Saturday, May 8, 2010

Reciprocal Linking

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Reciprocal linking, also called link exchange, is where you obtain a link from another website in exchange for you linking to that website.

To facilitate this, you need to have "Related Links" or “Related Resources” page on your site. You should have such a page regardless in order to list any sites that offer a complementary product or service to your own that might be of interest to your visitors.

You should also have “Link to Us” code on your site where other site owners can simply copy your HTML link code to their site. In this way, you control the use of keywords in the text of such links that point to your site.


Using a Related Links Page


You should really only link to other sites that offer similar products to your own. Don’t clutter your links page with unrelated junk. Use keywords on your links page that are related to your site’s keywords. This includes using keywords in the text of links that point to other sites.
Also include some actual content on your Links page. Don’t merely create a long list of links with no text. Add a short description of the site to accompany each link.

Ideally, all outgoing links should be located on a single Links page on your site. This is because outgoing links can “leak” PageRank from any page that contains outgoing links.

Under no circumstances link out to link farms or other questionable site. While you can’t control it if your site is placed on a link farm, you should definitely never link to such a site, otherwise your site may get penalized.


Adding “Link to Us” Code


You want other websites to use your best keywords in the text of links that point to your site. You can help ensure this by placing “Link to Us” code on your Links page that contains HTML code for others to easily copy to their websites. Using a site about house plans, here is some representative link code:

Adding our link to your site is easy! Copy the code below add it to your web page:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Unique House Plans> - Search from thousands of great home designs at ACME House Plans!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note how the keyword phrase house plans is used both in the link text and in the description that follows.

Caution: Google has flagged pages created by link-generation software. If you use the Zeus program to generate a links page, change the name of the page from the default “themeindex”. Such programs, while useful, need to be configured according to your needs and to avoid looking like a “cookie-cutter” page.


Link Exchange Etiquette



Because of email spamming, the days of sending out reciprocal link requests and getting any kind of response is coming to an end. Most reciprocal links requests today are generated by a software program that mindlessly spew outs grammatically incorrect, idiotic-sounding requests.
To get people to read and respond to your reciprocal link requests, put yourself in their shoes. Here are some do's and don'ts for email etiquette:

1. Link to their site first. You are the one asking for a favor, so show your respect by linking to them first. I reject all link requests where they have not linked to me first.

2. Make the Subject line concise: "MySite.com now links to YourSite.com". This simple subject gets to the point and doesn't waste any time.

3. Make it personal - include some information that actually shows you visited their site in the first place. Most don't and it shows.

3. Don't “threaten” by saying "your link will be removed from our site if you don't reciprocate within x days". YOU are the one asking for the favor.

4. Keep it brief - I don't want to read a 2-page link request where your link information is buried. Make it easy to find and keep it concise.

5. Be specific - let them know exactly which page you want a link on, don't make them spend time guessing or having to email you back.

6. Don't bug people with several follow-up requests... "This is our 3rd Link Request email". Everyone is busy and filling up their mailbox with multiple link requests is not going to get them to do it any sooner. Sending one follow-up email 2 weeks later is acceptable, sending one out every 2 days is not.

Use the following template for your emails to prospective linking partners for exchanging links. Copy and modify as needed.

The Reciprocal Link-Building Process


The process for setting up and managing a reciprocal link campaign is as follows. It is an expanded set of steps that was covered under the section on general link-building. Again, I recommend you use tools such as SEO Elite or Arelis to help you out, but you can do it manually if you wish.

Do a search of your most important keywords on Google, as mentioned before..

1. Determine which sites link to you now and which link to your competitors, as mentioned before. Visit each site and pare down the list as needed.

2. Obtain the email address of each website owner. This can be done several different ways:
a. Determine the email address directly from their Contact Us page.
b. Use the Whois utility from a domain registrar to look up the email address from the domain name record.
c. Use SEO Elite or Arelis, which have built-in Whois utilities to obtain the email address for a site owner.

3. Create a dedicated email account on your web server, such as link-partners@YourDomain.com, to help manage your efforts.

4. Create one or more email "templates" to use for contacting your prospective link partners. This is simply a form letter with “placeholders” that allow the email address to be automatically merged in. Most email clients, such as Microsoft Outlook and Eudora, allow you to generate templates for this purpose.

5. One simple way of sending the same email to multiple people is to use the “bcc” option (blind carbon) in your email program. This way, each email recipient won’t see all the other email recipients.

6. Be sure and include sample link code in your email template that can be copied by your prospective linking partners.

7. Once you start getting, make sure you have links to their sites on your links page. You will get a much higher response rate if you put their link on your site first.

8. Systematically manage, track and expand your efforts. Get in the habit of spending at least one hour per week looking for new link partnerships. Your goal is to find new targeted traffic in as many different relevant locations as possible.


Reciprocal Linking Best Practices

Although the blanket statement of “get as many links as possible” applies in general, here are some tips and best practices for prioritizing your link exchange efforts:

• Only exchange links with sites that are relevant to, or are in a complementary market to, as your own business.

• Focus first on getting links from pages with a high PageRank (PR). Links from low PR pages won’t influence your ranking negatively, but you probably won’t be getting an appreciable PR boost unless you have a large number of them.

• Don’t discount the power of low PR pages directing traffic to your site. Today's PR = 3 page could be tomorrow's PR = 6 page.

• Your best links will be from sites that have a large number of incoming links themselves and that also have a relatively small number of outgoing links (such sites are called authorities). Make sure these sites are relevant to your theme or keywords.

• Try to get your link on a page that is as close to their home page as possible. A link has less PR if it is buried several levels deep. For example a link on http://www.acme-house-plans.com/resources.htm is better than a link on http://www.acme-house-plans.com/Links/SectionA/CategoryB/links2.htm.


Changing Old Link Anchor Text


If you have a site that is several years old, chances are you have links on sites you aren’t aware of, or that use less-than-optimal link text.

In this case, contact those site owners to see if they will change the anchor text of the link to include your most important keywords where applicable.

Not everything will respond to you, let alone change the link text, and a few may decide to remove your link altogether. But it is still a worthwhile effort.


Using an .Htacess File for 301 Redirect


A common problem is having links that point to the www version as well as an non-www version of your home page. An example is http://www.YourDomain.com vs. http://YourDomain.com. A simple fix for this is to create an .htaccess file that contains the following lines of code:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.YourDomain\.com
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.YourDomain.com/$1
[L,R=301]

Simply place this file in the root (usually www) folder of your server. This will redirect any non-www links to the www version of your site to keep PageRank going to a single version of your home page.


About Non-Reciprocating Links

It is common to have outgoing links that are for the benefit of your customers and that you don’t expect reciprocal links back to your site for.

A good example are links that go to book pages on Amazon.com. Clearly such links can benefit your visitors, but Amazon.com is not going to reciprocate by placing links on their site back to your site either.

There are two methods you can use to prevent “leakage” of PageRank from non-reciprocating links on your site. Don’t go overboard with this. It is only an issue if you have LOTS of outbound, non-reciprocating links. You are leaking PR only from the page that contains outbound links. So the leakage is quite minimal.

Using the NOFOLLOW Link Attribute


Simply use the “NOFOLLOW” attribute in any link you don’t want Google to follow (and hence transfer PageRank from). The syntax is as follows:



This attribute is also used by Google to combat blog spam, where people spend all day on blogs posting links back to their site in order to boost PageRank.
Using JavaScript Code

Most links use a standard HREF format, which Google has no problem understanding. However, if you use JavaScript code to create your links, Google may not be able to recognize this as a link.
Bear in mind that Google can recognize some JavaScript-coded links, depending on how the link is coded. For information on how to construct a JavaScript-coded link, look anywhere on the Web for samples. The best way is to use a separate JavaScript (.js) file to store the URLs.

Please do not consider such tactics for reciprocal links, as it is deceitful to other site owners as they do not get the value of your link counted by Google. However, these methods are used by unscrupulous linking partners to prevent links from transferring PageRank. So be on the lookout for this when getting links.

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