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A reciprocal link exchange campaign that works

November 18, 2003

Recognizing, identifying and requesting reciprocal links is a bit more complicated than it used to be in the past. Rank for $ales knows that one important ingredient to a successful SEO reciprocal link exchange campaign, particularly in the case of Google and its PageRank algorithm, is increasing the quantity of web sites providing plain-text reciprocal links to your site.

Web sites with related and similar content will provide more benefit to your own sites rankings than will several links from less relevant sources, wich proves again the importance of link and content relevancy.

The unique goals of a search engine optimization professional then lies in the precise task of identifying relevant pages that will link to your site, effectively yielding you quality, inbound links. One must be careful to not fall into the ever-growing quantity of link farms or web sites that offer little, if any content that is of value to your site visitors or to the engines.

How to start on the right foot
Initiate your reciprocal link exchange program by developing a site theme, topic or title that you will use as part of your link-request invitations. Many sites limit the length and syntax of this variable so try to keep it short, ideally less than 25 characters and make it directly relevant to your sites content.

Because most sites use this theme or title to hyperlink to your site, be sure to include the one or two keywords or a short keyphrase that is of the most value to your optimization program.

The exact keywords that link to your site are just as valuable as the link itself when determining the overall impact of a backlink on search engine rankings. When that is done, develop a site description in a manner similar to that above. Try to keep your description under 150 characters as some online submission sites could eliminate some of your most important keywords after that point.

When writing your site's description, try not to make superlative statements and don't risk sounding spammy by simply listing some keywords placed here and there.

Another important suggestion for your initial preparation phase is to devise a way of recording your requests and submissions. You will soon realize that, like us, an effective reciprocal link exchange program that really works can leave a lot of email trails that can rapidly overwhelm you in a short time.

At Rank for $ales, I use a complex spreadsheet system I developed wich is tailored for each of our clients. Our system basically identifies the inbound links and URL's and the dates on which they were originally submitted. It's not totally imperative, but accurately recording each link partner will help prevent submitting to the same site more than once, thus reducing any wasted time as well as almost eliminating the potential for upsetting your potential link partners.

Determining potential link partners
Where do you go to find content-related and industry-related web sites that will link with your site? Well, you can start by searching a popular engine such as Google or another, and entering key phrases such as add a site, suggest a site, add link etc. Be certain to request exact search results as these key phrases are often included on small directories and categorized as such on certain link pages.

We have found on many occasions that this method will return sites at which you�ll submit your site through an online form itemized by category, title, description and other relevant information.

Next, your research should concentrate on key phrases such as industry links, where the word industry is an important keyword related to your site�s industry or field of interest. You might discover that this search technique returns more results for smaller linked pages that will require you to email the webmaster for possible inclusion. Start writing a list of the sites you find relevant to yours and then you can come back later.

Sparsing and fine-tuning your list
Keep in mind that, of all the web sites you have written on that list, not all might be willing to provide a link to your site. Their reasons or possible objections could be personal or otherwise- whatever the reason, you should not insist or become offended at a refusal. Just remember that a good link exchange program can help you by a large factor in the Google Page Rank algorithm.

You should install the Google Toolbar on your browser if it's not done yet, so that you can view PageRank when visiting any web site. Do not submit your site for inclusion on any page with a PageRank of two or lower as links from these sites might actually have a negative effect on your optimization campaign.

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Your next step is to determine whether a search engine crawler (or spider) will be able to discover the link as one going to your site or web page. A true backlink is one that directs from visible text directly to your site. Always keep in mind that a text link is ten times more efficient than any gif or jpg image link. Search engines cannot see or read images like humans can. What they crave on is pure, old-fashioned text. Now many small online directories use scripts to organize their data.

So instead of actually providing a link to they effectively format their directory to include a number of links in the form of Though click through traffic is directed to the same place with both formats, we found on most occasions that the latter provides no real value to your optimization program per se. As a hint, a link that opens as a new page from the referring site is a valid link.

The actual link request process or invitation
On many industry-related web sites and others, most have what is called a links page or partners page, such as our own web site wich you can see at the bottom of any of our pages on this web site. Many links pages of these sites allow you to submit your site�s information to the webmaster through an online form. When completing these forms be sure to provide complete and accurate information.

Evaluate your options when confidential contact information such as address, phone number and email address is optional. You don�t want your name or email address put on any solicitation list or spam-related sites. However, providing a valid email address allows means for the webmaster to contact you should they have questions or comments concerning your site. You could also consider creating a temporary email address that you would use for link submissions exclusively.

In the on-going development of your reciprocal link exchange program (RLEP), you�ll come across some links pages that do not display clear instructions for submitting your site. Some of these sites might not be true-to-form link pages but rather lists of personal favorites or similar theme-category web sites with little relevancy to your site. In either case, it doesn�t hurt to ask to have your site reviewed. Just remember that relevancy is the name of the game in RLEP and to that end, write the webmaster a basic letter that includes your site�s URL, title as well as the URL of the page on which you would like inclusion.

Many webmasters are in charge of multiple sites and might not know to which site you�re referring too so make certain there are no mistakes or misunderstandings. Be concise yet thorough with the information you provide in that email in order to minimize the effort it takes the targeted webmaster to summarize and consequently list your web site on his or her's. Begin your email with a friendly greeting and end with a statement inviting the addressee to contact you with any questions concerning your site. A polite and personal message is less likely to be confused with spam-reciprocal-link requests, as most webmasters today are constantly flooded with spam messages.

Finally, polish off & perfect your strategy
The last step is your most important: personally thank all positively responding webmasters who agreed to your reciprocal link invitation. Regardless of any frustration or confusion you may encounter in the process of your link exchange program, always remember that other websites are actually doing you a favor by posting your link, even if you post their's on your site.

Article written by Serge Thibodeau,
President & CEO,
Rank for $ales
Copyright (c) Serge Thibodeau 2003

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