Website Helpers.com

  Articles, tips, and resources for webmasters


a project by Michael Bluejay | email

  

Why your link exchange request failed

Some sites that failed to get a return link from me

(I stopped adding new sites to this list in 2006. You get the point.)

Feb.-Mar 2006
21 Online Casinos
Financial Step
Financial Dot
About Dollar
Refresh Poker
RedAlkemii / Red Alkemi

Nov. 2005 - Jan. 2006
Club Online Casino
Blaze MP
SearchOptimizationGuru.net
Netcelsius
Online Casino Bluebook
MosaicService.org
Wool Sportswear
Coleman Camping Store
Summit Camping Gear
TradePlumbing.co.uk
My Home Advise
Lyrics Trax
Plant Roots
Media Popcorn
Online Pokersite

October 2005
Drunk Driving Lawyers
Sports.com
TravelWand

September 2005
Pacifica Police
Dr. G's Picks
4 Motorcycles UK
IM Dollar

August 2005
Trident India Systems
UK Airport Parking
Discounted Travel Club
Vayan Marketing Group
Biker Kiss

July 2005
Online Poker.hm
One Casino Guide
Poker.by
Studio 103
JLA Laundry Eqp.
Mortgage KB
Online Gambling 888
Complete Directory
Best Texas Holdem
Compass Insurance Group
700R4 Transmission Specialists
Just Differentials
Rotary Trader Online
Collector Cars for Sale
Show Your Auto
Supra Trader Online
Mustang Trader Online
Corvettes Locators
Trinity Heights Homes
GetStacked.com
Primeaus
Dope Dog
12 SQN RCAF
Pams Poems
Texas Poker 777
(Yes, I already told them no four times before. They won't stop writing. They also keep writing about the following worthless sites)
Online Gambling 888
Poker 123
WSOP.bz
Online Casino 888
Online Casinos 888
Casino 123.us
Bike Travel Info
EU-Medical

June 2005
Mortgage Knowledgebase
Casino Hospitality Management
Pacific Poker Review
NetBet.org
Pokerstrategi.net
Bingo Online Games
Ducharme Alarm Systems
Northern Source
Pacific Poker Review

May 2005
Online Poker Games Guru
Bet Reduction
(filled out a form that said in bold red letters not to write about link trades, to ask for a link trade)
Poker Top 100
Jugar Poker
The Bicycle Site
Better Model Realty
Discount Ink Jet Cartridges
(told them no, referred them here, they asked again, told them no again, they asked again, etc.)
Texas Poker 777
(Yes, I already told them no three times before. They won't stop writing.)
Online Gambling 888
WSOP.bz
Free Playing Poker
GoTo Free Poker
Party Poker Planet
Poker 123.us
Casino123.us
Online Poker-A.com
Top Stud Poker
Top Omaha
World Video Business
Top Poker Guide

April 2005
Cornic.co.uk (Told him no, referred him to this article, then he sent the same request again.)
Poker Rum
Poker Turneringar
Poker Online Guru
(Wrote to the address WE-DO-NOT-TRADE-LINKS@... to ask for a link trade. Duh.)
Discount Ink Jet Cartridges

March 2005
OuterQuest (told the no, referred them to this page, then they sent the same request again)
Portal Poker
Casino En Linge Français
Electric Scooters Galore
Dynamic Bicycles
Top 15 Poker
Form and Field
Mortgage Zone UK
Card Shoppe
(I've already said no and referred them to this web page multiple times before, but they keep writing anyway)
National Payday Loans
Flowers Send Flowers
321 Online Casinos
(wrote to the address on my site, "We-Do-Not-Trade-Links@VegasReference.com". Duh)
Underdog SEO
Underdog Hosting
South Florida Geeks
Valid Travel

