Friday, June 12, 2009

Reciprocal Linking: What's Your Policy?

This has come up a lot this week, for some reason. I've had several people tell me they were linking to my site and asked politely if I would mind linking to theirs. While I appreciated the link love, I declined to reciprocate. I don't think it's a good idea for bloggers or website owners in general to place a link to whoever links to them or pays them money. Here's why.

It dilutes your brand. This is a freelance writing/entrepreneurship blog, right? Then what are links to a sunglasses shop, a jewelry store, and a baby toys website doing front and center? What's this blog about again? Advertising random websites that don't focus on the audience takes the message and attention away from your main focus.

It makes you seem less useful. As an audience member, I don't really mind links on blogs I like that point me toward services that might be helpful to my business. Even if I know I'm not in the market for those services right now, at least I know where to go if I ever do need that kind of thing. A website that offers links to things I have NO interest in--and that's far more likely if you're putting links on your site that aren't specific to your audience--gives me the impression that they don't know who they're writing to.

It's not great for the business you're linking to, either. As a website owner, you should be looking for websites that target your specific audience. Getting your links out on every site that will take them is an unfocused strategy. Yes, it's good to get the word out--but if you're getting the word out to the wrong people, you're wasting your time.

It's a turn-off to your audience. I feel that putting links on your site that don't relate to your audience shows that you're not in tune with them--and that's generally the impression I get when I see websites that do this.

Whenever anyone puts a link to my site on theirs, I'm grateful. But I don't feel bound to reciprocate if the website in question isn't specific to my audience--and even if they are, I typically don't just post links to random businesses. I post links to blogs I like and support in my blogroll, and I'm generally willing to link to other relevant blogs there when the owners link to me and request it--but that's about it. What's your policy on reciprocal linking?


Lillie Ammann said...

I agree completely. I don't do reciprocal links. I link to sites that I think my readers will enjoy and/or find helpful. Although I appreciate all links, I don't automatically reciprocate. I have added a link to a site who linked to me—but not because the site owner asked. In fact, in those cases, the only way I knew of the link was through the incoming links feature in WordPress. When I see someone linking to me, I visit their blog. I will subscribe to their blog if the topic is of any interest to me—and it usually is because bloggers who link without asking for a reciprocal link do so to benefit readers interested in their topic. The next time I update my blogroll (which isn't often), I'll go through my reader and see if there are blogs I should add.

Lori said...

Same here. I don't link unless it's related to what I do. If they want to follow and I follow them (a Blogger feature), great! But to put links to money-making sites or auto parts suppliers in the blog roll doesn't exactly serve my own audience well.

Great topic!