Looking for Link Love in All The Wrong Places?

by mjtaylor on August 1, 2011

… And Ending Up With A One Night Stand?

Link Builder Hung Out To DryDo you look for a quality link relationships and end up with little more than one night stands? Have you been hung out to dry by webmasters who deleted reciprocal link pages?  Has relying on the Toolbar made A Fool(bar) out of you?

Too many webmasters have no idea how to assess quality in other sites.  They continue to rely on an outdated, unreliable metric – toolbar PageRank — to decide whether it’s worthwhile to establish a relationship. Because it is a relationship you seek – whether you hope to place a guest blog, exchange an article or link or even take the time to leave a comment, you’re investing time and effort to create a relationship between your website and someone else’s.

How often have you lost a reciprocal link when a webmaster moved a page without a redirect or worse – deleted the page to convert the reciprocals to one way links? You felt  used, didn’t you? For the years that link exchanges were acentral and highly effective link building – and I think relevant, quality link exchanges are still highly worthwhile – I was appalled at the number of times I found webmasters had dropped links and left their partners — including me or my clients — hanging out to dry. To say it undermined my trust in other webmasters is an understatement. Today I rarely open email appeals for link exchanges. I want to know – and trust – the webmaster, marketers or business owner before I consider a link relationship. Or I want to have found them on my own.

Trust, Relevance and Quality

You know quality when you see it, don’t you? Or do you? Many webmasters and SEOs continue to rely on toolbar PageRank to decide whether it’s worthwhile to establish relationship.

But in the absence of a reliable way to know the actual PageRank of a page or site,  webmasters and SEOs need to be able to make a decision on whether a page or a site has quality or importance in the eyes of the search engine. You need quality guidelines of your own.

  1. Trust. Do I know the webmaster, SEO or business? If I don’t, does Google?  Despite reading widely and spending a lot of time on forums, there are a lot of high quality sites and businesses I don’t know. But Google does. I am not saying that a top 5 position for a competitive phrase means you are a trustworthy partner, but if Google trusts a site, I’m one step closer.
  2. Relevance. Will a typical visitor to my site find useful information on this site? Will the search engines recognize that our sites are related? Your site might not be about search engine marketing, but a site but a web graphics tool is certainly part of the same industry. A business in the same geographic area is also related.
  3. Pride. Am I going to be proud of the association with the website when a visitor of mince clicks through? Do I feel the quality of their site’s content and presentation is a positive reflection on my own? Would I be happy to introduce  anyone and everyone – including my grandmother and Matt Cutts – to my associate?
  4. Neighborhood. What about the other sites your prospective partner links with or to? Do those sites reflect the same quality you want in a neighborhood? After all, when you hook up with another website, you are telling Google, this is how I see my site; I fit in with this crowd. So, every link needs to accurately mirror your site’s quality.

Frankly, these are all questions that should be asked, even if you had a reliable tool to check PR!

The Page Itself – Beyond PageRank

Of course, I do still look at whether a page or site has toolbar PageRank. I take it with a grain of salt, though because I know that Google has admittedly, manually stripped pages of toolbar PageRank where it suspects links are sold or exchanged to manipulate the SERPs. Do those pages still have actual PR? I think  they probably do.

So, I look at whether the page is indexed and perhaps how recently it was crawled. I look at the other pages on the site. If the page is new, or if I am going to be a guest blogger, I can’t see the page where my content will be posted, but I can see look at other pages. I can get an idea of the crawl rates by looking at the cache of a sample of pages on the site.

In the case of links, I consider the presentation and the placement of my listing. The fewer links, the better and the closer to the top, the happier I am — after all, the top site is more likely to get clicked and that means more traffic and more SEO impact. I look for a page with content not just links. I want to know that the page is user friendly, and will be used by visitors to find more information. I am scarcely interested in a page of links that follows the archaic style of linked Title:  Description unless it’s a viable directory and not just a link directory for exchange.

Ideally, I want a link from a page that is clearly there to provide information and not just links; a page that will drive traffic as well as link juice. If you were a Key West fishing captain, wouldn’t you rather get a link from a page like this, on Key West Water Sports that offers tourists useful information on charters and things to do or this one that is just a list of links?

Check for Quality Rank, Not Page Rank

Put another way, I am looking for what I call “Quality Rank.” It’s my own measurement of whether the site has the qualities I want in a relationship I hope to have for a long time.

Some additional resources:

What other ways do you assess the Quality Rank of a site?





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