It is a truth universally acknowledged that webmasters seeking to build the prominence of their sites and their position in search engine results must of necessity engage in a dedicated link-building effort. All the search engines use the extent of inbound links to a web page as a means of assessing the value of that page, the logic being that if someone has bothered to provide a link to the page, there must be something worthwhile on it, and the more links there are, the more worthwhile it must be. Quantity, of course, is not everything, and the quality of those links is also important, measured usually by the Google PageRank of the page on which the link is located. A number of different programmes exist which will search for web for sites offering high PageRank and keywords similar to yours that might make attractive link partners. All you have to do then, so the logic goes, is contact the webmaster and offer to exchange links.
However this process is not as straightforward as it seems. Brand new sites that need links the most, and for which the marginal value of an additional link is highest, are the hardest to build links for, since the value of the links which they can offer in exchange is lowest. So if you are seeking to play this game, you need to be aware of the power-play politics of link exchange. You will soon find that the majority of well-established sites have a form on one of their web pages which you can complete and submit for consideration. Invariably the form requires you to put your link in place first. This involves around 2-4 minutes work, depending on the efficiency of your own process for posting links on your own site. However, you have no guarantee that the other website will do anything other than say to themselves ‘Yes, great, another inbound link for no expense’, and not bother to reciprocate the link, reasoning that they will save themselves a few minutes work and the submitting party may not bother to follow up and go through the process of deleting the link they have put up, since this will be extra work for them. Indeed it is probably true that the effort of establishing that a link has not been reciprocated, and then deleting your link to that site, is more than the cost of maintaining that link in place (after all, this cost is little or nothing). Experience suggests that less than 10% of forms which you complete will ever result in a reciprocal link actually being established. This means that the 2-4 minutes work for a link submission has just become 20-40 minutes work per link that you actually get. Your link-building strategy has just become very expensive indeed.
How can you beat these odds and lower the cost of linking? Here are a few guidelines that have been learnt the hard way. First, do not submit to the most easily accessible sites on the search engines. If you search for say ‘free link exchange’ and submit a form to the first 20 sites with form submission that come up, you can bet that many other people have done the same. This means that these sites will be swamped with link submissions and, human nature being what it is, are the most likely not to bother reciprocating the link – after all, they don’t need to. Choose instead sites that are on page 20 or 30 of the search results: these people will be more eager to have links and are more likely to behave in an honorable way and reciprocate your link. Secondly, look carefully at the language that introduces the form on their link submission page. Look for people who guarantee to reciprocate your link within a given (short) amount of time. Look for language which shows awareness of the risk you are taking with your time in completing their form. Of course, this could mean that they are particularly cynical about this process, but our experience suggests that this is a way to beat the odds. Thirdly, look for an email address that looks like a real person. Shoot them an email asking how long they will take to reciprocate your link if you complete their form. This takes a few seconds only. Once you have heard back from a real person, the odds of them reciprocating your link are much higher.
Good luck and good linking