Here’s an email message that I received today, quite similar to email messages I receive at least a half-dozen times each day:
I am contacting you about cross linking. I am interested in real life debt because it looks like it’s relevant to a site for which I am seeking links.
Not too bad, so far. But read on…
The site offers a comprehensive selection of over 6,000 technology products at academic prices including computer hardware, software, and books. With a Page Rank of 5, the site has an excellent reputation in the industry. It has a very professional look and feel.
I’ll keep the web address confidential and will send it to you only if you give me permission to do so. Just let me know if it’s OK, and I’ll send you the web address for your review. If you approve of the site, then the intention is to exchange links.
Looking forward to your reply.
Ritchie Hilario – Sr. Link Builder
P.S. If for any reason you don’t want me to contact you again, email me with the words “NO EMAIL” as the subject of your message.
Apartado Postal #18
Tijuana, B.C. 22432
Can you see what’s wrong with this message? If “Ritchie Hilario” is genuinely interested in cross-linking, she’s going about it all wrong. First off, using Google to search for Ritchie’s name reveals no results at all, suggesting that it’s a fake name. Strike one.
Secondly, a spammy opt-out “NO EMAIL” postscript is a sure sign that this isn’t someone sitting at their keyboard, finding my Web site, and then genuinely requesting a link but rather someone using a mostly automated application that blasts out thousands of these sort of link exchange requests. Strike two.
Thirdly, did you notice the “legal mailing address” at the bottom of the email? It’s there because of the toothless CAN-SPAM law and as much as I’d like to think that the border town of Tijuana has a thriving Internet business community, it’s pretty darn clear that it’s either a completely bogus address, or at least a post office box that’s routinely emptied directly into a trash can. Strike three.
But even more, Google search results and page ranking are influenced much more by them trying to capture algorithmically why a site is linking to another site. I’ve talked about this extensively on the site, including The Right Way to Link to Pages On Your Site, Three Ways to Adversely Impact your Google Pagerank, and How does Google figure out what pages are more relevant? Pagerank.
With this perspective in mind, it’s clearly not a winning strategy to blindly trade links with sites you don’t even know about, don’t endorse, and wouldn’t otherwise link to without the reciprocal link. One way I try to capture this concept myself is to ask: would you link to the site because it’s helpful, valuable, and informative for your readers, audience or customer base? If the answer is “no”, then you really need to think carefully about whether it makes sense to link to them, regardless of if they offer a link back to your site or not.
And if you do decide to cross link, to accept a link exchange offer, realize that it might actually be a fly-by-night search engine optimization “consultant” (I use the phrase loosely in this context) who will promptly try to sell you on how they can use similarly dubious tactics to help you improve your ranking for only $xxx!