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Linking Strategy

Hot Tips for Linking with other Sites

If you have a website the chances are you receive e-mails from Webmasters asking you to make a link exchange with them. But how do you know whether you should link to their website or not? Well here are nine rules, that if followed,will help guide you through the linking maze.

1. Where is the request coming from?
Is the person sending you the email using a free email account such as Yahoo!, HotMail or GMail? Since these email account are often non-permanent, I recommend that you not accept link requests from these free email accounts. Often, the requests come from overseas link builders, which can be a sign of a link farm in the works. Also, look at the name attached, if they do not give their first and last name, delete the request. If the request comes from "Mary Smith" but the email is coming from India I would delete the request. They are obviously attempting to deceive you.

2. Is their site relevant to yours?
This is key, and is becoming more and more important. If the answer is YES then it’s worth considering. If it’s off topic then you may want to think twice before swapping links. A link from a relevant website to your site is the preferred choice as it can help reinforce your website's theme and potentially send some useful traffic your way.

3. How many links is too many on a links page?
When your link is being placed on another website, you ideally want that page to contain as few outbound links as possible. 15 or less outbound links is good, 100+ outbound links is bordering on spam. If there are a high number of links on a page then not only is the value of each link out is weakened, but the page as a whole is weakened.

Whilst we can only make assumptions about ‘link weight’ some Webmasters will use a cut off point of 50, 75 or even 100 links on a page as a top end maximum. Anything over 50 outbound links on an average resources page is certainly quite high. However if your link will appear on the page of a good quality site or ‘authority website’ an exchange can still be worthwhile.

4. What is the Page Rank of the site on Google?
Some webmasters focus a lot on Google’s Page Rank as a measure of a website. If you download and install the Google toolbar you will see a measure of 1 to 10 shown via a horizontal bar for each site you are on. Typically the higher the Page Rank, the more important the page is perceived to be. A good rule of thumb here is instead of focusing on PageRank (as the data that displayed on the toolbar is often 3-5 months old anyway) that you should focus instead to check if the page is indexed by Google.

5. Should the links page be categorized?
Personally I prefer a well organised links page. If you're citing a resource in context of an article you would link from the paragraph, but for the purposes of resource links it is a good idea to organise your pages into relevant themes relating to your website and business. If the site containing the link you are being offered is placed on a page with 200 links all mixed up and covering every topic under the sun, then it’s not ideal. If you’re an online shop selling Art Prints should you really be on the same links page as Hosting Companies and Travel Agents? Make the effort to organise your resource pages, even if some link partners don't.

6. Is the links page being indexed by search engines?
As stated above, it is important that the page your link is on can be found and indexed by the major search engines. The page should be no more than 2-3 clicks away from the homepage. You can even test if the web page is in the Google index by visiting www.google.com and typing into the search bar cache: with the full domain and page name extension after it.

So your query in the Google search bar could read: cache:www.mywebsite.com/thelinkspage.html.

The page should then show in the Google index. If it does not then there are a couple of possibilities. The page is very new and hasn’t been crawled yet or the site has a problem being crawled by search engines due to poor internal linking.

7. What if a Webmaster asks me to link to one site, but links back to me from a different site?
This process is sometimes referred to as '3-way linking' or a 'linking triangle'. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with 3-way linking if it is done naturally. However, when it is done to get around the supposed "reciprocal link ban" that is where you can get into hot water. Some state that Google cannot detect three-way links. They are wrong. If a webmaster suggested doing a three-way link because Google can't detect it, I would delete the request.

8. Do I want to associate my business with this particular site?
It is a simple question to answer and this should form part of your decision making process. If you think you have been approached by a good website then the chances are others will feel the same and possibly the search engines too.

9. How do I know if my link partners are still linking to me?
You can do this manually by keeping the information for each link partner in an Excel spreadsheet or similar and then periodically check the exact URLs your link should appear on. However if you get to the stage of having hundreds of link partners this may become rather impractical.

10. So what are the best links?
One answer could be “the ones that deliver lots of relevant traffic”. However links can mean different things to different people. Natural linking (when people link to you without asking) are a great reward, but it is also wise to ensure you have some links from quality sites in your industry.