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Proactive Reciprocal Links Strategies

There are two types of reciprocal links and since they haven't really been defined I'll do it now to make things a little clearer when I refer to them.

The first is a "proactive" link where you contact the owner or webmaster asking to exchange links. The other is a reactive link where a person reacts to your content and gives you a link without expecting one in return, quite often without even notifying you.

Overview of Reciprocal Links

Both have many differences but they have one thing in common, CONTENT! Embarking on a reciprocal link promotion campaign with no worthwhile content on your site is IMHO a waste of time for you and all the people you contact. Content is the engine that drives the net!

If you don't believe me take a look at the top 25 sites on the net. Six are search engines and the rest are either large information sites like the Netscape and Microsoft or sites like Amazon.com, AOL, Geo Cities and Tripod which have sites that supply large quantities of sites that serve up valuable information and services.

One of the biggest surprises for me was Amazon which is basically a shopping site which means the internet is finally becoming more widely accepted as a means to purchase products. At first this really made me happy but then I realized that all the success isn't totally its commerce aspects. Amazon is one of the best suppliers of information about its products on the net, namely books and their authors.

Why do you think Yahoo is so popular? It's a well known fact that the quality of links in this directory are much higher because humans actually check the sites for quality and relevancy to the topic.

We started a "proactive" reciprocal campaign quite awhile back but it was so time consuming we figured there must be an easier way. We found it, more on that later. We decided to just go with a "reactive" campaign for now.

The only real proactive campaigns we are currently using are the icon we offer to other sites to "Spread the Word" about the "WOD". The other is an award that I give to authors who contribute to the "WOD" or have content rich sites covering topics on my site. This award isn't one meant to increase traffic to my site but is to acknowledge the content on a site. I have reviewed literally hundreds of sites and less then 20 have been selected.

I will not be deviating from my plan where proactive links are concerned. For me this is far too time consuming and the links too hard to maintain. To clarify the last statement I will only say that roughly 10% of the sites that I contacted or that contacted me removed my link shortly after agreeing with no notification! So until I find a way to automate the maintenance I will not pursue this too actively.

I will also be joining a banner link exchange of some sort but I'm still researching this method of promotion. This will also be done to give me some ammunition as far as clckthrough rates and page views to present to real advertisers that will pay for that valuable real-estate.

Proactive Link Strategies

Below are some of the "Proactive Link Strategies" I use with comments on how effective each strategy is and some tips to carry them out.

Reciprocal Links Pages

I have not found these to be effective and actually they result in more email problems then they are worth. Email? Unless you are a lover of SPAM and get rich schemes avoid these! Several tests confirmed these are nothing but repositories of email addresses for SPAMMERS to harvest.

Classified Ad Pages

For the same reasons as above these don't warrant a lot of your promotion time. Classifieds can be useful for some products and services but all in all in most cases they aren't worth the clogged mailbox. If you want to use these and links pages in your plan do yourself a favor and get a free email address and only use the address for links pages, classifieds and possibly newsgroups.

Recently I found one of the best tools for submitting to classified and link pages.   Our sponsor Link-O-Matic is the best tool I've found for this activity. It is quick and they keep track of the sites that aren't producing and replace them with ones that do!!

Awards

Give an award, everyone likes to receive these! I use mine to build my newsletter list by putting a box to check if they DO NOT want to receive it. In most cases it isn't ticked ensuring I get something for going to the site and reviewing it. My time is worth something isn't it?

Here's a good tip. Don't cheapen your award by giving it out to every Tom, Dick and Harry. If you do it goes into the BS category and high traffic sites won't display it. Better to be on one site getting a few 100,000 hits then 100's of sites receiving a few 100 hits! You may get a better location as well, possibly the entrance or front page instead of being tucked away on the back 40 with a bunch of other awards. A good place to promote your award and submit for many awards using a single submission is Award-It.com an organization that I'm proud to say I'm a member of!

Banner Exchanges

You can go two ways with these. You can arrange them yourself or go to one of the many networks. If you're going to do it yourself be prepared for lots of headaches and disappointments. I've tried arranging them myself a few times and have found them to be time consuming to arrange and monitor.

The banner networks are the best bet because they are strictly monitored and you know for every 2 banners you display, yours will be seen at least once. An added benefit to a network is the statistics they keep can be used when you are ready to sell sponsorships yourself. You can find valuable information on the banner networks at markwelch.com This is the best site on the net if you're looking for info on this topic.

Search Engines

By far the best places to find reciprocal links is on the search engines. The biggest benefit to this strategy is the people you contact using this method have already shown an interest in linking! You can find the links to a site on most of them by using the features supplied on some of the engines or by doing reverse lookups for a domain.

