Friday, June 22, 2007

Link Swaps Are Doorways

I've got a few basics on link swaps at Whoring Your Site With Links (and a bit more in Gently Scratching Your Niche), but a number of readers have asked for more information on them. So here we go...

Link swaps or exchanges (where Site A links to Site B, then Site B links back to Site A) have been around a long time. (Like those swinging doors, there are two ways for people to pass through.)

They are standard practice, but this does not mean you should be route about handling them.

Do not accept, nor feel pressured into accepting, each request. Remember, each link is a doorway. Not only are you inviting people to leave, and therefore want to limit the number of exits, but each link is rather like an endorsement. The dual nature of these doorways allows for the perfect means to evaluate them. When you receive a request, do visit the site and evaluate if it's worthy of sending your visitors to.
Evaluate where you're sending folks:

Does the site have good, original content (writing, products, services, photos etc.)?

Is it something you think your visitors or members would be interested in seeing?

Do they have enough content to indicate they'll be around and active in the future?

Is the site broken, links which do not work, missing graphics or have other signs of neglect or problems?

All of these things will reflect on you, for offering the doorway. (For more on this, also read here.)

The other side of the link swap is your point of view on traffic.

From your own point of view, does it look like their site will have readers which will find your site interesting?

Also, do you like where they would be linking to you? Some sites and even blogs have separate areas, even pages, for links. If you feel that your link would be buried, or otherwise virtually unseen in some hidden area, only accept the request on your terms ~ with a better placement of the link to your site.
The reason I mention this first is so that you understand how your link request will be viewed: Is your site worthy of them sending their readers to, and would your link be beneficial to them?

So no matter how wonderfully worded your link swap request is, you may be rejected. If you are lucky, they will take the time to let you know why your site isn't making the grade. Use this information to your advantage in two ways: 1) It's a free review of sorts, so perhaps there are changes you ought to make, and 2) if so, contact them again after you've made the changes.

I know there are going to be some of you who dislike link swaps, because you'll have read/heard that a certain number of out-bound links are bad for search engine ranking, or page rank (or whatever.) It certainly is one school of thought. As are only swapping with sites with specific page ranks (or higher), and other guidelines. These philosophies are other reasons your link swap request may be rejected, and they may be unknown to you at the time you make your request. All you can do is respect their decision and move along. (However, if they disclose their reasoning &/or guidelines, do as above.)

OK, so now you know how link swaps are evaluated and you're ready to prepare for, head-off, and deal with rejection. Now it's time to move onto how to ask for them.

Here are the steps:

1) Put as much effort into exploring a site as you would in evaluating it if they had requested the link swap themselves. Don't see one post and send your request, but rather look around and see as much of the site as you can. If you are still of the opinion that you'd like to create that swinging doorway, then proceed.

2) Look on their site for rules on link swaps or exchanges, or other policies which may tell you their guidelines and how to request an exchange. If you do qualify, then proceed. And if they have a specific method for requesting a swap, then use it.

3) If you'll need to send an email request, here's what to keep in mind.
A) You need not feel smarmy, gross or inappropriate requesting a link swap. It's part of business, and we all know that. If you've done your homework (evaluation) you're offering something of value for something of value. So don't apologize for such a request, you are flattering them. (Conversely, don't act so cocky either. You aren't doing them a favor, but simply arranging a win-win.)

B) Don't use a generic form letter to request a swap. It's not personal and it doesn't show the blogger or webmaster that you have found their site worthy of such a request. Don't even use a standard file you cut and paste from to make your request. I mean it! The time you think you save with cut & paste is really effort lost when you make a formulaic request, and, in this doorway metaphor, have a doorway closed to you. (Even worse, when you blunder and mistakenly paste some other webmaster's name or information in it!) Why be so boring, so lazy, when you should be excited to find a cool site you want to share with your readers? Tell them why you want to swap ~ even gush about their site, if that's your personality. Whatever your tone or personality, write each email individually. You'll be glad you did.

C) Don't tell them that link swaps are vital, that this helps their search engine ranking or page rank or whatever. Such things are either insulting (as if they didn't know!) or boring (a bunch of gibberish to those who don't know). And to those of us who get many requests a day, they read like the same old crap and we gather your site is full of it too. (I'll admit, those emails very rarely get read all the way through before I hit delete; so it would take a miracle for me to even visit their site to evaluate it.)

D) Do clearly provide your information (URL, site title and where you'd place their link etc.). I know this is noted here, but based on the number of requests I receive in which this info is missing, I guess it bears repeating.

E) Put something simple and direct in the subject line so they know what the email is. I typically create my subject line last, as my enthusiasm makes me want to talk (write the email) right away *wink* Then I can be more practical when writing the subject line. If you know the contact's name, use it. Examples: Link Swap With The Whore, I'd Like To Exchange Links With Your Marketing Whore Blog, Link Swap For Gracie, etc.
One last thing... Don't forget to check your links periodically.

Ask yourself: Is this site still worthy of you inviting your guests to leave your site for? Act accordingly.

Sometimes folks nail their side of the door shut or put so much stuff in the front of it that no one can realistically pass through to your side. Sites may have deleted links, moved them to a different area or page (which you can easily view as a break in agreement if this move is detrimental to you) and sites may be down all together. (If the latter, please check several times over a few days, with a clear cache, just to be sure that you didn't stumble in during a server hissy fit.)

Should you find your link swap partner has shut the doorway to your site, I recommend you send an email about it. You need not be rude or defensive as mistakes do happen. Just inquire as to why your link seems to be missing. Most of the time you get a reply saying "Oops!" and a correction. If that's not the case, you can safely delete your reciprocating link.

Conversely, if you find yourself wishing to sever a partnership, it's best if you contact them to let them know. Be polite and remind yourself that, as nasty as this feels, it is better they hear it from you (and the reasons why) than to discover that you deleted them. (And you'll avoid building a negative reputation as a webmaster or blogger who doesn't keep promises.)

Now go forth, and open some doors.

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Anonymous Amanda said...

Excellent article on linking.

My pet peeve are those who never get around to linking back to me and ignore emails. I mean, if you don't want to link to me, then just say so. It's the quickest way to keep me from bothering you.

Not pointing fingers at you Gracie, but it's amazing how many bloggers think their Blogspot blog is worth pure gold per pixel.

Okay, off the pet peeve. I like good, honest link love any day of the week! And I'm an easy linker as long as I think your site is good and content relevant.


June 22, 2007 6:14 PM  
Blogger Marketing Whore said...

Well, folks, there's your invitation to email Amanda for a link ;)

(Thanks for the compliments, dear!)

June 22, 2007 8:21 PM  

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