February 2005
Texas Poker 777 (yes, I already told them no twice before, duh)
Tops Poker
Online Gambling 888
Online Casino Reviewer
Fly For Less
Leaf Tech Web
Professional Referrals Canada
Applied Language
World Series of Poker 2005
Top Stud Poker
Top Omaha
Top Texas Holdem
Red Vegas
Walsh Brothers
Nantucket Inc.
BimSym + 13 other sites

January 2005
Backstreet Scooters
Good Buy Vacations
1st Class Wedding Invitations
My Wedding Blog
Texas Poker 777
(yes, I already told them no in Nov., duh)
Tops Poker
Cards Shoppe
Graduation Cards Shop
Announcements Shoppe
Express Invitations
OmniMD
Net Bet (yes, I already told them no last month)
Casino 4 Gamble

December 2004
Bet Pig
Net Bet
Select Online Casinos (sent an identical request 37 times (!) in two days, even after we told him no to the first several)
Pocket Bikes Guide
eKnives.com

November 2004
Online Poker 777
Texas Poker 777
Online Gambling 888
Bridal Wedding Dresses
Glofin Financial
Cards Shoppe

October 2004
Streetglo

September 2004
Viagra On Line
Wager Lover
Sapphire Betting

August 2004
Date 4 U Online
Denver Fabrics
The Gallery of China
Blackjack Gambling UK
LinkBuilder site about cholesterol
Link Exchange Partners (sent me 59 requests
in a row!)

July 2004
Internet Marketing One
Link Exchange Partners
21 Blackjack Online and 77 other worthless gambling affiliate sites with no content

June 2004
Blackjack-TFX
Casino4Gamble
Link-Builder site about vehicle maintenance software
Crafty Delights

May 2004
Blackjack-TFX
Pine Hollow Pottery
Electronics-and-Appliances
Clothing-and-Accessories
Shoes-and-Sneakers
Ritchie F's LinkBuilder site about Internet filters
Casino 4 Gamble
Roulette Las Vegas
Blackjack Las Vegas
Online Casino Vegas
Las Vegas Online Casino
Las Vegas Online Casinos
Las Vegas Online Gambling
Gambling Smart and 2 other worthless casino affiliate sites
Is My Birthday
ABC Online Casinos
123 Greetings
Birmingham Airport Parking

April 2004
Poker 2004 & Casino 2004
My Wedding Favors
Link-Builder site about medals and medallions
Stelika Linking Partners
  (ignored bold red type on the site he wrote to that said I don't do link exchanges on that site)

March 2004
Johnny R's LinkBuilder site about timeshare rentals
Online Gambling
Government Grants 101
Online Casino Rewards
Counting Edge (repeat after I already told them no)
Battery Wholesale
Atrium Casino
Culinary School Search

Feb. 2004
Websingh
Craps Directory
Online Bingo
Partner Crawl
Dice Casino
777 Bingo and Blackjack 777
(told them no, then they sent me another form letter again)

Jan. 2004
Dot Bingo
Jackpot 777
(Multiple times -- I tell them no, send them this article,
  but the requests keep coming...)
Counting Edge
Approved Online Casinos

Dec. 2003
Brain Injury Resource Foundation
Dot Bingo
Jackpot 777
Isabel Madow's LinkBuilder site about Internet filters
Alma Rivera's site about timeshare rentals
Card Wizards

Nov. 2003
Cobra Gas Scooters
    (with multiple stupid popups galore)
Link-Builder site about wakeboards
Blackjack Babe's Online Blackjack
Online Casino Gurus
Video Poker Online
Slots Online
PokerRoom.st
Online Gambling
Passage2Web

Oct. 2003
site about barricade tape
Roulette-Online-Casinos.net
California Personal Injury Lawyer
Rhinestone Jewelry
GenericGifts
BorCasino
Link-Builder.com

Sept. 2003
Online Casinos UK
Online Poker Page
Click World Hotels
Cyprus SEO Services
Priceless Jewelry, Inc.
A link-building site (ironically)
All Vegas TV
Access Vegas
Diet Review Zone
Underground Planet
(not even five minutes after I posted the article above)

and what you can do instead

by Michael Bluejay

Chances are someone sent you here so you could learn why they didn't respond favorably to your link request. Find out what you did wrong here.

