August 25, 2007
Oh, linking is a wonderful thing.
Building natural links is a fantastic way to build your business. If you have a serious web site, which has something serious and valuable to offer, then every single link you build is a whole network of opportunities.
A crappy link, on the other hand, artificially developed, is nearly the opposite.
It’s a healthy approach to think of your link network as a living, vibrant creature. Links grow by themselves. You do need to feed and water them in order to keep a healthy rate of growth, but they can grow on their own.
Every link to your site is an opportunity to build more attention. Each link offers three core benefits:
- The link increases the likelihood your site will be found through search engines.
- It creates the possibility your site will be visited from the linking site.
- It advances the likelihood that somebody else will link to your site.
Your links are opportunities to create more links.
People have a natural tendency to find leaders. They are searching for a person with authority — and they require evidence of that authority. Links are evidence. It may be very difficult to find the first link — that’s why simple directory submissions can be the best way to get started in link building. However, once you’ve developed a few natural links, more are likely to follow.
Voluntarily provided 3rd party links are the best. From a social and possibly algorithmic standpoint, they give the appearance of being the most authentic and authoritative recommendations of your site. Somebody’s considered opinion went into that link, which gives it great substance to a reader’s perspective.
But there’s a tipping point. One link, unless it’s truly exceptional, is not likely to send hordes of screaming fans to your virtual doorstep. You need to participate in the experience of creating yourself as an authority:
- Create great content.
- Participate in online discussions of your subject.
- Speak when you’re knowledgeable; read when you’re ignorant.
If you build a strong natural linking profile, it’ll grow on it’s own. People will find links to your site, they’ll determine you’re an authority, and they’ll link to you because of your perceived authority.
Questionable links, however, will not in any way serve the same purpose.
Obviously purchased links, spammed links, cheap and dirty directories — these can potentially drive traffic or attention. But they will not in any way create authority. What is lost with these methods of link building is the potential to let your links grow.
August 17, 2006
From Patrick Gavin and Andy Hagans’ Link Building Blog comes this interesting hypothesis. Backed up with Patrick’s personal statistics showing 2600 sites approached with 133 reciprocal links accomplished, one is bound to suspect that reciprocal links are a dying custom.
And good riddance.
Patrick says that he’ll take any link he can get; and I’ll agree with that. But I certainly won’t give a link just to receive the exchange.
Why don’t I like reciprocal links?
Reciprocity is an admirable quality. If somebody has done you a favor, then it is entirely reasonable that you should do that person a favor. But this really isn’t the way reciprocal links work. Rather than being an indication of trust, friendship, or a commendation for work well done they have become a barter system to attempt to make both business more successful in search results. Linking is a corrupt currency.
Too many people go out begging for links to exchange because they are unwilling to give a link if they have not received one. I have worked on projects where clients insisted on having a page of resources to link to – but wouldn’t allow me to add any resources who hadn’t already linked to the site. This is hardly a list of resources. Instead, it’s a list of "people who’ve done me a favor".
On the plus side, at least this list of links was all relevant. However, for a very long time the page was also completely useless.
The fact is, it’s not the idea of trading links that I dislike, but the term "reciprocal link" has come to leave me feeling dirty.
So what do I do instead?
Bluntly, I link to whatever sites I feel merit a link. I link freely, with no expectations or requirements that I receive a link back. The only requirement I maintain is that a site be link-worthy. If I want a link from a site, I will email them, and request a link. I will let them know that I’ve linked to their site, and tell them why. I’ll suggest a page in specific that they may find interesting on my site. And then I’ll let it go. If they respond and give me a link, that’s great. If not; oh well. My site wasn’t good enough. I’ll need to write more content to make certain that people can find something unique and worthwhile to link to.
First and foremost, I’m concerned with making certain the content of sites I work on is of the best quality. This means that I’m not going to link to anything that falls short of my standards. I’m not interested in "reciprocal linking" – instead, I’m interested in sharing value.
June 16, 2006
The six degrees of separation meme theorizes that anyone on earth can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintainces containing at most five intermediaries.
Does this theory also apply to websites?
There are a number of problems in determining how to apply this kind of theory. When dealing with people, it’s clear that people know a relatively small and finite group of acquaintances. With websites, there are certain sites (directories and search engines, for example) who are linked to enormous numbers of sites. Thus, it is ineffective to treat the six degrees meme in web terms at the site level – instead, it must be treated at the page level. A link to Google.com’s index now means only a link to a handful of other Google properties.
This idea occurred to me as a means of identifying your proximity to any given spam website resource. It would be intriguing to analyze particular pages and trace the number of connections necessary to get from your page to a known spam or banned website.
There are a number of technological barriers to this, of course. Google contains all the information one would need to do this – but is it possible to access it? I’m not sure it is – you’d need to be able to determine whether Google had flagged a site and you’d need to be able to identify the tracks of Google’s crawler to determine the site path. It’s certainly possible to program your own, as well – but well beyond my puny programming skills!
Is the good link/bad link dichotomy accurate? I wouldn’t think so. The scale of link quality, in my opinion, is really made up of shades of gray – one link may be the darkest pits of Hades, but another may be more like a slightly off-color joke. Not something you’d say in front of your parents, but only really inappropriate in certain company.
The six degrees meme could be one way of determining the potential quality of a linking site, or of identifying the existence of Googlebowling (if such a thing is indeed possible.) It could perhaps also be a way of determining the risk of a site becoming associated with questionable sites – if a site has a number of pages which are currently only 2 degrees separated from highly questionable sites, this suggests that their existing link partners are making poor choices, which may come to reflect on the site itself.
If you engage in link exchange – be careful. You never know who else your link partners might be exchanging with. (I guess this could apply to many other things, as well!)
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