Articles and tutorials on Web site Promotion

Reciprocal links- the secret to getting traffic

A good deal of the material available on site promotion deals with submitting your site to Yahoo! and various search engines. For some webmasters, the all-consuming goal becomes achieving and maintaining a top 10 or top 20 listing.

While a high listing in one of the major engines would be great, not
everyone is going to be able to accomplish that. After all,
only...well....10 sites out of the hundreds of thousands out there will be
in the top 10, right?

Should you hang it all up if you don't make it into that elite group? No

You should always submit your site to the major search engines and do what
you can within reason to try to ensure a good listing. But don't put all
your eggs in one basket, so to speak. There are other ways to promote your
site and these other methods might just work as well as, or in some cases
better than, search engines and directories to refer people to your site.

The promotion method I want to discuss in this article is linking.

There are basically two types of links: reciprocal and non-reciprocal.

Reciprocal links are agreements between site owners to display each other's
hypertext links. This is the online equivalent of "you scratch my back,
I'll scratch yours".

Non-reciprocal links, then, are links to your site that another site owner
has placed on his or her page without requiring you to do the same. These
types of links are what I strive for as a site owner. The reason is simple:
it's free advertising; you don't have to do a thing except reap the
benefits of any additional traffic.

I'm going to outline a few ways to cultivate each kind of link and some DOs
and DON'Ts in each category.

Reciprocal Links

One of my visitors emailed me just today asking what he could do to get
more site owners to trade links. As a site owner myself, I've been
approached by many people and I've discovered quite a few things that
discourage me from swapping links with other sites. Based on my experience,
I want to offer a few pointers for those of you who are trying to get a
reciprocal link program off the ground.

I. Personalize your contact email

I can't tell you how many sites I've *never* even considered exchanging
links with simply because I received a "form letter" from the owner. You've
received these, haven't you? Something along the lines of: "Hello fellow
webmaster! I visited your site today..." By the second line, it becomes
painfully obvious he or she did nothing of the sort. If you don't care
enough to find out my name and send me a personal email, why should I care
to link with you? My name is on the front page (and every other page) of my
site! How hard is it to address the email to me and not some generic group?

II. Target

You've sent out email to various site owners and you've gotten a bite! The
owner of the "Greater Hemhaw Bat Roosting Habitat Study Page" wants to
trade links!

Slow down, kid, let's think about this for a moment. If your site is
devoted to constructing a bat house (yes, there is such a thing, Virginia),
you're in business. If your site caters to software developers, do you
really want to include that link on your page?

Am I being a bit facetious? Maybe so. The point I'm trying to convey is you
should only negotiate reciprocal links with sites that have content which
complements yours.

The reason for this this is twofold: First, it is a great resource for your
visitors to be able to find information that you may not have covered on
your page. Afraid you'll lose them forever? If your content isn't good
enough to get them to return, you never really *had* them in the first
place. The second reason is you won't be filling up your space with loads
of (for your visitors' purposes) useless material. Don't you think sites
that are just haphazard collections of links already take up too much

III. Remember the Golden Rule

An especially memorable email that just warmed the cockles of my heart said
something along the lines of: "Don't try to hawk any of your
[you-know-what]. Just do what I'm asking you to do and get back to me." OK,
so I paraphrased a bit - but that was the gist and the general tone of the
correspondence. This person was "requesting" a free service I offer.

Remember the Golden Rule? Do unto others...

People who operate web sites are usually fairly busy. Many of the site
owners I know are great people and often respond quickly and (invariably)
politely to requests from visitors. I think that most of us not only don't
mind email from visitors, we thrive on it!

That being said, successful sites receive lots of email so you stand a much
greater chance of getting what you want if you use a little common courtesy
in your correspondence. Email is very impersonal. What you consider
efficient may be interpreted by the recipient as curt. You needn't be
excessively wordy, but make an effort to phrase your requests or comments
politely and I'm sure you'll get better results.

IV. Location, location, location!

I believe it's best to have a separate links page. Don't showcase someone
else's page on your site's prime "real estate".

If possible, organize your links into categories and give a short
description of each to help your visitors as they peruse them.

V. Birds of a Feather...

You should guard your online reputation as closely as possible. Your
credibility is a major asset.

Don't exchange links with sites that do business in a manner contrary to
the way you do business. I think many visitors feel by displaying another
site's link, you're endorsing that site or product; even though this may
not be the case. If you exchange links with a "shady" site, it will reflect
on your site to some extent.

In the "real world", you're often judged by the company you keep. It's not
so different online.

*Non-Reciprocal Links*

There are few pointers I can offer in this area. The main way to procure
non-reciprocal links is to develop and maintain a good site.

You can actively encourage people to link to your site by providing
banners, buttons, or other linking graphics for people to use. A word of
advice in this area: many people would like to link to your site, but don't
have the faintest idea of how to do so. Provide easy to understand
instructions on how to copy the graphics and provide the HTML code you
would like people to use when linking.

Institute a program that somehow rewards site owners who display a link to
your site. One such technique that is widely used is to have a "link
contest"; usually a randomly selected site wins a prize. The prize can be
anything from free advertising to a free gift from your product line. Be
creative! Pick something your visitors would actually want in order to
encourage maximum participation.

While these promotional tools may never eclipse Yahoo! in your list of
referrers, you might be surprised at the extra traffic that links from
other sites can generate!


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