site that affect the link exchange and ask them to do the same
- keep track so that you really do what you promised
6. If they don’t respond or don’t agree, find a substitute and approach the contact person there.
7. Repeat as necessary as your content and categories expand and/or change.