Google has just sent the Search Marketing world into a frenzy of hair pulling and nail biting. Its latest shake up of its algorithm has put paid to unrestrained link swapping. It had gone overboard like Meta tag stuffing before it. Even before this last revision, all signs indicate that the Search Engines were beginning to devalue reciprocal links and forum signatures in their SERP's. So what is a harried webmaster to do? Are backlinks still relevant to search rankings? If they still count, how do you acquire them without running afoul of the SE's
The answer to that is Link Trading . Link trading also known as Link Renting , is simply paying to have a link pointing to your site from another site, typically, with a high or higher page rank. In essence you are buying the linking site's traffic and, if your own site is related, its search relevancy.
Link trading came into vogue even before the current SE upheavals because it was often the only way a new or low ranked site could get any links from authority sites. Its principle advantage from a search rankings point of view is it is a one-way link – the most valuable kind – and thats a high quality link.
Secondly, link trading or renting if well executed can pull in significant amounts of traffic. If you target a site with reliably high traffic, you are likely to benefit from the overflow – obtain traffic you would not otherwise have gotten.
Link trading also has a viral or branding effect leading on from its traffic-generation benefit. More web surfers get to see your link and if you properly optimize the link's anchor text, your site profits from the resultant visibility. You also benefit from being associated with the site hosting your link, and if its reputation is good, this will yield a powerful networking advantage.
The downside is clear – a site may have negative connotations for your visitors, so researching them thoroughly before buying your link space is critical.
As link renting becomes more popular, the number of sites will sell to link space increases. Given that the purpose for most webmasters is to gain links from sites with relatively higher PR, you should consider only sites that rate as authority sites in your category. Over and above that, the usual factors for quality linking should be taken into account. Briefly these are:
- Visitor Profile – choose only those sites that get the type of surfer you are targeting.
- Page Relevance – make sure that the title and body content of the page hosting your link is relevant to the linked page on your site.
- Optimized Anchor Text – it is imperative that the text in your link is optimized for your web page, as well as being curiosity arousing.
- Text Link Placement – where possible determine the placement of your link – you are paying for it. Links within body text (usually in your own distributed content) are the most effective. The rule of thumb is that the higher the page the link is placed, the better its click-through-rate (CTR).
- Quantity of links on page – in a link trade set up, the hosting site usually guarantees the number of outgoing links – 3-5, and never more than 10. The fewer links there are, the better your CTR. Too many (6+) will erode the link PR you acquire as well as create distractions to your link.
- Design – again you may not have control over the design of the text link ad, but it is worth checking to see if you have any options. A simple link will generally maximize your CTR. Dynamic urls are not spidered by the SE bots, so any ad tracking scripts will do nothing for your link popularity, only boosting traffic your site.
How to Buy Links
Many sites can link link sell space on their pages. Due to the fear of SE blacklisting, some sites are linked to openly advertise the fact that they will sell you link space, and with these, it is often best to approach 3rd party link brokers. This will generally not cost you more as the linking sites 'pay the brokers' fees, but it will give you more options to choose from. The leading link brokers are Text Link Brokers and Text Link Ads . The caveats for quality linking still apply, and do not plunge in if you are not sure.
It is usual for linking sites to charge a monthly fee for each link with the possibility of getting site wide links or links on specific pages. However site wide links tend to be more expensive and may not achieve any higher PR than single page links although they may generate more traffic. Typical charges would range from $ 15 / month for PR3's to + $ 400 / month for PR7's with wide variation in between.
I do not think there is anything to be gained in linking with pages with less than PR5, primarily because the PR they would pass on would be minimal.
Hosted Marketing Pages
A variation on the theme Coming into fashion is Hosted Marketing Pages also known as Content Hosting or Pre-sell Pages . In this method you arrange with the site that you want a link from, to have a highly optimized, timely and relevant article that you provide, hosted on that site for a fee. You of course will have embedded all the relevant links in appropriate content that you control. Its main advantage is to allow you to advertise more links than a straight link trade, and with links that rate more highly in SE algorithms for relevance.
On the other hand you lose out on PR because the article would most likely be on a brand new page, and anyway you do not want your material rivaling with other similar editorials. Hosted marketing pages will I believe replace reciprocal linking as the leading SEO technique, especially to establish new sites.
HMP's are one way of paying to syndicate articles relevant to your web site or page. Paid article syndication is not a new SEO method, but as part of a link trading strategy, it takes on a new dimension. Like with HMP's you would distribute optimized articles, in order to acquire inbound links to your site. One can either issue press releases through agencies like PR Web , or have article directories do so. Either way you would pay for priority and for wider reach. Just as with HMP's apart from the exposure your site gets, you retain control of your links' anchor text.
According to recent research conducted by the Marketing Experiments Journal ( http://www.marketingexperiments.com/see/1122 ), paid press release distribution has for traffic generation purposes, a better ROI than traditional PPC, with an added SEO benefit.
Link Trading or Link Renting differs from straight advertising in having an SEO focus that in the longer term obtains more valuable organic traffic from high SE rankings than the direct traffic generated by PPC or any other type of advertising. The latter is only effective for as long as you are shelling out money to fund it, and most advertising experiences diminishing returns, whereas an SEO technique like link trading gains momentum from its viral effect such that in time you can curtail the amount of link renting you are doing with only a marginal effect on your SE visibility.
It is debatable whether Link Renting amounts to SERP manipulation. By the reckoning of some, all SEO is just that – Search Engine manipulation. However even the SE's are aware that SEO hones their own search results by forcing webmasters to focus more effectively the type of traffic their sites attract, based on existing search queries and extrapolating for future ones. In a hypothetical world, if all web pages were ideally optimized, even the most incomprehensible search query terms would return relevant and usable results. This is certainly the holy grail of Search.
You need to decide before you start researching sites to buy links from just why you want to trade – for traffic or PR. Some research suggests that PPC has better and more controllable returns than Link Renting for traffic conversion (traffic that buys or takes some other specific action). If your aim is to boost your own site's PR, be careful about how much you pay. Tony Simpson of Webpageaddons has written informally about this in a two part article. He concludes that you are much safer bidding for link space on the basis of traffic generation than PR. Either way, buying links, if properly executed, enhances the prospects for a new site, and is set to become part of the internet marketing mix for most webmasters.
Happy Link Trading