Once again I'm going to point you to an article that describes how to do this. Finding Quality Reciprocal Links is a detailed explanation of how to query a search engine for this information and what to do with it. The information in the article was supplied by Jim Wilson, Editor of the Virtual Promote Gazette, who was kind enough to allow me to use the information which was originally published in the Gazette.

Search Engine Strategies

One of the best places to start is with your competition! Chances are that if a site has linked to a competitor and you have good content you can entice the site owners who have linked to them to exchange links with you. One thing I want to stress is don't go linking to each and every site, be selective. Your goal should be to enhance your site with the added benefit of increasing traffic.

Besides the reverse lookup another excellent way to find reciprocal links is to do a search on your keywords. This has the added bonus of attracting traffic from sites above you on the engines. I have a saying "If you can't beat 'em link to 'em!". This is one of the times where you may want to relax your criteria for a link a bit. Personally, I don't, but you may feel that this works for you.

So far we've used the search engines to find sites that have linked to competitors sites and sites above us on the search engines. Now I'm going to give you the last piece of the puzzle which will give you more sites to contact then you could possibly use.

This isn't a big secret it is just common sense. Follow the same procedure as you did for your competitors site only start with the sites that matched your keyword search. Do a reverse lookup of these starting with the sites at the top. I guarantee you that this list is almost never-ending.

I've developed an easier method for doing this I just send WebPosition Agent on a little mission to get 3 or 400 matches and then I use this page Reciprocal Link Machine to find the sites that have linked to them. Not only do I have all the sites I want to target but I've leveraged my time by checking my positions on the search engines too.

Once you have your targeted list from the search engines the next step is to contact the site owners and webmasters. There is a right way (more productive) and a wrong way (wasting everyone's time, most importantly yours) to do this. The right way is to first go to the site and look to see if the quality of the site meets your criteria for topic and design.

This is important because you want to link to sites that enhance the quality of your site not just increase traffic. To some of you this won't make sense because you are only looking to increase traffic. This is extremely shortsighted!

Your goal should not only be to increase traffic but to build your community of users. Over time you'll need less promotion if you build a community as you increase traffic. A community of users is what you want because these users will come back time and again if they know that your site has pointers to good information saving them the hassle of weeding through all the useless links on search engines!

The benefits to inspecting the site before you contact the webmaster are twofold. First of all it cuts down your time monitoring links because if the site has good content it is increasing your traffic because of the way it enhances the value of your site for your users (community). You won't care if the other site is maintaining your link because the link improves your site.

The second benefit is that the webmaster knows that you have gone to his site before contacting him. They know the time they use acting on the email you send them won't be wasted.

Before I contact the owner or webmaster of the other site I link to them first. Then I send a short email that is structured something like this:

1.)The Greeting : If I can find the name of a contact I use the name. Using a name confirms statements you'll make later. Spammers try to use this too that's why I watch for a contact name it really lets the receiver know you went to the site.

2.)I identify a page and then quote from the page or site I'm linking to with a pertinent comment.

3.)Point him to the link on my site with the description or comment I'm using offering to change it if they aren't satisfied with it.

http://www.globalserve.net/~iwb/search/index.html#mt/ This is how your site is listed:
<a href="http://hissite.com/search/meta.htm">hisite.com</a>
This well written article on meta tags will help you to move up the rankings on the search engines.

So far you have assured them that mail isn't UCE, that monitoring the reciprocal link will not be time intensive and your showcasing his site with a nice comment.

4.)Next, I give a brief outline of the noteworthy awards the "WoD" has been presented suggesting that the sites have similar content and that a reciprocal link would benefit their users as well.

Lastly, using my new plan I'll direct them to the page where they can inform me that they have given me a reciprocal link with it's location and either the graphic or text link they decided to use with this note if they want their link description changed:

Please fill out the form so I'll be able to contact you if the location of the page changes. This link will be included in both the content and "Friends of the WoD Page" you'll see mentioned on the form page. Any changes you want to your link description please include them in the form using *NOTE* in the comments field so it will be sorted differently.

I have never been turned down for a link approaching it in this manner. I will also add that personally, this is the only kind of request that I or many of the people I know act on. Anything else is just looked upon for what it usually is, SPAM! Also note that all links are targeted so they don't have to search for the link. If they want to look around they will, remember, usually they are busy people just like you are.

As you can see, mining for this type of cyber gold is not an easy task. That's why "proactive" reciprocal links are not a big part of my personal strategy. I let reciprocal links take care of themselves by providing good content and getting lots of "reactive links" which are easier to maintain and are silent soldiers working for me day and night.

Success on the net is seldom achieved with a silver bullet. It almost always is a combination of doing several things the right way and web site promotion is no different. Keep in mind that you have to "PLAN TO SUCCEED!!!!"

Well, that's it for now "Here's linkin' at ya!"

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