Depending on the relative traffic levels of your sites, you may be asked (or you may ask the other web site) for a slightly uneven exchange, where one site provides a banner link and the other a text link. It’s up to you to evaluate whether such an arrangement will work for you, but the old saying, “beggars can’t be choosy” comes to mind.
If your site has significantly less traffic than the other site, you should consider offering such an arrangement if your offer to simply trade links is declined. You’ll have to monitor such an arrangement carefully, so that you can ask for a better deal when your site begins to return more traffic than it receives.
Once you begin to receive responses, keep up your end of any deals promptly, and confirm that you have added the agreed-upon links via email. Not only is this the right thing to do, it also reminds the other party of the agreement and encourages them to respond in kind with a confirmation from their side. Getting the links set up is only the beginning of your reciprocal links program. You’ll want to manage these relationships carefully to get the full benefit.
In addition, if you’d like to write a review of our new “Frozen-Gerbil-o-Tron” instant gerbil freezers, we’ll be happy to send you one to test. We’ll add a link to any review you post to our “Reviews” section, if you’ll provide a link back in your review.
Thank you for your time. If it’s convenient for you, please let me know how you feel about this proposal before Friday, as I am traveling to GerbilCon2000 over the weekend. Perhaps I’ll see you there, we’re in booth #20424 on the mezzanine level.
Notice that this message offers a suggested manner of handling the trade, and requests specific placements within the other site, while offering specific placement in return. If you can help it, you’d rather not just be dumped onto a generic “Links” page, although that’s usually better than nothing. By offering a specific proposal, you make it easier for the other person to accept your terms. If the terms are not acceptable, they’ll be more inclined to make a reasonable counter offer.
You’ve decided to use a reciprocal linking program to build your web site’s traffic, selected the initial group of web sites with which you want to trade links, and installed tracking software on your server to keep track of all the traffic it’s going to bring in. Now it’s time to start the campaign. How do you get started? All you have to do is ask!
For each of the sites on your list of targets, send a brief, personal message to the operator or webmaster. Most sites will have contact information somewhere in their “About” or “Contact” sections, as discussed in our article on finding good candidates for reciprocal links. The message should be complimentary, but it should also get to the point. Here’s an example:
I’m the operator of the “Frozen Gerbils Unlimited” web site, at www.freezeyourgerbil.com, and I’ve found your web site’s articles on cryogenic gerbil boxes to be extremely useful.
I think it would benefit both of our sites if we traded links. If you will place a link to our site on all of your articles on cryogenic gerbil boxes, we’ll place links to your site in our FAQ and Links pages.
Synergy. If the site for dog owners has a FAQ with a question about doggie doors, or an article on the pros and cons of doggie doors, that’s where you want them to link to your site. If they don’t have appropriate content, offer to provide it. See our how-to article on asking for reciprocal links for another example.
Any time you can offer more than a simple exchange of links, your chances for success (meaning that both parties benefit) are dramatically improved.
We’ve given you our criteria for evaluating reciprocal links. Remember, the person on the other end is making the same kind of evaluation about you. Do whatever you can to address any concerns the other party may have about your site’s quality, traffic, or visibility. The real tie-breakers, if the decision is in doubt, will be compatibility and synergy. If you can offer something that’s truly of value to the other party, that goes beyond a simple exchange of links, you are well on your way to developing a great network of partnerships.
Traffic. Let’s be honest about it – the whole point of trading links is to get more traffic to your site. The higher the other traffic’s site is, the more attractive they should be as a partner. It may be difficult to determine what their traffic is, but you can sometimes get lucky and find a hit counter or other info (like a media kit) that will tell you more. Obviously, a site getting thousands (or millions) more visitors a month than yours is less likely to be interested, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Visibility. Try searching the major search engines for the keyword or phrase that best describes your site. You know, the keywords that you wish your site ranked higher on. Whatever sites actually do pop up on the top of that list should be prime targets for reciprocal links, if they meet the other criteria. Don’t forget to check Yahoo! and Open Directory – in fact, check them first.
Compatibility. Sites that don’t have any off-site links are less likely to be interested. Those whose site is in direct competition with yours, of course, aren’t likely to be compatible. A good example of compatibility is between a site that sells doggie doors and a site with advice for dog owners.
There are literally millions of web sites. You can’t trade links with everyone. Even if you wanted to, your site’s content and mission will dictate how many off-site links you can really put in place. Unless your site is the next Yahoo! or Open Directory, you’ll probably only have a page or two of links at most. So, how do you decide which web sites to target in your reciprocal linking campaign?
We’ve developed a simple strategy, which involves ranking the sites you’re considering on a few factors. These factors can be broken down into finer and finer details, but when you’re talking strategy, it’s best to get the long view first. Other articles on this site describe each of these in much greater detail – feel free to suggest an article if you find something we haven’t covered well enough.
Quality. You don’t want to trade links with sites that don’t offer something valuable to their visitors. For one thing, most of their visitors will never make it as far as the links page. For another, your listing of the site on your links page represents an implied endorsement of the other site. Would you recommend the site to someone? If not, don’t ask for or agree to any reciprocal linking relationship.
This last type will probably become your number one source of web site traffic over time. This is great news, because it means that you control your site’s success, not some robot search engine. Most smaller web sites (not the corporate giants) will be happy to trade links with you. After all, there are always bigger fish – if the little fish band together, they all have a good chance of surviving. You should adopt the same attitude.
You may think that putting links to another site will cause you to lose visitors to them. As long as your site is well planned and provides a good experience for your visitors, you shouldn’t fear this at all. Let’s say that your site gets 500 visitors a day. If you trade links with 20 other sites (through each site’s “links” page), you may have 10 visitors a day click through to those other sites. Chances are, they’ll only look at your links page after they’ve thoroughly explored your site. In return, you’ll probably get about 10 visitors a day from the other sites. Now your site gets 510 visitors a day, and those new visitors will subscribe to your newsletter, visit again, tell their friends, etc.
Now that you know how much you can benefit from such an arrangement, you’ll want to begin identifying the sites with which you’ll want to trade links. Once you have several such links set up, how you manage your reciprocal linking program will play a big part in determining how well your site performs. In order for a reciprocal link program to really shine, you need to understand the dynamics of the linking relationship. It’s not the easiest part of promoting your web site, but it is easily the most rewarding. Good luck, and happy linking!