In the early years of the internet, exchanging links became a popular method for improving your search page ranking. However, the system was abused by people who would exchange links with sites that weren’t related in any way to their business. Think of a dentist linking to a jewellery store!
Search engines such as Google became aware that the system was being abused. They took steps to assign less importance to the number of links a website had from other pages. As a result, many sites slipped down the page in search results. This has made many people wary of exchanging links with others because they believe it will impact negatively on their page rankings.
However, you can still reap the benefits of exchanging links; just heed our advice on creating meaning affiliations with other websites.
The key word here is ‘meaningful’
You can still reap the benefits of improved visibility and page ranking by exchanging links. However, you need to be mindful of the sites you exchange links with. Real business partnerships are based on companies that are related to or complement your own.
There are only two reasons why you should affiliate yourself with another website:
- They complement your business.
For example, if you’re an artist selling your work on your own site, you may have a link to a framing company. This type of link makes sense. If a visitor was interested in buying your work, they would probably appreciate a recommendation on where they could get it framed.
- They offer valuable content that would benefit your customers.
Let’s say you have an online store that sells school textbooks. You could exchange links with a site that offers study tips and worksheets. Your customers most likely have children that struggle with a particular subject and would benefit from a site that offers supplementary material.
Increasing traffic to your website is important, but getting qualified leads is more important.
Partnering with companies that are relevant to your business will get the attention of users that are actually interested in your products or services.
Criteria for meaningful links
You could probably think of half a dozen sites you could exchange links with. But before you leap, look at these four criteria to help you determine whether it would benefit your users:
- It has quality, usable content: What they offer may be relevant to your business, but ask whether the content they produce is good quality. Research the site and look at things like their products and blog posts. Do they have favourable product reviews? Are people sharing their content on social media?
- It’s not your competition: Your businesses should be similar, but not to the point that you’re competing for the same customer. If you sell paperback books, you wouldn’t link to an Ebook store. Even if you aren’t selling exactly the same product, you would share the same target market.
- It’s a from a quality website: You want to link to a website that looks and works professionally. Do their links work properly? Is the site attractive and free of spelling mistakes? Don’t associate yourself with companies that aren’t of good quality – it can damage your reputation!
- It’s a mutually beneficial relationship: Before you approach another website with the suggestion of exchanging links, think about what you would bring to the partnership. How would your company bring value to their users? Would you be able to increase their website traffic and page rankings? If you do email them, highlight the benefits and tell them why you think your business would be relevant to them.
Despite the evolution of search engines to recognise and penalise websites stuffed with irrelevant links, there is a real advantage to creating meaningful affiliations with other websites. Partnering with complementary businesses can expose you to new opportunities and markets. Done properly, it can make a big difference to your SEO.