Building links is an important part of marketing a blog or a website. Links help to bring click-through traffic, increase exposure, and probably most importantly, they help to achieve good search engine rankings. There are many different approaches to building links, but one popular method is to exchange links with other website owners or bloggers (This post is intended for newer blogger. If your blog is already established it may not apply to you).
I get emails every day at my design blogs requesting link exchanges, and I sent a few myself when I was getting my first blog started. Some of the emails I get take an effective approach (even if I wind up not exchanging links) but most have serious flaws that will prevent the blogger from having a decent chance to get a link. Obviously, if they’re contacting me, they are also contacting other bloggers with the same request, and if they are making the same mistakes with each email they could be spending a lot of time and not getting many links out of it.
With the right approach link exchanges can be very beneficial, especially for newer bloggers. Here are 9 things to remember when you are asking other bloggers to exchange links:
1 – Be Direct and to the Point
If the purpose of your email is to request a link exchange, make sure it is clear what you are asking for, what you are offering in return (such as a blogroll link) and keep it brief. Of course, it’s not bad to put a little bit of thought and personality into the email, but avoid getting too long. I think this also depends partly on who you are contacting. Those who run large blogs get tons of email, so the shorter the better. If you’re contacting a new blogger that probably doesn’t get many emails from visitors, you have a little bit more freedom in this area.
2 – Start with People You Know
Your best chance of getting someone to accept a link exchange is when you have had some contact, or if the other person at least knows who you are. While I generally turn down all link exchange requests at this point, I will usually accept if it’s from someone that I consider a friend. If you’re just getting started as a blogger your contacts may be limited, so that is a good reason to get out and make an effort to get to know other bloggers in your niche. If possible, leave comments on a blog and start participating before asking for a link exchange.
3 – Only Approach Sites that are Relevant to Yours
It’s not rare to get a link exchange request from someone who has a site that is totally unrelated to yours. If I get an email that’s asking me to link to a dating website or something that has no connection to my site, I’ll delete it right away. Focus on spending your time building links from relevant sites and you’ll have the best results.
4 – Approach Blogs of a Similar Size
If you just launched your blog last week, don’t ask for a link exchange from a highly established and successful blog (unless you know the blogger or unless you already have an established reputation). Your time is much better spent approaching other new bloggers, and you’ll probably get a pretty high percentage of people that accept your request. As your blog grows, you’ll be able to move on to link exchange requests from bigger blogs.
Larger blogs are less likely to accept your request for a few reasons:
- There’s nothing in it for them. Well, not completely nothing, but they certainly don’t have the same motivation that a smaller blog would. A link from an unestablished blog will not send much direct traffic, and the blog probably already has plenty of links, so it won’t make a difference for search engine rankings.
- They get too many requests. If bloggers accepted every link exchange request their sidebars would never end.
- They don’t know if you’re serious about your blog. I don’t think most bloggers want to have a blogroll full of links to blogs that haven’t posted in six months. Unfortunately, a very high percentage of new bloggers give up very quickly. As a result, you’ll have to prove yourself for a while before getting blogroll links from larger blogs.
5 – Find the Blogger’s Name
For bloggers that get a lot of emails requesting link exchanges, it can make a HUGE difference if you take a minute to find the name of the person you’re writing to. Not many people do this, so it gives your message a more personal touch and shows that you care enough to personalize it.
6 – Don’t Ignore Single-Post Links
Blogroll link exchanges are the most common, and they do usually result in a link from every page on a blog, but they are not the only option. When I started my first blog I was publishing a weekly links post that included about 10 – 15 links to other posts that I read throughout the week. This worked out very well for me because it allowed me to attract some people to my blog as they followed the link that was coming to their site, plus it allowed me to “reward” those who commented throughout the week or who I was getting to know. Linking to others is a great way to make friends.
These link posts also were the focus of the link requests that I made. I think there was about a one month span where I looked for other bloggers who were also doing weekly or occasional link posts who blogged on similar topics as me. If I liked their content I sent them an email and asked if they would be interested in exchanging links from our link posts. With this approach I got a very high percentage of people who accepted the offer and I’m actually still in touch with some of those people nearly two years later.
I didn’t always follow my own advice from earlier in the post about getting to know the people first, but I did focus on smaller blogs and they were generally very open to the suggestion.
7 – Don’t make it look like the request was sent to 1,000 people
To have the best chance of getting a link, make the email look personal and not like a bulk message that was blasted to tons of people. Just using the person’s name, which was already mentioned, goes a long way here. The formatting of bulk messages also can make it look obvious some times, so just write a simple paragraph with your request.
8 – Provide a link to your site
This one should be obvious, but I get requests all the time that say “hey, I just started a new blog and wanted to know if you would exchange links with me?” Keeping it brief is good, but if someone doesn’t even take the time to tell me what their website is, or provide a link, the chance that I’ll respond is pretty slim.
9 – Don’t go overboard
Link exchanges can be a great benefit to bloggers, but they’re only a small part of what it takes to build a successful blog. Don’t spend all of your time emailing every blogger that you can find at the expense of the other things that need to be done to run your blog.
10 – Focus on content first
The very best thing you can do to attract links, regardless of your approach for link building, is to focus on producing the best content possible. If you request a link exchange with someone who is not familiar with your blog, the first thing they’re going to do is visit and see what kind of content you have. If you have good content, there’s a good chance they will be interested in linking to you. Good content will make it much easier to build links.
What’s Your Experience with Link Exchanges?
If you have any experience with link exchanges, please share in the comments.