Link Trading: Good Idea, or Waste of Time?

You know you’ve achieved a certain level of success with your website, or at least caught someone’s interest, when you open up your email to find a link trading offer from someone on another site. But is link trading even a good idea, or is it just a waste of time?

Link Trading

The idea of link trading is simple enough. You have a website and someone else with a website contacts you and asks about trading links. What does that mean? Basically, you put a link to their site on one of your pages, and they return the favor by doing the exact same thing for you. Many times, people who offer link trading deals will give you very specific links to use and even give you a separate link so you can see where your Web address will appear on their page.

All in all, it’s a pretty fair deal. You do something for them, they do something for you, everyone has what they want. But…what’s the point? It does take a little bit of time and effort to create links, after all, so what’s the appeal of trading with other sites when it really just creates more website work?

The Pros of Trading Links

Two words: free advertising. That phrase alone should get any website owner’s blood pumping. The more traffic you can drive to your site, the better. It stands to reason that if you have a whole lot of links out there that point people to your site, you’ll reap rewards in the form of page hits. That’s the idea behind link trading, and the goal of engaging in such agreements.

Why do it? For one, link trading is incredibly easy to implement. The website you’re working with will give you the exact link they want you to use, and in most cases won’t put any restrictions on where you’re going to put that link in relation to your own site. They’ll put one of your links on their pages, and then all their visitors will have the chance to explore your pages as well. Anything that could potentially boost Web traffic is a truly precious thing, and all you have to do is cut and paste simple code.

Through link trading, you’ll be putting many more links on your own site. Search engines like links and often give higher rankings to sites that have a lot of them. Simply having a lot of links on your own site can, however slightly, give you better search rankings — which, again, means more traffic.

Link trading sounds great! Why doesn’t everyone do it? Link trading is often quick and easy to do, and offers the compelling possibility of increasing your own site’s traffic through advertising and search engine rankings. But it’s not all sunshine and roses when it comes to playing the link trading game.

Link trading offers aren’t rare, but they probably won’t be an everyday occurrence either. It’s possible that only a few sites will contact you for link exchanges, and the sites you contact with the same offer may not be receptive at all. If you go in search of link trading agreements, you could spend a great deal of time chasing deals that never come to fruition. It takes a lot of effort to find sites you’d like to trade with, and then you’ll have to wait for all the replies to start coming. Some sites may never answer and some may turn you down, which means you’ll have to search longer and harder for new sites to deal with. This turns link trading agreements into a veritable treasure hunt through cyberspace.

Link placement usually winds up being disappointing for exchangers. Sites that make it a point to search out link trading exchanges are often completely swamped in links. Sure, they’ll put a link to your site on one of their pages, but a lot of the time that page is already so crowded with links that even you have trouble finding your own site. This makes the chance of getting any increased traffic to your own site much more slim, especially if your link appears very far down on the page in question.

Don’t forget your end of the deal: they put your link on their site, now you put theirs on yours. Wherever you plan to bury this link on your pages, you will still be offering traffic an easy way to leave your site. Leaving your site is exactly what you don’t want your visitors to do. Each link you provide to someone else’s site is actually helping them increase their own traffic and revenue — it doesn’t do a thing for your site when traffic leaves your own pages.

Many sites choose to dedicate a whole page to external links (which take users to pages on a different site, as opposed to internal links which take them to pages within the same site). This helps confine links to a single page, instead of peppering the site with links that will prompt visitors to leave. Links pages can be fairly simple to create, as very little is needed except for the links themselves. The less attention you draw to the links page, the better. After all, the whole goal of a site is to keep traffic there, not to drive it away. When using link trading as a means of advertising your site, it’s a good idea to have a links page. This way, you can be sure to uphold all your trading agreements and still keep the arrangement of your own site intact.

The Rules of Link Trading

Link trading is very cut and dried, so long as both parties observe all the rules. Sites that you enter into link trading agreements with are going to want confirmation. Once you’ve placed their link on your site, you’ll usually be obliged to provide them with the link to the page where their information appears. They should do the same for you, giving you the chance to verify with your own eyes that your link has indeed been placed within their pages.

Reputation is always important. Make sure to follow all the terms of the agreement, including any necessary follow-ups for link verification. Confirm for yourself that your link is working properly and that it takes traffic to the page you want them to see. After the links are placed and confirmations are made, there’s absolutely nothing else to do. The entire process can take as little as five minutes to complete, which is part of the reason link trading is so attractive — anything easy on the Internet is good, right?

If you want to do a lot of link trading, you’re going to be sending emails to a whole lot of sites. It’s tempting to just start emailing at will and to accept every single offer that shows up in the inbox, but it’s not a good idea to do so. Be somewhat discerning with the link trading offers you receive, and make sure you know what sort of content is featured on the site to which you’re linking.

For instance, your site is all about child care. You agree to a link exchange with a child pornography site. However unknowingly, you now have that link within your own Web pages. That’s not exactly the sort of association you’d like to have.

It takes a little bit more time to explore a website for content, but the end result is worth it. When your own site’s reputation is at stake, don’t be afraid to do a little extra work. When it comes to link trading, there is one extremely important motto to remember: make sure you know what you’re linking to!

What’s it All Worth?

Five minutes here, three minutes there — when you’re really serious about link trading, the time does start to add up. It takes a lot of emails to get a huge list of links for your site, and in the end you’ll end up with a single new page for your site. Link trading does offer a form of free advertising, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll notice any huge increase in traffic from this effort.

Why bother? If you have the time and the inclination, link trading is far from a complete waste of time. Any form of free advertising is highly desirable on the Internet, where so much is available to the traffic you hope to capture. There’s little risk in link trading (you stand the chance of losing time, nothing else) as long as you thoroughly investigate where each offer is coming from first.

Link trading can potentially boost your traffic — slightly. When getting any form of traffic is the most sought-after goal of websites, anything capable of doing that is a good idea.

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