Chances are someone sent you here so you could learn why they didn't respond favorably to your link request. In this article I'll cover the main reasons why link requests fail.

Like other webmasters who run popular, high-ranking websites, I get requests every day to link to someone's site, usually in the form of a "reciprocal link." And like many of my fellow webmasters, I trash 99.9% of those requests. Why? Take your pick:

  • The requests are annoying form letters.
  • The sites wanting link trades are worthless.
  • Sites should be linked to on merit, not on whether you get a freaking return link.

What's OUT:

Exchanging links



What's IN:

(1) Building a site worth linking to.

(2) Linking to quality, relevant sites, whether they link back or not.

If you want to increase your success at getting backlinks, here's what you need to do:

  1. Build a good site. Make sure your site is worth linking to. This means it should be attractive, easy to use, and most importantly, have good content. If you don't have a decent site then stop right here because the only sites you could get to link to you are other crappy sites which won't help your rankings much.
  2. If you're a business, be the best business in your field. If you're the best option for what you offer, you'll get links. If you're not, you don't deserve them.
  3. Link to the other site first. Don't play games like "I'll link to you if you link to me." If you want to increase your chances of success, link to the other site first.
  4. Don't threaten to delete your link if they don't link back. Nobody likes to be threatened. Never take down someone's link just because they didn't link back. If the only reason you put their link up was in hopes of getting a return link, then you shouldn't have linked to them in the first place.
  5. Don't use phrases link "reciprocal link", "link trade", or "link exchange". These phrases are the quickest way to my Delete button (and these days, my spam filter). Instead, tell the other webmaster that you linked to their site, what your site is about, and that you hope they'll link back if they think it will be of interest to their own visitors.

Some readers might be thinking, "So what if I don't get every link trade I ask for? I get enough. Why should I change the way I do things?" The answer is that when you do things properly you'll have more success. You'll not only get more links, but you'll get higher quality links. The kinds of webmasters who are eager to agree to link trades usually have low-quality sites which won't help your rankings much. A link from one of my sites is worth a lot more than one from theirs. By soliciting links properly you can get more links and higher quality links at the same time.

But actually, if you build a quality site you probably won't have to worry about requesting links, because your site will be a natural link magnet. My sites are at the top of search engines for competitive terms, and I never ask for links from other sites. I got to the top by building quality, not by begging links from other webmasters.

We've looked at what you should do, so now let's look at what you shouldn't do. Here are various reasons why webmasters might reject your link trade request.

 

You ask for one.

Link trading is offensive to me, because by offering you're suggesting that my site isn't worth linking to unless you get a return link, and that your site isn't worth linking to unless you bribe me. You might as well say, "Hi, your site sucks. If I thought it would benefit my readers then I would have linked to it already. But I want a link to my site so I'm willing to link to your crappy site if you link to mine. My site is pretty lame, also, and I know you wouldn't link to it unless you were getting a return link."

So how do you get a link without asking for a link trade? You ask for a link, not a link trade. It's the trading part that's obnoxious. If you ask to trade links then I'll trash your request every time.

Build a good site, link to other quality sites, then ask those sites for a link, not a link exchange. Tell me why your site will truly be of value to my visitors. If I agree then I'll link to your site, whether you've linked to mine or not.

Your site isn't worth linking to.

I link to other sites for one reason only: I think the site will be of interest or of use to my visitors. That means that sites I link to must be (1) high quality, and (2) related to my own content. If so, I'll often link to it whether they link back or not. I don't exchange links, I link to sites worth linking to.

