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Marketing Your Website Part 5 26 July 2000 Edition
Previous Edition

Reciprocal Linking
Having dismissed generic banner exchanges as perhaps not such a good idea we'll now look at two other methods of drving qualified traffic to your pages.

The first, and often most effective method, is to try and forge reciprocal links with other sites that address the same subject material as yours.

Obviously if you have a business site selling products or services then you aren't likely to convince your competitors to link to you and neither are you going to want to link to them -- but all is not lost -- just find some non-commercial sites that are relevant.

First you need to set up a "link page" where you can provide visitors to your site with a list of other sites they may find useful. This is the page on which you will display the reciprocating links you forge with other sites.

Locate a number of websites that deal in subject matter aligned to the products or services you're selling and contact them to advise that you'd like to exchange links and asking if they are interested.

Before you send those emails, put a link up to their site on your linking page so that they can see you're serious -- and make sure you send a personal email, not just a form letter. Be sure and mention their site URL and say something that makes it clear you've actually visited their site. Don't forget also to include the URL of your link page so they can see you've already done them the courtesy of providing a link. Remember, he last thing you want is for your email to be considered as spam.

Don't expect anywhere near a 100% hit-rate here, only a percentage of those you contact will even bother replying. Allow about two weeks for people to respond and then, if they've not bothered responding or decline to offer a reciprocal link, remove them from your link page.

Of course your success-rate will be much higher if your own site looks slick and professional -- nobody wants to link to a site that appears to have been cobbled together by a toddler who was let lose with a copy of FrontPage!

Also -- don't try and work with too many other sites at one time. Work on maybe six or seven at a time. If the sites you contact think they're going to be just one of a very long list then they'll be less inclined to reciprocate -- but if they are just one of five or ten on your link-page then they'll be far more impressed. And... make sure you label the link page "Recommended Links" or something that implies that the sites you're linking to are a cut above the average -- this is the kind of flattery that will win you even more reciprocal links :-)

Your linking page should also include an invitation that encourages other similar sites to contact you if they want to be included on the list -- then the reciprocal linkers will come to you.

So, find six or seven good sites, add them to your link page, send off the emails, wait two weeks, pull down the links that didn't reciprocate and find six or seven new sites and repeat the process until you've got a link page with links to maybe a dozen other sites that are reciprocating.

Don't forget to check your server logs and see which of those sites are actually sending you lots of traffic and which are sending very little. Over a period of time you want to replace those "slow links" with better ones by repeating the process described above.

As you can see already, effective website promotion can involve quite a bit of effort -- that's one of the reasons that so many sites are virtual backwaters on the Web -- because they can't be bothered to invest the time.

Web Rings
There are many web ring systems freely available on the Web and they can provide you with a fair amount of qualified (there's that word again) traffic.

In many ways they are the equivalent of an automated reciprocal linking system, insomuch as when you become a part of the ring you are effectively exchanging links with all the other sites on the ring.

Just a word of warning -- before you join a ring, visit all the sites already signed up and make sure that they're not too trashy. If there are too many low-grade, low quality sites in the ring then you probably don't want to be associated with them. Web surfers will often stop following a ring if they find that the member-sites are just crap so you're unlikely to get much traffic from them.

Continued tomorrow...

As always, your feedback is welcomed.

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