There are at least two approaches to reciprocal linking. Some advise you to, “use a smart linking to gradually increase traffic and get the attention of visitors interested in your site”. The other says, “Use a mass linking campaign. Don’t worry about who links to you – it tricks the search engines and gets you higher rankings”.
The more traditional approach is to build a link directory with relevant, quality sites that agree to link back. It comes with a secret bonus – it provides your site visitors a list of resources that you have spent some time checking out and think are worthwhile. This approach follows the proven path of the Yahoo founders. They built the Yahoo directory, essentially a large link directory, one link at a time. That darknet links was the best possible way to ensure quality search results in the pre-Google days.
I have noticed that several search engine optimization consultants promote the second approach. They are speaking to internet newcomers who are eager to get to the top of the search engines. When you’re running a small business and you have launched a new site, branding is not your goal. You can’t afford to mass market in hopes of gradually being recognized. You realize that building a brand is a big businesses strategy. You are never going to be a household word.
Getting visitors is your main concern. The search engines appear to offer free traffic to anybody that gets listed. Your on the right track, they are important. But you can’t let your interest in traffic make you overreact, loose touch, and waste time pursuing gimmicks to beat the search engines. Unfortunately, going over to the dark side requires just as much time and money and the “tricks” often do not work.
My opinion – you guessed it, I like to wear a white hat – and I know that the traditional approach produces results. Attracting search engines is a great way of generating sustained, targeted traffic. However, it will drive you crazy if you try to understand how the engines work. Spend your energy developing the content that searchers are looking for. After all, the search engines are simply trying to find the most relevant site in response to a search phrase – and guess what, that could be you.
In addition to your content, most engines pay attention to your link popularity – how many inbound links you have. Google also seems to judge the quality of your site by looking at your Page Rank and your link partner’s Page Rank. But search engines are complicated beasts and very unpredictable, especially for new sites.
You have to listen to the teachings of the “SEO experts” when building your site. They have experience in building content that works for customers as well as search engines. However, once your search engine friendly site is built, forget that the search engines exist and concentrate on you customers and their experience.
Put your energy into quality content and the rest of it into building your link partners. But remember, link directories will help you more if they add value to your site. Don’t bury them. Make them visible and useful.