When most webmasters think of links and link exchange, they’re thinking of a link to their home page. However, that is pretty limited thinking, unless your site only has a home page and nothing else. Before we go any further, we need to first know how many sites are linking to us. This is done with the Google link command. Using link: thetechzone.com in a Google search will return a list of pages that are linking to The TechZone. In this case, there are 195,000 pages linking to TTZ.
The only problem with the above command is it includes pages from your own site. If your site is indexed by Google and you link to any sub pages, those links will be picked up. You need to eliminate your site pages from the index to find out how many outside pages are linking to you. You do this with the -site command, like this thetechzone.com -site:thetechzone.com. Now the answer is reduced to 133,000 pages. That means that 62,000 links came from The TechZone itself, a number I find mind boggling since I didn’t know TTZ has that many pages.
Now the question; how did I get 133,000 pages linking to me? The answer goes back to my So You Want To Be A Google Whore post. I maintain a news list of other technology sites that will post in their news, any new articles on The TechZone. That right there is a link. And since TTZ posts 5 new articles per week, that’s 5 new links per week times hundreds of news sites. That works out to thousands of new links every week. And then there are sites and blogs that read the news sites and link to my articles as well (a front page posting on Digg or Slashdot will always results in dozens of links from other sites not on my news list). This is a lot better than doing a simple link exchange because you don’t have to link back to the sites linking to you. Google is starting to frown on link exchanges anyway – they’re moving to a “trust” model. How is trust determined? By the number of high ranking PR sites that link to you without you linking back. A link exchange doesn’t increase your trust rating.
This is not to say you shouldn’t do link exchanges. However, it does mean you should choose who you link with very carefully. Here are some general rules that I follow when doing a link exchange:
- Never link with a site that is not in the same category as you.
- Never use a link farm (unless you want to be de-indexed)
- Maintain a link page and try to increase its PR by linking to it from every page of your site (TTZ’s link page has a PR5 ranking)
- Don’t forget internal linking (62,000 links on TTZ that are indexed by Google came from TTZ itself)
- Link with sites that are at your Page Rank or above
When dealing with sites that are below your PR, you have a few options. You can say no, which isn’t the best choice in the long run since it’s possible that the site may get huge one day and you will lose out. You can just go ahead and exchange links but you may take a hit from Google by linking to a lower PR site. The last choice is to do what I do – offer a link in my links page in exchange for a link on every page of the partner site. The end result would be they get a link on a PR5 page from a PR6 site and I get linked on every single page they have. Normally the link is placed in their footer, but some will put me in their menus. The lower PR of the partner site is offset by the number of links I get back. In the beginning, I may still take a hit but as the other site adds more pages, I get more incoming links. If the site keeps developing, I will come out ahead in the long run.