Thursday, May 24, 2007

You Scratch My Back…

(Search Engine Optimization, Back to Basics, Part 6)

In the world of business, it’s not very often that you can help your competition and still benefit by it. Usually, the environment is described as “cutthroat”, or “dog-eat-dog”. These aren’t exactly friendly terms.

Even though this is often the case, there are circumstances where it can be helpful to work “Win-win” with other companies on the ‘net. One of these is in reciprocal linking.

The basic idea behind reciprocal linking is simple. Find other similar websites, contact their owners, and set up a set of links back and forth. “I link to you, and you link to me.” Both sites benefit.

Let’s look at how the sites benefit.

1. The foremost reason is simple: Traffic. Anytime someone out on the ‘net establishes a link to your website, whatever the reason, their visitors have the opportunity to click to your site. If the two sites are relevant, and your site is valuable, many of them will. These clicks come to your site independent of search engine ranking. Don’t underestimate the value of this. On any given week, as much as 20% of my traffic comes to me directly from my reciprocal links.
2. The search engines (especially google) provide a secondary, though often less impactful reason. The more other sites link to you, the higher you rank. Inbound links are equated (by the search engines) with popularity and value. Hence, more links means a higher ranking. Now, granted, there are many other ways to get other sites to link to you besides swapping, and most of these give higher search engine value. Still, one of the simplest ways to convince someone to link to you is to link to them first.
3. If you’re effectively linked with lots of other sites, not only will you rank higher, but you will also get indexed and spidered faster, and re-indexed and re-spidered more often. This is because as the search engines spider the other guy’s site, the spider program will crawl across the link to your site and index it as well. I’ve seen people get on yahoo in under a week this way.

How do you do it?

First, you want to find other sites to exchange links with. Think of your audience. Who are they? What sorts of things are they looking for on the ‘net? What websites would they be visiting? Look for these sites. I want to caution you against the temptation to think that the whole world is your audience, and you should swap links with everyone. That won’t help you. Focus in on a more targeted audience, and you’ll be more successful. Links should always be relevant.

When you find a site that’s relevant, contact them. Tell them how cool their site is. Invite them to your site. Ask them to exchange links. It’s simple. No need for fancy agreements or lawyers. No money is changing hands. It’s not an arms treaty you’re negotiating or anything.

Finally, create a page on your site for links, and add a link to their site on it. That way, when they come to check out your site, they’ll see that they’re already on your site, and they’ll be more likely to reciprocate. When they respond to your message, they’ll set up the link back to you.

Every once in a while, go through your links and check to make sure that you’re receiving inbound links from everyone. If so, great! If not, send them a friendly reminder. If they don’t respond, you can remove them from your list.

It’s not difficult, and it doesn’t cost money. It does cost time, however. Keep at it. Build this links list up over time. Before you know it, you’ll be bringing in a steady stream of valuable targeted traffic!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

1 comment:

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