If my site offers visitors links to truly useful sites which complement my own content then I'm adding value for my visitors, and enhancing their experience with my own site. By contrast, if I send them off to some crappy site that's just a bunch of advertising and has little real content then I'm giving them a bad experience. Why would I want to do that? Would you ask a merchant to place rotten eggs on his sales floor, giving his customers an awful experience? If not, then why would you ask them to show such contempt for their own website visitors?

Not surprisingly, most link requests I get are from sites that are useless at worst and crappy at best. That makes sense: If the sites writing me were any good, they would rank well already. This should be a huge clue for you -- if you were thinking about asking for a link, probably your efforts would be better spent making your site better, or your business better.

What makes a crappy site? Take your pick:

  • No compelling content!
  • Filled with ads
  • Animated ads
  • Not any better than a dozen other sites that offer the same thing.
  • Popup windows
  • Done in Flash
  • Scrolling text or images
  • No compelling content!

For more, see my article about Website Design Tips (#1 in Google for that query, without a single link exchange request for it), and my other project Problem Websites.

If you want links to your site, make sure your site is worth linking to. Right away you might realize that your site isn't worth linking to. How do you fix your link request? You don't, you fix your site instead. Make it easy to use, remove any cumbersome/annoying elements, and make sure it's packed with quality content. If you're a business, make sure there's a good reason people should shop your site vs. your competitors'. If you're thinking, "That's too much work!" then that's fine, you don't have to build a good site or good business if you don't want to -- just don't expect anyone to link to your site (and don't ask them to do so).

Your site has nothing to do with the site you want the link from.

Your site has to make sense to be linked to. I'm not linking to a site about timeshare condo rentals from my site about bicycle commuting. (That was one of the poorer requests I got recently.) Or a site about laundry equipment from my site about finding cheap airfare. (Hello?)

You sent a form letter.

Do you like form letters? No? Then why would anyone like yours? If you want a positive response, then send a personalized request, preferably one that provides some evidence that you actually looked at the site that you want the link from. If you must use a form letter then write it in a way that it doesn't look like a form letter. Don't use generic "personalization"; if you send me a boilerplate request that could apply to any site you're requesting links from, such as, "I was impressed by your site and you must have put a lot of work into it, blah blah blah," I'll trash your request for no other reason that you insulted me by thinking that I'm too stupid to realize that you're sending that same generic flattery to all the other sites you're requesting links from.

You demanded a return link first.

I don't have time for games. You're the one who wanted the link, remember? Am I happy about being treated so patronizingly? Am I supposed to be excited that I may get a return link when I meet your demands? Not. Delete.

You didn't link to the other site first.

Personally, I'll link to sites if I think they provide value to my visitors, whether or not they link back to me, because linking to quality sites enhances my own visitors' experience. Of course, top-notch sites aren't the ones spamming my email begging for links.

But even though I'll link to you without your having linked to me first, many webmasters understandably won't. They expect you to have linked to them before you send your link request. If you can't expect them to link to you first then why can they expect you to link to them first? Simple: You're the one asking them for the favor. Plus, if they see that you're already done something for them, they'll be more inclined to help you. If you've linked to them already then they may feel obligated to at least check out your site to see if it's worth linking to.

Again, if a site is truly useful and relevant, I'll link to it even if I don't get a return link, because linking to quality sites enhances my own visitors' experience. But top-notch sites aren't the ones trying to beg links from me.

Sometimes I'm on the fence about whether a site will be truly useful to my visitors or not. If I can't make up my mind, and the other webmaster has the gall to say something like "A link from your site would be really helpful to us" without having bothered to provide such a helpful link to my site -- guess what my decision will be.

You threatened to remove your link unless you get a return link.

I'm not interested in helping webmasters who openly demonstrate their selfishness. The web is supposed to be about sharing information. I link to sites all the time which I find useful and which I think will be of interest to my readers, without demanding (or usually even asking) that they link back. Linking to other high-quality sites increases the value of my own site. I link to these sites because it's good for my readers, not because I'm getting a return link.

