Having quality sites link back to you not only generates traffic to your site directly as a result of the link, but can also help boost your search engine rankings.
One way that online business owners entice other sites to link to them is an offer of an exchange of links.
Hunting down link exchanges can be quite a time consuming task. The temptation can be to automate the process using software or hiring a company to do it for you. This is about the latter and some of the risks of employing others outside your company to do this work.
As I've mentioned in the past, I get my fair share of link exchange requests, the vast majority of which I've noticed are are generated by automated means; it's fairly easy to pick them after a while.
Using software is fine, but as I explained in a previous article on link exchange software, it does have its risks and you need to use such applications with care.
Link exchange services issues
As with any aspect of promotion these days, companies have sprung up to assist webmasters with link exchange campaigns. The company may offer to send their "expert" employees out on the web to identify suitable link partners, make the approach and then update your pages. These services range in price from under a hundred dollars to thousands.
If you're thinking of working with a company at the lower end of the scale, the risks that they'll totally screw up your campaign and leave a bad impression on potential link partners can be quite high. A poor approach can guarantee you'll *never* get a link back from the target site.
Some services are total and utter scams. For example, they may offer to "seek out" links from 100 sites for 100 dollars, but those sites will be their own, receive no traffic and also be shunned by search engines; so you won't even get the backlink ranking boost.
Somewhat along the same lines are companies that haunt junky link exchange networks - places where people advertise they'll accept any link exchange. In many cases, the sites listed are poor quality or practically link farms and again you'll get little value from the arrangement. Search engines do not like link farms and if you're detected as participating in a link farm network, it's more likely to do your rankings more harm than good.
Another scenario is that often the work is outsourced overseas to people who do not have the language or marketing capabilities necessary to carry out the task. They are mostly underpaid and have targets to meet; so care in their approaches may be lacking.
Case in point: I received a link exchange request from a somewhat prominent online personality the other day and aside from the request being rather generic:
Not really a good way to win friends and influence people - or get a link partnership going for that matter :). If you do decide to hire a company to seek out link exchanges for you; don't be shy in outlining concerns related to the above. A quality company will be very aware of some of the shonky practices in their industry and will be happy to reassure you. Also be sure to ask for references and investigate those thoroughly before engaging the company.
Targeted link exchanges with quality sites
I believe it's important when embarking on a link exchange campaign to at least approach relevant high profile or high traffic sites personally, or have a member of your staff do so as someone in-house is more in tune with your business and much more likely to make a successful approach.
To place a dollar value on this kind of work; a link from a PR8 site can cost hundreds of dollars each and every month; so a single successful link exchange can translate into ongoing value of thousands of dollars, not to mention the added value through traffic from that link and also the ranking boost.
To be successful in gaining a link exchange from a quality site, you really need to appeal to the site owner's WIIFM factor - What's In It For Me. What is it that will motivate a high ranking site to link to a low ranking site? Pick up some tips on link exchange strategy.
If you're desperate for inbound links, another way to go about it is to buy text links on the site of your choice; which may provide better value for money in the long run - and you won't have to link back to the site. You can learn more about this strategy in my article: Text link ads - to buy or not to buy?
... and don't forget, one of the best ways to get people to link back to your site is to ensure your site has items worth linking to - articles, reports, tools etc. A one way link from a quality site has much more rank boosting power than a link exchange arrangement. I often link to other sites in my blog posts who have interesting content relevant to my audience.
I rarely actively engage in link exchange campaigns these days. I put my time into developing content such as this article, which people naturally link to (organic linking). While I prefer this method as my time is invested on my own site; if you're just starting out or have hit a quiet spot, then link exchanges or purchasing text links are certainly a viable strategy if done correctly.
Just for a laugh - here's one of the oddest link exchange requests I've received; yes it was a real request and also serves to illustrate what can happen if you use link exchange software incorrectly or low quality services.
In the interests of transparency and disclosure, please note that the owner of Taming the Beast.net often receives goods and services mentioned in reviews for free, or may receive payments or affiliate commissions for advertising or referring others to merchants of products and services reviewed.
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