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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Should you trade links?

I received a great question today from an ambitious company. They asked about trading links with other sites to increase their visibility in search engines. It's a question that's not too uncommon so I thought it worthwhile to share my response here.

While I don't know all the details of the link sharing that you have in mind, generally speaking, I strongly recommend not posting links to external sites unless it unambiguously provides value for your prospects and clients. The ultimate long term determination of your site's success, and coincidently search engine prominence, will be the consistent quality of the content and resources you serve up on your site—not how many links you have traded.

In theory, trading links with another site does little, nothing, or is actually detrimental to your search engine rankings. You usually gain search engine prominence (called Page Rank by Google) from getting links to your site and usually lose it when linking to another site. So if you trade links most of the page rank cancels itself out and not much is accomplished. I don't want to over dramatize this next point, but if you have your site linked from some sites it can be actually be detrimental:

"Google is known to actively penalize link farms Link opens in seperate window and other schemes designed to artificially inflate Page Rank. How Google identifies link farms and other Page Rank manipulation tools are among Google's trade secrets." (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_ranking)

When sites advertise that they want to trade links a red flag immediately goes up in my mind that these sites might not be good company to keep from Google's perspective. But even if they are, by trading links there's not much to gain.

As a rule of thumb, the more links you can get pointing to your site the better, the fewer you can get leaving your site the better.

I'm going to stop myself here because I can go on an on. The basic principal to remember is, make your site for users, not for search engines. (This is a quote from Google)

Here are some good sites from Google with their guidelines.

Also, I've written a number of other articles on this topic you might find helpful:

If you have any questions about SEO, don't hesitate to give us a ring.

PS. I should mention that if you have resources available for developing your web presence and would like to increase awareness, one of the most effective strategies is to implement a blog and make the commitment to post new content on a regular basis that will add true value for your clients and prospects. When this happens, your site can become like a media station that broadcasts out into the Web rather than just a brochure waiting to be discovered. In my opinion, active blogs (they must be maintained!) with properly optimized RSS feeds, and which are listed in the prime blog directories, offer the most significant opportunity today for increasing awareness of your site on the Internet.

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