When someone tells me they're going to remove their link to me if I don't link back in X days, I feel coerced. It also bothers me that they can't deal with the idea that they might have a link to a site that (gasp!) doesn't link back to them! If this is your attitude, I'd rather not link to you.

You offer a pebble and ask for the moon.

Today Martin Visser from Online-Casino.cc sent me an offer for a "Super link exchange!!" All I had to do was put a banner for his site on my home page, and he'd give me a simple text link without any description on his links page, among dozens of other undescribed text links. And his site is just a lowly-trafficked, boring, run of the mill casino affiliate site with no real content. Wow.

If you ever found webmasters eager to take you up on such a bad deal, forget about asking them for links -- ask for $100 and in return you'll give them a bright shiny new penny.

You act like your site is just as important as the one you're writing to.

The best sites are the ones getting most of the link exchange requests. That's because the link-requester is trying to find link partners in Google, and the best sites generally come up first. That means that all the successful webmasters are getting their doors beaten down for link requests by hordes of unsuccessful webmasters. What's amazing about this is that the unsuccessful webmasters don't seem to have any appreciation of that. They certainly don't act like that idea has occurred to them when they send off their worthless link request. They'll start off by lecturing the successful webmaster about the value of link-trading, and then they'll proceed to offer a link if the successful site links back.

Just minutes ago I got a link trade request from a brand-new, amateurish, super-slow site, wanting a link from my site about saving electricity. Now, my site has been mentioned in Newsweek and the Christian Science Monitor, is #1 in Google for "saving electricity" and dozens of other related terms, and provides nearly enough income for me to retire on. So, does it make sense that I'm going to rush to put up a link to this brand-new, questionable site, driving tons of traffic to it, and then hope that the other webmaster will remember to put up his link to me, which will likely provide zero visitors to me over the next month and can't possibly help my rankings (since I'm already #1)? (Hint: No.)

You didn't read the Links page of the site you're writing to.

I generally don't have Links pages, because they're generally worthless. Do visitors really go to Links pages? Why would they? Who in their right mind is browsing a website, sees the Links option, and squeals, "Ooh...Links! That sounds interesting!"?

So I generally put links to external sites on the content pages themselves. They're more valuable there, as they're way more likely to get clicked.

But some of my older sites have Links pages. When I started getting tons of link exchange requests for those sites, I'd put a prominent, bold, red note on the Links page explaining what my criteria is for linking to other sites. And yet, the link beggars didn't even look at that page before firing off their requests. If you want to fail to impress a webmaster, demonstrate that you didn't even bother to look around the website you're writing about.

You bark up the wrong tree.

One of my sites gets so many link trade requests from worthless sites that on the contact page I put in bold red letters, "We do not trade links. Do not even ask." And I listed the email address as <We-Do-Not-Trade-Links@example.com>. Amazingly, some webmasters actually write to an address titled "We-Do-Not-Trade-Links" to ask for a link trade! Guess whether they wasted their time or not.

One particular moron who did this, Josie Ji of OptimalOptimization.com, actually had the gall to write, "Just so you know, this is a one-time mailing sent by a person (me!) who has visited your website - I never use software for this and you are not on any list." This is an interesting zen riddle: Is she lying when she says she actually visited the site, or did she actually visit it and she's so stupid that she sends off a link trade request to a We-Do-Not-Trade-Links address? Here's how my address appeared on the page she wrote from:

We don't trade links.
Do not write to us about link trades.

Our email address:

We don't trade links.
Do not write to us about link trades.

You didn't bother to tell me what site you want the link from.

