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Internet Marketing - reciprocal link exchange tutorial

With so many bleeding edge marketing and promotion methods coming into practice these days, it's easy to forget the basics - this tutorial will assist you in developing a link exchange campaign that will get noticed. A few good manners go a long, long way - an old concept but very applicable to modern Internet marketing and web site promotion strategies. 

Starting out in web site promotion?

When you first launch your site, the chances are that traffic will not start flowing immediately, and perhaps never - it's not just how your site looks or operates that will ensure it's success or failure. According to numerous sources I've come across during my research, the average web site only receives around 3 unique visitors a day!

So how do you get well above this average? A lot of begging and pleading to begin with! Many web masters and site owners leave a lot to be desired in their approaches to marketing and promoting their sites -especially in terms of reciprocal link exchanges. 

Reciprocal link requests

Most of us realize that the best way to get traffic while waiting to be listed by search engines is through being linked to by other quality sites. This also assists with increasing SE rankings when search engine spiders do pay a visit. Depending on the search engine, the *only* way to have a chance at a decent ranking is to have other sites linking to yours.

What many new web masters don't realize is that a request for a link exchange will probably meet with a negative or no response. The reason why is simple - it's back to the WIIFM principle - What's In It For Me - the most basic of motivators in the human psyche. 

If you approach a well established site to exchange links, there has to be a good reason for them to do so. I have received a number of emails simply stating "link to me - http://www.54534hgg.com". That kind of promotional strategy gets you nowhere.

Here are a few hints and tips for beginners through to more experienced site owners as to how you can persuade an established site to exchange links with you.

Buying/selling text links

Buying
Text Link Ads

Selling
Text Link Ads

Polite reciprocal link requests. 

When you send your email for a reciprocal linking exchange, ensure that the tone of it is extremely courteous and not demanding. If English is your second language, run your promotional note by someone who is familiar with the complexities of the language. The way you word your note is the most important factor as to whether another web master will even bother with taking the time to take a look at your site.

Grammar and Spelling

Also very important. Your canvassing note is your official representation - if you don't take the time to spell correctly, other web masters may believe that your site will be of the same quality, and discard your request immediately.

Ensure your web site is complete.

A half finished site will not gain you any links!

Web masters are busy people

Don't expect an answer straight away and harass the site owner with countless follow up emails. Leave it for at least 2 weeks before second contact and ensure that the second note is equally as polite as the first.

Read the site

Ensure you take a good look over the site you wish to link to you, be familiar with it's content and mention some of the content in your request for a reciprocal link exchange. Identify the common theme between the sites. If the site has a "Submit your URL" page, ensure that you use it and read the guidelines for submission carefully.

Appeal to the web masters WIIFM motivator.

Experienced site owners can pick a new web master or site a mile off, so don't misrepresent your site or its traffic levels if you propose a reciprocal links exchange. Point the web master to a section of your site where you provide content or tools that are original and would be of use to their site's visitors. 

If you have a banner rotator, you could also offer the site owner an extra few thousand impressions as a sweetener for him in linking to you. Very few web masters will give you a link if they receive nothing in return, especially if they are earning money or gaining traffic from the links they already have in place. 

Even just making an offer of extra services, no matter how small, will motivate the web master to at least consider a link exchange - they may not even take you up on the offer.

The best way to encourage other webmasters to link to you is to *already* have their link and a thoughtful description already present on your site - on a search engine friendly page. 

The reciprocal link request note.

There are a number of template examples of reciprocal link request emails on the Internet, but my advice is that if you are going to use them, ensure you modify them each time they are sent to different sites so they at least appear original. 

I receive a certain template note regularly and disregard it as it appears to me that the person sending it has not reviewed my site properly and really doesn't take the process seriously. If another web master points towards a certain article or section of Taming the Beast.net, it motivates me to review what the web master has to offer my site visitors.

Bearing that in mind, here's a sample note that you can base your approaches on:

=====================

Greetings [Name],

I visited your web site, [Web Site Name Here] and found some great information regarding [Insert Subject Here]

[If you have linked to the other site already, mention it here and give the URL of the link - ask them to approve your link to them or to recommend editing suggestions - DO NOT threaten to remove their link if they don't respond in x days - these kinds of notes usually end up being deleted]

I thought you might be interested to know that we have a web site dedicated to [Your Site Topic - special points of interest]

We were hoping that you might consider linking to us and invite you to review our site at your convenience.

 [Depending on situation, insert further offer of reciprocal linking, banner impressions or exchange of services here] 

If you determine that a link to our site is appropriate, please add it at your your discretion, or might we suggest the following link and description:

[Your site name and URL] - [Your site description - keep it brief, focused and not too much hype]

If you'd like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact us at [Your contact details].

Thanks!

[Full official signature lines here]

======================

This example is personal and courteous. It respects the other site owners time and intelligence. Remember to modify each note slightly to avoid the "template" stigma.

If you are providing linking code to the webmaster, which is recommended, ensure that your code contains suitable anchor text.  

Buying/selling text links

Buying
Text Link Ads

Selling
Text Link Ads

Be prepared for rejection.

If you are officially denied a reciprocal link exchange, don't get too upset - even if the response is rude, as they sometimes can be. If you do receive a nasty email back, be happy in the fact that you went about promotion in the right way, and perhaps that web master was having a really bad day as we all do at times. Leave it for a few months, then try again, outlining some of the improvements you have made in your site that are relevant. 

The promotion strategies you put into action from the outset define your standing in the online community in the time ahead - don't blow it. Be careful in using the hypey marketing techniques offered by some - they may have worked for them, but they may not work for you.

Don't let dollar signs get in the way of basic human consideration..

Further learning resources:

Exchanging links - the pitfalls, plus a link management software review

The importance of anchor text

Link exchange services - be wary

Linking to bad neighborhoods

Search engine optimization tutorials

General web marketing & promotion articles

Affiliate marketing strategies

Ecommerce articles and guides

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
http://www.tamingthebeast.net 
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
Web Marketing, Internet Development & Ecommerce Resources
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