Have you ever gotten an email that begins like this?
We would like to exchange links with your site. I have already placed a link to your site along with a description at the following site. Once you link back to us, we will move your link to the top of the appropriate category with a star in front of it.
How about one like this?
I came across your website and feel that it provides some great content. We are currently looking to purchase a text advertisement, and I think that your site would be a good fit. I am confident that our products would complement your site and add value for readers. I am hoping to pay a flat monthly rate for this advertisement placement while creating a mutually beneficial agreement with you.
Or how about one looking to buy a text link within a specific post in your archives?
If you have, you may have been confused or flattered or just excited that someone has noticed your hard work and wants to recognize you or pay you actual money for an ad.
Before you say yes, though, I’d encourage you to step back and consider the ramifications of that decision.
The Purpose of Link Bait
First, let’s take a look at why people look for link exchanges and paid text links in the first place. Often referred to as link bait, these text links serve one purpose, and it’s not to advertise their company.
Rather, companies and websites seek text links because search engines like to see lots of incoming links into a website. Increasing the number of links with a specific phrase (called anchor text) increases the weight that the website receives in the search engine algorithms, making them more likely to show up on the front page of Google.
The Downside for Bloggers
So what’s the downside for you? There are a few:
1. Blog advertising, while a valid method of monetization, should be done authentically. In other words, you should be partnering with the companies that advertise on your site, trying their products and sharing them with your readers because you truly believe in them. (As an aside, if you don’t believe in a company, you should not have them advertise on your site, no matter how enticing the offer!)
Text links, on the other hand, are inherently inauthentic. The companies aren’t partnering with you because they value your voice or your readership but simply because they want the search engines to rate them higher.
2. It can actually hurt your site. In search engine algorithms, authority flows into and out of your site. Every time someone links to you, their authority adds weight to your site. And when you link to someone else, you share a fraction of your authority with them. Now, to be clear, I’m not encouraging you not to link to other people! However, linking to sites that you don’t truly believe in needlessly drains your authority and Google’s algorithms include penalties for sites that are believed to host paid text links. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of the algorithms.
Side note: There is a way to link to other sites without sharing your “link juice” by adding the rel=”nofollow” attribute to your HTML. I’ll share more about my philosophy on this attribute in a later post as well.
The strategies for getting text links is always changing, but 99% of the time, if something feels funny, it’s probably not in your best internet.
Have you received requests for link exchanges or paid text links? What’s your philosophy on them?