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“Beauty and brains, pleasure and usability — they should go hand in hand.”

— Donald Norman


Reciprocal Links, Anyone?

Have you ever considered trading links with another site? Has someone contacted you with such an inquiry? Depending on the type of site you maintain, this my be a great idea or a terrible one. If you are selling a product, you probably wouldn't want to link to the competition, because it can hurt sales. However, if you are a content site which generates revenue from banner advertising sales and affiliate programs, reciprocal links may be a nice traffic generator for your site.

      Content sites usually generate their revenue by selling advertising space on their site. If they can get more quality traffic to their site, it will create more ad views and the webmaster can sell more advertising. Thus, a reciprocal link with another site can help bring more visitors to the site if the other site has related content.

      If you would like to give it a try, look for a site with similar content to yours on the web. Send the webmaster a friendly email asking them if they would like to exchange links. Give them some feedback about their site while you are at it. In most cases, they will be happy to do so, because it will give their site more traffic too. Place the link on the page that is the best fit for the site, and try to get yours on a page which suits your site as well. Links that are on targeted pages can generate a nice stream of visitors interested in what you have to say.

      You may on occasion receive a request from a site that isn't really related to the content of your site. You can make a "links" or "friends" page for such links if you think the reciprocal link may help. Always visit the site and check everything out. I get link requests every day, but many of them are purely commercial...they are just trying to get free advertising for their site, which tends to be some kind of "business opportunity" site. Just be sure to take a look before you agree to link to anyone.

      What if the other webmaster does not respond to your request? Don't feel bad, I have probably had 100 sites on my list of "sites that did not respond". There are several possible reasons for the webmaster not to respond:

They did not feel a reciprocal link with your site would be beneficial to them.

They lost your email, or you gave them an invalid return address.

They no longer maintain their site and do not care....I know I have encountered this a few times.

They think that your site is better, and are worried you will take their visitors. Personally, if I think a site is really great, I will be glad to trade links. If their site is more popular already, I would be receiving more traffic from them than they would get from me.....

They think your site is "not good enough" to be listed on their site. I could mention a few names here, but I think I'll just go on. They are entitled to their own opinion I suppose.....

You may also have the occasional webmaster who agrees to the reciprocal link, but then takes your link down a month later without notification. I have had this happen a few times as well. One of them was a large (and popular) site. I still don't know why he took my link down like that, but then I'm not running over to ask him either. If someone pulls that, I simply take their link off my site as well. Not that it will bother him, he gets over 4000 visitors a day to his front page anyway. Well, like I said, don't feel bad. Sometimes these things happen.

So, has it worked for my site? I would say it has been a great way to get traffic to my pages. Many of my top referrers are from sites I have reciprocal links with. In fact, a few of these sites are ahead of many of the search engines as far as sending me traffic. Thus, it has been a positive experience for my site overall. Aside from the sites that "did not respond", I have been able to add quality links for my viewers (yes, you!) and also get some traffic in return. Hopefully, it will work for your site as well. Test it out with one site and see how it goes. If you like what you see, then try a few more. You will then be able to the find your own answer to the big question: Do reciprocal links really work?

© John Pollock

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