I run several dozen websites, and if you ask for a link from "my site" I may have no idea what site you're talking about. I'm certainly not going to waste any time trying to find out. Of course, if your site is truly relevant to one of my sites I'll usually be able to figure it out, but what if I have multiple sites that could be relevant? Why make me guess what you're talking about? Remember, you're the one who's interested in the link, not me. Tell the site owner exactly what domain you're talking about, and what page you think the link would be best on. Someone wrote last week wanting a link to "your site". I told him that he'd need to bother to tell me which site he was talking about. He replied, "Your bicycling site." That still did me no good, as I run five different bicycling sites. He didn't get his link.

You didn't tell me what page you want the link from.

My sites generally don't have "Links" pages, because I link from content pages where the links are more relevant, and where readers can actually find them. If I have a 50-page site and it's not super-obvious what page your link should go on then you'd better tell me. I have over 9000 messages in my In Box and if I have to spend more than a few seconds on your message thinking about how to do you a favor then I'm more likely to just delete it and go on to the next message instead. And if you're asking for a link from the home page of the site, then (1) that really ought to be the very best page for the link, and (2) your site had better be the best thing since sliced bread. How many times has either of these been the case with someone requesting a home page link? Let me add them up here...zero.

You pester me about it.

On Sunday I got a request for a return link from an SEO company. It was a good request (since the site was worth linking to), and I was planning on putting a link up to them when I had time. Then on Wednesday they resent their message asking why they hadn't heard from me.

When you're asking someone for a favor, don't badger them about it. When this company treated me as though it was not only my obligation to do them a favor but also to do so on their timetable, it didn't make me eager to help them. And I didn't.

So how long should you wait before sending another request? At least a couple of weeks. Look at it this way: Someone is either going to link to you or they're not. If they're willing to link to you and they haven't, then they just haven't found the time yet. Repeatedly emailing them isn't going to get them to put up the link any sooner. And if they weren't going to link to you anyway, then mailing them again obviously isn't going to help. So there's little value in repeated mailings. Send out your requests and forget about them. If you must repeat them, wait at least a couple of weeks.

You misspell my name.

I'll never reject a request just because someone misspells my name, but if I'm already sitting on the fence about whether to grant the link, it could make the difference. It's not necessary to address a webmaster by name but if you do so then take the tiny amount of effort required to use the right name. My name is Michael, not Micheal, and not Mike.

Your site is under construction.

Just yesterday someone asked me to link to a site that had little more than a "Coming Soon" notice on the front. Sadly, they thought their site was so important with no content that I should link to it. Asking for a link to a site with no content is not only arrogant, it's insulting to the person the link is reqested from. Why would any webmaster will be eager to send his or her visitors to site with nothing on it? Finish your site and THEN ask for a return link.

Your site uses popup windows.

Yes, I covered this earlier, but I'm listing it again for those who are just skimming this article, so they'd see the headline. Plus, it bears repeating: I won't link to a site that shows its contempt for its visitors by using popup windows.

Your mail is full of grammatical and spelling mistakes.

If your message looks illiterate webmasters will assume your site is, too. If you don't put any effort into your message it will seem likely that you didn't put much effort into your website, either. And webmasters may feel that they'd be doing a disservice to their readers by sending them to a sloppy site.

Your site is promiscuous.

The search engines can penalize sites that link to other sites which themselves link out with no regard for quality. Sites which link out with no regard to quality are considered link farms. And linking to a link farm can get my own site penalized. If your site is promiscuous and links to just anybody there is no way I'm going to link to it. The sites you link to you should be highly relevant for the content of your site, and high quality, and should not themselves be link farms.

Your site is PR0.

No competent webmaster is going to link to a site with no Page Rank according to the Google Toolbar. There's no way for me to tell whether your PR0 site is brand-new or whether it's been penalized by Google. (And you can't solve that by simply telling me that your site is new. Why should I believe you, a complete stranger, when doing so means I'm putting my own site at risk?)

You put the link to the site you're writing to amidst a gazillion others, or the sites have no descriptions.

