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The Nitty Gritty of Link Requests

Posted on 12.13.2005
How to be successful in driving qualified traffic to your site.

Content is king. Many will argue this assertion for hours, some even claiming that content alone will help determine search engine rankings. The fact is, however, that content by itself will not drive traffic to a website. Links drive traffic, and the quality of inbound links can improve search engine rankings. This article provides recommendations about how to make a link request, who to ask for a link and where to place a link.

How to make a link request?

There is a diverse amount of software available today to assist with link requests. If you own or manage a website, you probably have seen the end result of such software, either in the form of an email or a contact submission form calling on you to exchange or simply add a link to your site. This is not the recommended practice for requesting links. An automated contact system is far too impersonal and will be more likely to draw the ire rather than support of a webmaster. In my opinion, the use of a contact submission form is even worse. 

What website owner wants to sort through link requests when they open a mailbox full of potential leads?  Many unsuccessful link requests are automated; having been submitted by a robot designed to crawl the Internet to find contact forms and submit cookie-cutter petitions. This kind of software does have one redeeming quality in that most versions provide the ability to track links and to ensure that they remain live, which is considered important in the case of a link exchange.

“think of it as entering into a business relationship

and act accordingly.”


One recommended method of asking for a link is through a personal email followed up by a phone call. Take some time to study the website that you desire your link to reside at and find at least two reasons that you believe the website is worthy. Use the first reason in the email and then the second (and any others) when you initiate a reply. Generally, the website owner is the best person to ask for such a link. Webmasters and site maintenance personnel are not good targets for link requests because they more than likely would say no, unless instructed by the site owner to accept petitions from particular types of websites.  As well-known linking expert Mike Grehan says: “Think of it as entering into a business relationship and act accordingly.”

Where to place a link to your site?

Now that you know how to ask diplomatically, you may wonder where the best places are to seek links. First and foremost, the page should be somehow relevant to the page that you are asking them to link to. This is vital and bears clarification: the inbound links you seek should not only go to your home page but also to site specific subpages. Let us use an example of a site selling rugs. If that site has a specific page dedicated to introducing Nourison Brand rugs, links should be obtained, if possible, from other Nourison site specific pages. This means more work, but the results would likely justify the amount of time that it takes to complete the process. This is quite often referred to as "deep linking.”

You could classify all other web pages as belonging to one of the following three groups, all related to either products, services or information available at your site: “like industry”, “sub-industry” or “out-of-industry”. These three classifications, for the most part, are listed chronologically, from the most to least important.  If your main goal is to drive traffic and you do not particularly care about relevance, more popular “out-of-industry” sites may lead to more visits.  However, if your goal is to gain relevant qualified traffic and a possible boost in rankings, the first two classifications, as a rule of thumb, should be your target.  Remember that old pages tend to have more value than new pages in terms of transferring “voting power” when linking.

Desired sites for linking will have at least one page worthy of hosting the links. The ideal situation is to have a link placed within the content of such a page and in a manner that would lure the page visitor to more useful information about a particular topic. However, this sometimes poses difficulty because it is a given that many site owners would rather place their link on a “resources” page. If this is the best you can do it can still be of value. Be sure that the resources page has links that are not blocked from becoming indexed by search engines. Otherwise, you may lose any benefit gained by ranking algorithms.

Do not get burned by worthless links.

There are tools available that identify all the outbound links on a particular page such as the “Links Spider” that exists at our educational website, Instantposition.com. This kind of research should be performed for all potential link requests on any page that you wish your link to reside. There are many other tricks that are used by less scrupulous link-hawkers that will render inbound links completely useless.

Once you know what to look for, positive attributes of a target page for a link are easy to find. Begin by analyzing the inbound links to the page. If the page has many “good” inbound links (e.g., authority sites, .edu domains or .gov domains) then it is a desired candidate. Also, analyze the company that you will be keeping – if there are links to random unrelated sites especially dealing with gambling or prescription drugs be sure to stay away!  Another factor to analyze is the totality of links residing on a page. Although there is no consensus as to the number of links a page has to have for it to be devalued, many search marketers and researchers agree that the more links the less likely they will be of use in driving traffic or helping with rankings.  Personally speaking, it is best to shy away from any pages with more than 20 outbound links.

Blog Links and Directories

Since links have proven to be an important part of search engine algorithms, many website owners have tried to build as many links as possible in as many places as possible, emphasizing quantity over quality. Although this tactic may still work in some search engines, the more prominent ones have refined their algorithms to reduce the effectiveness of some links. One prominent example is placing links in Blogs.  “Blog Spamming,” as commonly called, is a serious problem for both search engines and blogs alike. If you are considering placing links in blogs you should ensure that they will count and that the blog is somehow relevant to your site, with the exception being traffic. If a blog enjoys significant traffic it may drive some of it to your site if your comment or post seems interesting to the blog’s visitors. 

From a search engine ranking perspective, be careful of the newly created and widely used attribute attached to some pages. Such attributes act as an extension to the robots.txt tag, identifying to the search engines those links that you do not officially condone. Most major search engines have incorporated this attribute into its crawlers’ programming, rendering the links useless in a search engine optimization sense.

This article mainly covers requesting links from other sites, not directories, but a quick comment should be made in regards to listing your site within a directory. In short, if you do not have to be accepted for a link, it is probably not worth being listed in a directory. The only directories considered truly valuable by search engines require human review of a website before inclusion such as the Yahoo Directory which has been shown to help in Google rankings. If it is a “Free-For-All” (FFA) directory it is probably not worth your time even from a traffic point of view.

Last and least: PageRank

Recognized as a part of the Google algorithm, PageRank has been proven easy to manipulate. Therefore, it is no longer viewed as important as it was last year. Google’s true PageRank for a webpage is not even that which is displayed in the popular Google toolbar. That being said, PageRank is still a good guide. If your website’s pages average a toolbar PageRank of 4.5 you should try to stay within your “PageRank neighborhood” for the majority of your links. But beware of link salesmen who try to sell you links based purely on PageRank, as this could backfire and possibly even raise a red flag within the search engines if done excessively.

Chris Boggs - G3Group - Thanks to Todd Malicoat of Stuntdubl.com and We Build Pages for his invaluable contributions to this article.

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