Link Exchange Blues

It is a well-known fact that the number of important relevant inbound links to any site counts in its Google PageRank and position in search results. Hence the quest for inbound links from other webmasters is the beginning of wisdom. This has spawned a whole new industry with experts in tow. The Webmaster world is abuzz with linking campaigns. Every Webmaster wants his site to show up on page one of search engine results.

Getting quality inbound links takes a lot of effort. Quite a number of link exchanges have sprung up to make the job easier for busy webmasters. Like a dating agency, you register and seek, or wait for suitors. Within 24 hrs, they arrive in droves. Wish that was the end of the story. Sadly, it is not, in my experience so far. Practically 100% of my suitors come from a different planet. Our sites are totally unrelated. What has financial freedom got to do with renting a holiday bed-sit in Acapulco? Well, it may come in handy for dreaming…

It makes me wonder, do these webmasters fire before they aim? What is the purpose of link exchange by the way? Let’s go back in time…

Once upon a time, before Google made linking Holy Grail, links were simply additional resources for the audience, on topics which are not core to the theme of the site, but complimentary. For example, a site on fish farming would feature links to sites that deal with fish food as a core theme etc.

Before adding the links, the Webmaster would have checked out the site, see what it offers, and make a judgment based on the best interest of his audience. “Does that site offer quality fish food?” He will check out the fish food on offer. As a matter of fact, the Webmaster can take it further and negotiate a discount for visitors from his site who may wish to buy fish food from that site. Then he can boldly say, “Recommended Link”. This means he had taken time out to check out the site, and certifies it fit for his audience. His “trust me” then comes from the heart.

Nowadays, you see bold disclaimer notices on link pages. Something to this effect:

“Visit the sites listed hereunder at your own risk. If you believe what you see on these sites, you are on your own. You have only yourself to blame”.

Funny and sad; makes one wonder, if a site’s content is deemed harmful to your audience, why link to it in the first instance? If you have managed to gain the trust of your audience as an expert in your field backed by integrity, why send them to a site you cannot vouch for?

Am I against link exchanges? NO!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am for it. But I believe the Webmaster should put on the table, a tiny little bit of his name and integrity behind every link he features in his link pages. His audience should be able to relax a bit and drop their guard once they click on a link from their favorite site. Otherwise, I believe webmasters should weed off all links they cannot vouch for to some extent. You may not be able to take full responsibility for what stunts the other Webmaster may pull, but you should be able to watch out for the interest of your guests visiting that site, and yank of that site from your link pages (alongside warning folks that have already landed there) if you find out something questionable about that site, no matter how much traffic that site sends you or boosts you Google PageRank. That spells integrity.

Some “experts” recommend; “if you link to a guy and he does not link back to you, remove his link and move on”. Hey! Are you saying if a site has content your audience may be dying to see, and the Webmaster of that site does not feel like linking you, then no matter how good and valuable that site is, yank him off your link pages? What is the issue here? Your ego or your audience?
Who loses? Your audience of course!