A quality Links page stands on its own even if Google didn't exist -- it's actually attractive and useful to visitors who can benefit by seeing a good list of related sites. The page is nicely formatted, contains descriptions of the sites that are linked to, and if there are more than ten of them they're organized into appropriate sections. It's basically a useful directory.

And there are never more than 20-40 sites listed on a page. (If you have more links than that, then create multiple pages.) I won't link to a site whose link page is nothing more than an ugly dumping ground for a ridiculous number of links. Here's an example of a quality links page.

The engines can't get to your links page.

If for whatever reason, intentional or not, your site is designed in such a way that search engine spiders can't get to your link to a webmaster's page, then don't expect them to link back to you. If the search spider can't find your outgoing link then you might as well have not linked out at all. Avoid dynamic and Javascript urls, use just plain urls.

You fail to explain what your website is about.

I need to know what your site is about before I know whether or not I want to check it out. The address alone is insufficient. Yes, I'm going to visit your site to see if it's worthy of being linked to, but I'm unlikely to visit it to make that kind of check in the first place if you don't even give me a clue as to what the site is about before I visit. Show that you respect my time by telling me what your site is about up front. This doesn't have to be lengthy; one or two sentences will do fine.

You write a novel.

Nobody wants to read a two-page description of your site, especially if it's filled with marketing-speak about how you're leveraging dynamic new paradigms and so forth. Nor do they want a babbling press release. Speak to me in brief, plain English.

You mail-bomb me.

Some webmasters are so eager to share info about their site they include multi-megabyte attachments of jpg's or PDF info, with no regard to the fact that the other webmaster might be on dialup -- especially if they're traveling, and might be paying per minute or even per second for their access. It's also presumptuous to include so much info, because you're forcing it on the recipient; this bespeaks an insecurity that the recipient won't check out your website themselves. Well, maybe they won't, but that's their choice. By mail-bombing them you're trying to take that choice away from them. In your message include only a good text description of your site, and one or more links to more info.

You insist on specific link text.

Here's an example of how a company actually got a link from me, and then made me want to take it down. Today I got a link request that was actually relevant to one of my pages. It was potentially useful to my visitors, but not amazingly so, since I already linked to another company that offered the same thing. So I was on the fence, but I went ahead and linked to them anyway. It was for a bike touring company, and I list such companies according to the geographic area they offer tours, so the link text I used for them was "France" (followed by a sentence-long description). I let the company know I'd link to them, and they wrote back immediately asking that the link text be "Bike tours in France", because, they said, that would be "clearer" to my web visitors.

The real reason they wanted this link text is they're trying to game the search engines, to get a better ranking for that particular phrase. (Search engines do consider the link text in their ranking algorithms.) So first it's annoying that these people just see me and my site as a tool to be used for their purposes, but it's doubly annoying that they lie to me about it, as though I'm too stupid to know why they really want the change in link text. And as though a link to "France", along with a description of the French tours, in a section of country-specific tours, on a page about bike touring, isn't already completely clear to my readers.

Here's another thing: The site in question hadn't linked to mine. Now, as I said, I link out based on merit, not whether I get a return link. But when this particular requester made his selfishness pretty obvious, that greed was compounded in my mind when I remembered that he hadn't linked back out. I certainly didn't need his link, but the point is, I don't feel like doing favors for people who are just trying to use me and who are selfish about it. So I took the link down. Way to screw up a valuable, free link, Digngo Tours!

The Subject of your message is poor

This alone won't usually make someone not link to your site, but a poor title can make them less interested in helping you. If they were sitting on the fence then that could lose them. I get many link requests whose subject is BLANK. Others say, unhelpfully, "Link", "Link Request", "Hey Michael", or, my favorite, "Reciprocal link not found". A better title is something like "GreenWidgets.com now links to BlueWidgets.com". Five words and you've said the world. You've told me you link to me, you told me which site you link to, and you've told me which site you link from. That title alone already makes me interested in linking to you. Someone's done me a favor by pre-linking to me, and spelling out exactly where the links are. This already makes me feel good about linking back, provided the site in question is high quality and relevant.

