Most people are simply out to get as many links pointing to their site as possible. Generally for two reasons:
1. Hoping that they might get some business from one of those links.
2. More importantly they are looking to increase their link popularity and ultimately their position within the search engines.
To understand the importance of proper linking let's examine why search engines would even use this criteria in a effort to weight pages and ranking. The search engines are in business to make money. Thus they originally looked at link popularity in the following light. Their reasoning was if a website had enough valuable information on it, by the natural process other sites would find that information valuable and create links to it. Similar in a sense to a lot of people spreading the news about a new restaurant they liked.
This makes a lot of sense - the more websites linking to a site the more valuable the site is from the search engines perspective and thus a higher ranking. This is why a website linking to you where you are not linking to the other site is much more meaningful to the search engines and is given more weight. (We'll discuss this more below)
However, many people today are just engaging in a webpage link orgy without regard to content or value of the website. This is not what the search engines intended, and those engaged in this will one day I believe be in for a rude awakening. Theoretically Using this method a totally junk website could end up with a Number 1 or Number 2 listing. If this happens enough times the search engine will start to develop a bad reputation and people will search elsewhere. When the search engine starts losing traffic they also lose ad revenue.
Knowing this it is important to be a smart linker. A link just for the purpose of having a link can actually be hazardous to your websites health. Try to avoid link farms and traffic exchanges.
It is not the quantity but the quality and relevance to your own site that gains you ranking points.
When choosing sites to exchange links, choose a website that is consistent to yours. However, try to avoid your direct competition. An easy way to do this is to choose some of your relevant keywords and search on them using AltaVista. Then Click on where is says, "Refine your search with AltaVista Prisma" and choose from the list of those sites.
Remember a link from an unrelated site only carries a very small weight with a search engine so certainly don't spend a lot of time trying to get links from them.
Look for sites that complement yours but do not compete.
Consider - does the other site add some kind of valuable resource for both your sites?
When approaching these other sites use a personalized e-mail or even phone call. This almost always works better than a form letter.
Creating Your Own Link Popularity
This should be done within your own site and for links linking back to your site. Keep this in mind regardless of what type of link it is - make it relevant. How do we make a link relevant?
A link is considered relevant if the link text (the text you click on) matches or closely matches the title tag <title> of the page to which you are linking. This is true whether it is an internal or external link. Now it is normally impossible especially with internal links to exactly match the page title. However, use the most important keywords in the text link. Within your navigation bar menu on each page this is especially true considering the limited amount of available text space.
Let's take the following example and common mistake. Many people will create a link back to their home page by using just the text "Home" or "Home Page - Click Here".
This is great if you happen to be a real estate agent, however, if you're selling camping equipment - not so good. In this case a much more relevant link would be "Camping / Outdoor Equipment Index Page". This would score much more relevant with the search engines.
When dealing with someone else in obtaining a link from their site include the complete title of your webpage in the text link you provide to them for linking. This will give you the best quality, most relevant link from the search engine perspective. One quality link like this can easily be worth 5 non-relevant links.
Other Points to Consider
What about Google's Page Rank? (See http://toolbar.google.com/)
PageRank Explained- Click Here!
Basically the higher the number the better (it is a ranking out of 10 where traditionally anything above 4 is good and anything above 6 is excellent. Here again be smart you would be better off if you could get 10 links from sites that rank a 4 then spend all kinds of time trying to get one link with a rank of 6.
Will the Other Site Require a Reciprocal Link?
This is important because the more links from unreciprocated sites the better for you. These links are given higher weight and consideration from the search engines.
One strategy to employ if they require a reciprocal link is the following:
If you have two or more separate domain sites negotiate with them. If they link to Your Site A - you will link to them from Your Site B - does this make sense.
If not try to develop a working relationship with several other sites where you agree to some kind of round robin swap. Ideally these should be people you know and trust.
For example Site A doesn't link - Site B links to New Site - New Site links to Site A
Next time vary the sequence so Site A links to New Site - Site B doesn't link - New Site links to Site B
Offer something of Value
By offering other sites something of value you can often get links from them without reciprocating.
How Many Out Going Links do They Have on Their Page?
Google for example will stop following links after it hits 100 on a page so you want to make sure the link coming back to you isn't on a page with a number of other links or toward the bottom.
Your Outbound Links
Never call this your "links page" - call it something like "Valuable Resources" or "Other Useful Information". This is best for your visitors and the search engines.
Learn to Negotiate
Everything we talked about can be enhanced by just working with other people - negotiating with them so you both get a good deal. But now that you have some valuable knowledge about linking you can use it to your advantage in negotiating with others. Don't be afraid to let them know what you know.
Good Luck with your Business
James A. Sapp
I hope I've given you enough information to avoid making a poor decision. Contact me above for additional advice.