The Link Exchange

There’s no denying the importance of links. They give users a roadmap to your site, are used by the search engines use them to judge expertness, and can point your visitors to valuable information. Unfortunately, the importance of links has also made them a hot commodity. Today links are often bought and sold to generate traffic, often leading to penalties when sites unknowingly link to others in "bad neighborhoods".

Today’s Buying and Selling Links session took a look into the link exchange and gave audience members tips on how to stay out of trouble.

Before you approach anyone about buying a link, identify your intent. What do you want this link to do? Do you want it to increase your rankings in the search engines or are you using it as a way of advertising? Different links cater to different needs, and it’s important to be able to distinguish between them.

If you’re buying links to increase your search engine rankings, Eric Ward warned audience members not to be naïve about it. Know that by buying links you’re playing with fire. The search engines have been very vocal about their disdain for unnatural links, and if you’re not careful, you could be penalized for it.

If you’re looking to buy links for advertising purposes, trying looking beyond Web sites. Sites like Blogads aggregate blogs about different topics. If you’re looking to advertise, finding blogs in your niche may provide an excellent link that will send you targeted traffic. Other nontraditional places to buy links: Newsletters, RSS feeds, podcasts and e-zines.

If you are buying links for to increase rankings, the panel encouraged audience members to think natural. Find sites that are experts in your field and try to get a link from them. Interestingly enough, Patrick Gavin of Text Link Ads says instead of linking to the "Search Engine Watch of your field", look for middle-of-the-road sites that no one else is linking to. It will separate you from the pack.

Things to consider before purchasing a link:

  • Location: Find out where your link will be placed. Will it be on a prominent page or hidden inside a "blogroll"? How many other links are on the page? (The less links, the better your chance of getting a clickthrough.)
  • Trust, But Verify: View the source code to see if the link is a text link or a JavaScript link. Remember, JavaScript links won’t help you with rankings. Also, check to see if they place a "nofollow" on their links. Buying these links will not help your rankings.
  • Investigate: Investigate the site you are considering buying or selling a link to make sure they’re legit. You don’t want to purchase links from a site that will later be caught spamming.
  • Check the source code to make sure the link doesn’t redirect or use any cloaking devices.
  • Bad Cache: If the search engines have no cache of the site, or if the cache is completely different from what the site looks like today, pass on the link.
  • Rotating Links – If the site has a large "rotation" of sponsors, chances are people have not been happy with the link they purchased. Assume you won’t be either.

Recommended sites to mine for links include eBay, LinkedIn and Once you do commit to buying a link, don’t forget to measure results. The panel advised waiting two to three months to see if the link has had any effect. If it hasn’t, don’t renew it.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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