 

How to get links

We've seen what doesn't work, so now let's review what does work.

Readers sometimes tell me, "It's easy for you to tell people not to ask for link trades, Bluejay, because you're already got lots of inbound links to your sites and dozens of front-page Google rankings." Yes, I do, but how do you think I got those links and those rankings? It wasn't from begging links from other webmaters. If I'm ranking better than you are, and you want to rank as well as I do, and I didn't waste my time with link trades, then why should you waste your time with them? Why not do what I did? I simply built the best sites I could, while trying to provide real value to the visitor. With that in mind, here's some general advice on how to get those inbound links:

  1. Build a high-quality site that is impressive because it has useful information, or info that's organized in a way that's easier to use than it is anywhere else. In other words, build a site that's so good that when people come across it they'll go, "Wow, this is really useful, I should link to this." Make your site a natural link magnet.

  2. If you're a business, make your business the best in its class. Offer something that people can't get from your competitors (e.g., the best customer service, lower prices, more selection, products unavailable elsewhere, longer hours, etc.). If your business is truly compelling, it'll attract links without your even having to ask for them. And if it's not truly compelling, you don't deserve those links anyway.

  3. Find as many high quality sites related to your topic and build a directory of them. A directory is not a list of links with no descriptions, it's an organized list where each listing is properly described, like the Wizard of Odds directory.

  4. Write to the sites in your directory, tell each one exactly what you like about them and why you listed them in your directory, and mention that you hope they like your site enough to link back to it.

This is not a link trade. You're linking to them because you think they have value. If they link back to you then it's for the same reason.

Sample link request

Here are a couple of examples of how to request a link. I got this request today, and put the link up right away:

Subject: Link on tours page

Can we have a link please on this page?

http://bicycleuniverse.info/touring/

 

BIKE TRIP IN FRANCE. DuVine Adventures: Experience a bike tour in France that is unique and personalized. DuVine Adventures offers a bicycle vacation through unspoiled villages in France, while staying in charming inns and chateaux, eating gourmet cuisine and tasting world-class wines. Our French cycling tours are a perfect balance between group and independent travel while providing first class service and great value.

http://www.duvine.com

thank you,

andy

What worked about that request? Simple: It's a high-quality site that's highly relevant to the page he wanted the link from. That's all that matters to me. Notice he didn't even promise to link back -- I don't care if he links back. I'm trying to serve my readers with my page about bike touring, and I serve my readers better by listing his site at the end of that article. Also note that didn't send me a lengthy form letter and he told me exactly which page within my site he wanted the link from. As for his site, his links page isn't too promiscuous, it's somewhat restrained, and it's very well organized. I did edit down his description quite a bit when putting it on my page, but he gave me lots of words to choose from for those I'd eventually use.

Notice something else: I didn't put his link on a links page, I put it on a content page. That was the most logical place for it. And the link is 100 times more valuable for him on the content page rather than a links page. And that works out a lot better for him, both for the number of clicks he'll get and for transferring Google PR power, which is what most link requesters are after in the first place.

Here's a fictitious request I made up, to illustrate an "ideal" request:

Subject: Poker Fans now links to VegasClick

Hi, I checked out your site at VegasClick.com. I linked to your article about how to play Texas Holdem Poker which I think my readers will enjoy. My site is PokerFans.info, which covers rules, strategy, and upcoming tournaments for poker fans. I hope you'll consider linking back if you think my site would be of interest to your own visitors. Here's a sample description:

Poker Fans

Beginning and advanced strategy for Texas Holdem poker, as well as a complete tournament calendar of U.S. and international events.

http://PokerFans.info

Thank you,

Matt Trefoil

If I thought the site was truly useful after checking it out, I'd definitely link to it.

 

More resources

WebmasterWorld has a great thread about how not to ask for a link.

 

 

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