Working your Links
Posted on January 7, 1999
by Steve WhiteHow important are links? It depends on your business but generally for most web sites, links are more important than search engine ranking. For one thing, some search engines use links as a criteria in determining your ranking. More importantly however, appropriate links are the best way to generate high quality pre-qualified visitors. For example, if someone is looking for an antique vase and does not find it on an antiques page, they are more likely to try a link that says: "Looking for an Antiques Vase? Try these quality sites." than they are to retry a search engine. In fact, most users will follow links from site to site based on a recommendation in order to find what they are looking for. They will revisit the search engines only after their leads dry up.
Getting people to link to your site is consequently a high priority requirement for anyone that is seriously interested in promoting their business.
Who should you try to get to link to you? In simple terms, anyone and everyone. In more practical terms however, it depends on the effort and what you have to give up in return. Exchanging a banner ad on your site for a link from a high quality busy site may be extremely valuable for attracting new visitors. The banner may however, redirect your hard sought visitor to the banner site and away from yours. Banners also tend to clutter a web page, increase the load time and distract your visitors. You can only put up a limited number and then what do you exchange?
One of the first things people discover when they start looking for ways to promote their site are link exchange sites. Simply submit your URL and put their banner on your site and they will start sending you thousands of visitors. By making just a few exchanges it should not take long before your site becomes inundated with visitors.
When was the last time you cruised a link exchange site looking for somewhere interesting to go? The fact is people look for sites with search engines or by search lists and recommendations at related sites. Link exchanges will produce few if any visitors and if they do they will probably not be prime candidates for your product or service. That is not unless you have a link exchange site yourself.
So link exchanges are a non-starter!
Not necessarily. There is actually a growing value to having these links to your site. As previously mentioned, many search engines, especially second generation engines, are starting to use site popularity as a way to rank your site. In other words, a site with 100 links to it will rank higher in the search results than a site with only 5 or six. It is consequently important to establish links to your site both for the traffic they can generate directly and for the indirect value of improving your search engine ranking.
Although Link Exchanges may be of value, it is better to put your initial efforts into exchanging links with related sites. Not only will they generate more visitors, the visitors they do generate will be better qualified. If you sell camping gear why not exchange links with campgrounds. What about competitors? Sometimes competing stores attract more combined customer when located near each other than when they are not. This is a judgment call on your part.
Join a Web Ring related to your topic if one is available or create one if not. Avoid putting too many links on your home page. Create a link page if you have a lot of links and put any Link Exchange banners at the bottom if you do decide to use them.
You can determine your site popularity on many search engines by entering a special code. Try these searches replacing "yoururl.com" with the URL of your site.
Steve G. White is the lead software designer at Virtual Mechanics which develops HTML and Dynamic HTML applications. Steve also publishes IMS Web Tips, a weekly newsletter of tips and tricks on web site design and promotion. Newsletter: http://www.IMSWebTips.htm Home Page: http://www.VirtualMechanics.com
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