What is a linking policy? A simple statement, generally not more than one or two sentences long, explaining what types of linking requests you will accept and what types you won’t.
Why do you need it? Technically, you don’t. Though an increasing number of webmasters are including linking policy statements on their sites, the vast majority of websites in the world still don’t have one. But that doesn’t make it any less of a good idea.
If it’s not absolutely necessary, what makes it a good idea?
Well, it may discourage a few people from bothering you with inappropriate link requests . Not to many, because most people who send unacceptable link requests don’t spend a lot of time looking at the sites they proposition. But it will discourage some bogus queries and it will also give you something to point to when people whose requests you deny pester you for an explanation.
But that’s only the secondary reason for posting a simple, brief, concise linking policy on your site. The primary reason is because it sends a very positive message to anyone considering offering a quality link, a beneficial link that could drive traffic to your site and improve your search-engine page rank.
High-quality links all have one thing in common, they originate from high-quality websites. Sites do not have to be unethical to be a poor link partner. A link can be relevant, located at a good address and in total compliance with good web practices and still be a terrible addition to your link page if it comes from a bad website. Not an evil website, not a dishonest website, just a bad one. A site with illiterate grammar, terrible spelling, ugly graphics and an overall trashy ambiance.
Giving your customers a link to a bad site negatively reflects on your site. We are all, like it or not, judged by the company we keep – in real life and in the virtual universe. So operators of good sites tend, just like you, to be very picky about whose links they add. They do take a close look at sites requesting links from them and they will notice your linking policy and be reassured to find that you are just as particular about who you allow on your site as they are.
What you put in your linking policy depends on your site and your personality. For some people, a statement that sites requesting a link must contain relevant content useful to your visitors is enough. In other cases, if your site is highly specialized for example, you might want to specify the “relevant” content, as in “This site accepts and exchanges links solely with other professional websites centered on international immigration law.”
You might also make limiting link exchanges to a one-to-one ratio part of your official policy. Trading one link on your site for a link on two other sites might sound appealing, but people who offer those deals generally do it because it’s the only way they can harvest any reciprocal links for their sub-standard sites.
Finally, if you have any particular policy that you’ve been enforcing unofficially – such as linking only to sites that provide content links – you should include that as part of your formal linking policy. This not only will save you the time and effort of explaining it to people, it will alert webmasters who follow the same policy that you are a potentially excellent link partner.
The genesis of this post, BTW, is kind of interesting. We were browsing some webmaster resources and came across an article from a web consultant who said he was in the process of adding a link policy statement to over 1,000 of his own and his clients’ pages.
In addition to reminding us how important link policy statements can be, he also provided real-world proof of the thesis that not every relevant link is a good link. We’d like to share a bit of what the article said, but we won’t be able to credit the author because his or her name was missing on the page we saw. (If you recognize your words quoted here, please drop us an email so we can update this with your name.)
He (we’ll assume the writer is male because that’s the archaic way high school English teachers told us to handle such gender issues) writes about trying to buy links from a “text link broker” and how he asked this supposedly “reputable broker” to substantiate the value of his links with examples of websites whose PR went up after spending $1000 or more buying a package of allegedly relevant links.
“He said, ‘we don’t keep track of that sort of thing,’ ” the poster writes, noting that he had to “pick my jaw up from the floor” after hearing that ridiculous non-answer.
The absurdity continued.
“I pointed out to him that they (the links offered for sale) were all on very close IP addresses and clearly resided on the same virtual server, he seemed not to understand when I asked if they couldn’t offer more variation in IP address range to avoid a link farm penalty from the search engines.”
Once again we’d like to thank this unknown poster for giving us the idea for this blog entry and for providing a perfect example of another way in which links that may be relevant and may not by themselves live in bad neighborhoods can be unhealthy for your site – in this case because they are part of a suspect network whose members live too close to each other for comfort.
With LinksManager, we provide webmasters with a editor-based, ethical-by-design process for eliminating much of the tedious, time-consuming grunt work of managing a link exchange campaign. And on LinkPartners.com we provide a free – even to non-LinksManager subscribers — directory of sites seeking link partners that have been visited and approved by one of the humans on our staff. Still, the ultimate responsibility for the quality and effectiveness of your links lies with you. For links, as for all your other content, you make the rules and you are in charge of enforcing them.
Publishing your linking rules as a public policy is a great way to let the web community know you are serious about giving your customers and other site visitors as rich and rewarding an experience outside your site as you do on the inside.