Think before soliciting a link exchange

by Martin Reed on 10 July 2007 in Articles

If you are link building, you need to set yourself apart from all the other link exchange requests that popular sites receive. It is also extremely important that you undertake some basic research on every potential link exchange partner.

What you need to research

Research your link exchange partnersIt is essential that you take the time to understand the site you are considering exchanging links with.

You need to make sure that they have a similar audience to the one you are targeting and that the audience they are attracting are of the type you want on your website.

Just Chat is an online community for adults. I lose count of the number of link exchange requests I receive from teen chat sites and teen communities. It is made very clear throughout Just Chat that the site is designed for those over the age of 18. Receiving link exchange requests from such sites just goes to show that the person who sent the email spent no time understanding my site and its audience.

This is a waste of their time, and mine.

Why you need to research

Why research is importantAs I just touched upon, failing to undertake basic research will not impress the author of the site you wish to exchange links with.

If you are targeting a popular site, you need to consider the fact that they are likely to receive a huge number of similar requests every day. You need to stand out from the crowd and show that you have taken the time to understand their website.

If you fail to undertake basic research on every site you are considering approaching for a link exchange, you may find yourself attracting low quality traffic, or an audience you would rather didn’t get involved in your online community.

If you don’t do your research you are wasting your time

Poorly targeted visitors are worse than no visitors at all – they will consume your bandwidth and almost certainly leave within seconds. The time you spend in attracting visitors through link exchanges will be wasted if you are not exchanging links with relevant sites.

Don’t try to exchange links with as many sites as possible regardless of their subject or audience. Look for sites in similar subject areas as your own. Look for sites that are targeted at a similar audience. Look for sites that are attracting the type of audience you want in your community.

Spending a little more time considering appropriate link exchange partners is a far more effective use of time than going all out and linking with every site you come across.

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Russ July 10, 2007 at 11:50 pm

I don’t link the idea of a link exchange, just because while you are gaining visitors, you are also sending them away. Because of that I try not to participate in them with other websites, but it is difficult. Trying to gain backlinks is extremely hard if you are not offering something in exchange with other webmasters.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 11, 2007 at 6:52 am

Russ – Thanks for your comment. You are right; exchanging links is a little of a Catch-22 situation. I think link exchanges can be valuable as long as you are selective and choose your link partners well. If you do this, you can establish a mutually beneficial traffic exchange between your site and those in similar areas to your own.

Julian Paling July 11, 2007 at 10:17 am

Hi, I agree link exhcanges can be valuable but don’t exchange with low quality sites, I have seen this really hurting a site’s ability to rank.

Also Martin I just wanted to add that I like the new blog design, good well! :)


Julian Paling July 11, 2007 at 10:20 am

Oops I also forgot to mention there is a great post here:

Which shows some good examples of link request emails.

Chicago 2016 July 11, 2007 at 2:34 pm

But will high quality sites really bother with too many link exchanges? They can link to whatever they want!

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 11, 2007 at 7:01 pm

Julian – Thanks for your comment. I rarely worry about what search engines will think about my linking strategies – I develop websites for people, not for the search engines.

As you will be aware, on this blog I remove the ‘nofollow’ attribute from comments and also provide full return links through the ‘Recent Comments’ and ‘Top Contributors’ section. Am I worried about what the search engines think? Not at all – I am more worried about what my readers think! I want to reward them for visiting and contributing to my blog.

In my article ‘Link building – Gaining direct traffic‘, I included a sample link request email. The key is to be personal and show the person that you have taken the time to investigate and understand both them and their website.

Daniel – You are right that it can be a real challenge to get the more established and popular sites to link to you.

Be personal, be original and perhaps be a little cheeky! Either way, differentiate your email from all the others and make it clear that you really understand their site.

The key is to ensure you detail the potential benefits of the link exchange in your email request.

Sutocu July 23, 2007 at 8:17 pm

“Poorly targeted visitors are worse than no visitors at all – they will consume your bandwidth and almost certainly leave within seconds. The time you spend in attracting visitors through link exchanges will be wasted if you are not exchanging links with relevant sites.”

I must disagree. Even poorly targeted visitors may convert. You should always prefer links from highly relevant sites, but less targeted links may help.

You are not taking into account the second main reason why webmasters exchange links: SEO. Although search engines too prefer targeted links, an off-target link from a high PR site may help, too.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 24, 2007 at 1:24 am

Sutocu – Thanks for your comment. I agree that every now and then a targeted visitor may well ‘convert’ and become a member of your online community or meet another of your goals.

In this article though, I was talking about targeting specific sites and their audiences for link exchanges. I feel that in this case you should only aim to share traffic with specific, targeted sites.

Soliciting link exchanges can be a time consuming process. Why spend this time targeting unrelated and untargeted visitors when you can go after sites based on similar subjects and with an audience highly relevant to your site?

As for link exchanges for SEO benefits, I briefly covered this area in my article on link building to improve search rankings.

Sutocu July 24, 2007 at 12:51 pm

I agree that you should aim for targeted sites, but that is an even more time consuming process. If you have the possibility to exchange links with a quality site that is not that relevant to yours, but you think you can get away with minimal time spent, I think you should often agree.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 25, 2007 at 12:57 pm

Sutocu – Sure, aiming for targeted sites may well take more time than sending link exchange requests to any old website. I think this is time well spent, though – particularly if you are able to use the time to personalise your emails to each website.

I would always recommend spending 5 minutes to target a specific and well targeted website to exchange links with, rather than spending 5 minutes to approach 5 irrelevant and unrelated sites with a standardised email.

Sutocu July 25, 2007 at 2:14 pm

Well, of course you should personalize the email. What I mean is, it may be easier to find sites that are not so well targeted. Whether it is worth it to link exchange with a site does not only depend on how targeted it is, but also its traffic, and how well you think it will develop in the future.

I agree with all you’re saying in the article, but that’s just not the whole story. Although I guess you couldn’t fit the whole story in one article…

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 25, 2007 at 2:28 pm

Sutocu – There is often a reason why some tasks are easier than others. Often the harder ones are the most rewarding, though :)