Exchange Links

The world wide web is a very big place....very big. In ancient times merchants were faced with the problem of how to deal with customers in a large city. Out of their common need developed the notion of trade bazaars. Many merchants with similar goods clustered in a common area -- linked by proximity.

Who wants fellow merchants, with similar goods, right next door? "They may steal away customers." This misplaced paranoia might make sense except for one small factor. If not for this one small factor it might make sense to isolate oneself -- trying to hold customers so they can't run next door to shop around. That one small factor: thousands of years of marketing research should not be ignored.

We could take the time to step through all of the 101 reasons a bazaar makes sense. However, we'll leave that for our Bazaar Seminar. If we didn't where would use that wonderful title?

Take it as read (insert flashback to Monty Python's Meaning of Life) that it's better for small merchants to work together and pool efforts. In this regard it definitely makes sense to exchange links with like-minded merchants on the web.

It is totally SOP (standard operating procedure) for webmasters to contact each other making a request for exchange of reciprocal links.

A reciprocal link exchange means: I'll post yours if you post mine.

The very nature of the web is built upon the foundation of one website containing links to another. If not for links from website to website how would you get around?

So, count on exchanging links -- it's only natural. Which segues into the proper method of requesting reciprocal links: naturally.

If your request is natural you will:

  • Not be accused of spamming.
  • Have a much higher response rate.
  • Have longer lived reciprocal links.

To ask for a reciprocal link obviously you will need to make contact with another webmaster -- someone to who you are currently a stranger. There is a limited number of common means to contact a webmaster: email, phone, contact forms, mail. Let's ignore phone and snail mail for the moment. Which leaves us with email and contact forms. These two methods follow the same rules. So whatever is useful in email will be useful in using a response form. And visa versa.

When emailing a webmaster be natural...and whatever you do avoid looking like spam.

  • Do not say: "This is not spam."
  • Do not say: "To remove yourself from this list."
  • Do not cite legalese stating why in blah blah state your blah blah email is not spam.

Do any of the above and your chances of being reported as spamming skyrocket.

Non-spam is as non-spam does. It just so happens that when you write a personal email to a person who is real to you that the other person can tell. And guess what? He or she is more likely to respond in kind.

However, if you try to phoney up an as-if personalized email via a mail-merge form letter stuffed with addresses harvested from the internet you will get stung. Dem's da facts, Jack.

So do yourself a favor and forget about mail-merge and email harvesting. Follow these simple guidelines. It will take much more time but your results will be worth it.

Step 1) Before asking for a reciprocal link browse the website enough to be sure you really want to be known by this particular friend. Don't kid yourself you will be judged by the company you keep. So take the time to make sure you wouldn't mind the association with the other website.

Step 2) When you write to the webmaster of the target website, begin the email by including sufficient information to demonstrate that you have actually visited his or her website. "Dear Sir or Madame, I saw your website, It was good" does not cut it. Take the time to express yourself. If you've followed the advice of "Step 1" you have enough personal data personally experiences to make intelligent conversation about their website.

Step 3) Introduce your website -- briefly. One or two sentences indicating the general nature of your website. For this you may use your log-line. Gives the recipient a glimpse at where you are coming from.

Step 4) Get to the point. Indicate that you are writing to request (or suggest) a reciprocal link. Many times we will create the link to the other webmaster's website before we write. If we really feel it is a service to our customers then it only makes sense to include a link. (If the webmaster responds with vitrol and a totally nasty attitude we can always remove the link later.)

Step 5) Tell the other webmaster where you will be putting his or her link (or have already put the link). Give then the actual address. Don't just say "on my site" or "on my links page". Give them the website URL address.

Step 6) Tell them how you expect them to link to you. This is especially important if you are asking for a link which is not the root page of your website. Give then the website URL address you wish them to link to.

Step 7) Tell them where they can find a graphic to use in their link to you (should they wish). If you want them to use the URL tell them so. If you want them to download the graphic and use it from their site, tell them so. Never hesitate to be direct. Just be brief about it.

Step 8) Give them any suggested language you may have. Don't make them come up with language. Many websites don't use a naked title as hotlink text. They prefer to insert a companion paragraph describing the link. Give them the text. This is very much like a mini press release.

Step 9) Ask them if they have a graphic which you may use in your link to their site and/or a short paragraph describing their site. Here you may include the paragraph you are using or propose using. This inclusion will further demonstrate your familiarity with the other website and perhaps give them a warm glow in your praise of the website.

Step 10) After finishing your link request return to any personal business you may have with the website. Do this in your p.s. after your signature. This will end the email on a personal note. Perhaps you want to express how much you "really enjoyed the muskrat cartoon on the order page..." or some such. I've even been known to slip in a small warning about a typo. "By the way I found a tiny typo on the product page. You have "teh" in line four. Most likely should be "the". ;-)" I know I appreciate when friends tell me about typos.

If you follow the above rules and restrict your requests to websites which match your vertical all should go extremely well.

Hopefully you didn't miss the part about match your vertical. This means the other website shares a common theme with your website. There are many reasons for this.

  • It helps in search engine standings.
  • The other webmaster will more likely be pleased by your email rather than annoyed. "Why is this moron writing me. We don't even have similar website themes."
  • You avoid diluting your website's focus.
  • You will have better response.

Before we close here are a few don'ts:

  • Never include an ad or commercial content in your email asking for reciprocal links. This is spamming.
  • Don't flame. While "F*** y**, Help me" is used in business more then anyone would care to admit, it is bad business.
  • Don't include any links in your signature other then to the website you are requesting a link to.
  • Don't get long winded. Keep it short and sweet.
  • Don't send the same exact (supposed unique) message over and over. I have received the same email from the same spammer sent to dozens of my over 500 websites. Each one trying to look unique and personalized. Even a slow-witted goof will notice after a dozen or so that the email is not unique nor personal.
  • Don't use "Let's Trade Links" as your subject line. It's old and trite.
  • Don't use any subject line which sounds even remotely reminiscent to commercial come-on.
  • Don't try to get away with personal comments such as "I really like the graphic you had on your home page.", ".. loved your background" or "I loved what you had to say in your home page." These do not indicate you actually looked at the website. If your comments are not unique to the recipients website they will look canned (ever seen an astrology quotes and fortune cookies?).

Follow these rules and above all use your own good ol' common sense. All will be well.