It starts with a simple email. The sender explains that they’d like to exchange links with you – often called “reciprocal link exchange” – and that this would mean you placing a link to their site somewhere on your site and vice versa.
Have you thought about what this arrangement really means? Why a website – especially one that is not in the same subject area as yours – would want to exchange links with you? What actually happens when you post that link?
Why Exchange Links
For many sites, the goal is to appear in the top 10 search results on Google, Bing and other search engines for key words, such as genealogy. There are many factors that go into the algorithm or “formula” used by each search engine and this formula, like the formulas for Coke and Kentucky Fried Chicken – are top secret.
Using Google as an example, theories abound but one proven theory is that the more incoming links your site has, the higher your page rank. This is why some website owners will try to send out emails – spam emails – to lists of other website owners asking to exchange links.
Gaming The System
So rather than focus on websites in their same subject area, these website owners will target any and every type of website, especially those that have a higher page rank than theirs. This link exchange then is not based on a relationship of “I think your site adds value to the community or subject area, so let me post a link on my website,” but one of just collecting links to other sites.
Avoid The Pitch
Personally, I delete emails asking for a link exchange for the most part. If I happen to be familiar with the website and it is focused on genealogy, I might consider posting a link on one of my blogs or websites.
Just as with any relationship on the Internet, you really should know who you are dealing with when responding to these requests. And who knows, over time the “formula” for search engines may change and with all these links you may be doing more harm to your own ranking.
©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee