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Link popularity, the number of incoming links to your website, plays an important part in determining your site’s ranking in a search engine. But, before you rush off to try and get any and all sites to link to you there are a few things to consider, and one of them is that the quality of the links are as important as the quantity. 

If you get a link to your site from Yahoo, then your own site’s ranking in various search engines will be enhanced, as Yahoo is one of the most popular sites on the Internet. Ranking of course is not a precise term, and varies from search engine to search engine. But if you want to be consistent, you can use the Google Toolbar, and the Google page ranking, shown in the toolbar, as way of judging how well you are doing. Google ranks a page from 0-10, and a site with a 0 ranking will not do well in searches, especially in very competitive categories. So when it comes to finding link partners one guideline is to find sites that have a Google ranking that is equal to or higher than yours. 

A site with a 0 ranking will not help you. Also, sometimes a site has a relatively good page ranking but its links page is 0, and this is the page that links to you, thus it is very important. So the question is why is the links page 0 when the rest of the site is OK? Some sites use robotic tools to create what are known as "link farms. Link farms are huge collections of links, a giant directory that dwarfs the original web site.  These were set up by people hoping to increase their link popularity very fast. However search engines got wise to this, and do not give any importance to such directories, hence you will see a 0 ranking for them. 

So, if it is a link farm, don’t participate in a link exchange with that site. It will not help you, and some observers say that a link from a "link farm" will actually harm your standing. I am not sure if it will harm you, but it is definitely not going to help you. 

Another important thing to consider is whether the links page or directory on the other site is visible to the public. This might seem elementary, but some people like to get reciprocal links but don’t really display them fairly, because they don’t want people leaving their site through the reciprocal links. The links page should be linked to at least one of the major pages of the site, if it is not, then don’t puruse the link. One time, I noticed this on another site and objected. The webmaster acknowledged my point and changed the site to properly display the links page. 

Similarly, if your link on the other site will be in sea of hundreds of unsorted links, like on the free-for-all links pages, this is not valuable to you, because such a site has little chance of sending you any traffic. 

What are the best sites to link to?  A site that has good content, a site that your web visitors will think is a valuable resource.  While you can’t take responsibility for everything that is on the other person’s website, you shouldn’t knowingly send your web visitors to a low-quality website. So be selective in pursuing reciprocal links, and in responding to requests for links. Visit the other site and see what it is all about before jumping to link with them. 

The ideal link partner should be a site thematically related to yours, with the kind of visitors who will also be interested in your site. It should give your link the kind of prominence that will enable you to get some traffic, and finally, the site should have a decent page ranking. If you get all of these factors together, you can be sure that it is a quality link and worth your effort in making the contact and setting up the link exchange. Check your logs from time to time and see which links are performing well, and then try to find similar link partners. 

Reciprocal linking takes time if you want to do it correctly, but the targeted traffic that it can generate coupled with the enhancement of your page ranking that it can provide, makes it an important part of overall website promotion.

This Web Marketing article was written by Donald Nelson on 3/22/2005

Donald Nelson is a web developer, editor and social worker. He has been working on the Internet since 1995, and is currently the director of A1-Optimization (, a firm providing low cost search engine optimization, submission and web promotion services.