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Monday Question: Do Link Exchanges Work?

I got a question about traffic generation and link exchanges this past week:

Hi Andrew,

I’ve a new site and getting traffic seems to be a challenge.

I have been thinking of link exchanges. I’m hearing different things about them. Do they work?


In my opinion many marketers are overly obsessed with traffic.

Traffic won’t solve your worries if your site has a ‘leaky’ design (with multiple exit links for visitors), doesn’t have effective channels for monetization or list building, or doesn’t have sticky content to get visitors to keep coming back. For the purposes of discussion, I’ll assume that you got those areas covered, or are working on them.

Besides raw traffic quantity (number of visitors), you need to monitor and closely refine your traffic quality (how relevant your visitors are). There’s no point to get everyone and his mother over to your site if they don’t fit your site’s demographic.

That’s where alliances are handy.

A link exchange is where two websites or blogs have a link to the other site listed somewhere. The idea is that visitors from one site will flow through to the other.

If you partner with a relevant site and cross refer traffic to each other, you’d both benefit from the exchange.

But here’s where it breaks down.

Are you doing a link exchange for a boost in your Google PageRank or for traffic?

If you’re doing the link exchange for PageRank, do note that most link exchange partners will list your link on a ‘Links’ page. And PageRank is page specific. So even if their domain has a PageRank of 6, the “Links.html” page you’re linked from might have a PR0 or PR1. If you’re linking to them from a PR5 or PR6 page on your site, you’re getting the short end of the stick…

Even if their “links” page has a high PR value, if you see 100 other links on that page, how’s anyone supposed to find your site in that mess and come to your site?

If you’re doing the link exchange for traffic, take a look at their site metrics.

Flawed though the Alexa page count might be, if your Alexa ranking is 100,000 and theirs is 6,093,384, there’s an unequal exchange in the link exchange.

I’ve done a number of link exchanges, but they’ve been with close friends or strategic business partners. Even if their stats aren’t as strong now, I’m in it for the long haul.

For example, this is an excerpt from my awstats analytics screen:

whoisandrewwee.com awstats

As a contributor to the MyBlogLog blog, I get a fair amount of reciprocal traffic and a number of blog readers come to the blog based on entries appearing in their feed reader (bloglines, google reader). And flow through traffic from my buddies Amit Mehta (SuperAffiliateMindset) and Eli (BlueHatSEO)

Eli gets consistent traffic from the blackhat/bluehat SEO crowd and has had a burst of traffic after making it to the top 50 listing of bloggers:

bluehat seo

Besides awstats which should come with your web hosting account, another useful tracking tool is the MyBlogLog Pro Stats:


Again a fair amount of traffic from my listing in Mark’s (45n5.com) top 100 blogs.

And some of the other traffic from Ruck’s CashTactics.net came solely from blog commenting.

The other point is that getting your content syndicated on sites like WebProNews, MyBlogLog, BumpZee, IM Newswatch can bring you floods of traffic if you’re not particularly motivated to mail 100 sites trying to do a link exchange.

Content contribution to generate traffic has a couple of points going for it:

  • It’s interactive and you’re ‘talking’ to the website/blog owner
  • It’s fun
  • People who like your content and make the effort to come over, prequalify themselves – they’re more likely to like what you have to say

If you’re determined to do the link exchange thang, check out Derek Beau’s link exchange writeup.

The bottomline for me: I’d stay away from link exchanges with people you hardly know. You’d probably do better with PPC traffic. If it’s a friend or associate, I’m more inclined to consider them more seriously, even then I probably do about 1 out of every 20-30 proposals I get.

While you might be suffering initially from a traffic slump, I’d suggest that building your brand with a long term focus will help you build a solid online business.

16 comments on Monday Question: Do Link Exchanges Work?

  1. Claude Gelinas
    September 20, 2007 at 11:22 am (4759 days ago)

    Thanks Andrew for sharing your e-wisdom!

    About Dylan’s question, perhaps if he has more than one web site, linking them together in a smart way might also help get more visitors.

    For instance, you might have a blog on auto-parts linking to your directory of race car driver web pages — and so on.

  2. Mike Katchen
    September 21, 2007 at 9:13 pm (4758 days ago)

    stop linking for page rank! make linking decisions based on what benefits your end user. If you can get a quality link exchange from a low pageranked site, GET THE LINK.

  3. Ethan
    September 24, 2007 at 12:01 pm (4755 days ago)

    Yeah eli has a good blog. Thats awesome he got number 45.

  4. Damon Bell
    October 1, 2007 at 12:32 am (4749 days ago)

    This may sound funny, but I started out using a “link farm” with my site and I had many sites linking to me that did not relate to my subject matter, which is child safety, but it brought me alot of traffic because almost everyone has children and they value their safety and it didn’t seem to matter what site or where they read my link due to the “content” and the “subject matter” of my site. I think it depends on what you are writing about on your site and on what level it effects people in general, such as children’s safety, as to whether link farms can be an effective source of traffic. This content and topic hits people at a different level of interest, eventhough they may be seeing my link on an automotive site. So for me any link in general added up to traffic for my website from all over the world. Something to think about.

  5. UstillUp
    August 11, 2009 at 6:10 am (4068 days ago)

    Excellent comments about link exchanges. Unlike most people, I don’t believe Google cancels them out. However, it took me a while to realize that google looks at the page rank of the individual page and not of the index page. I was so happy when a PR 7 site gave me a link, I didn’t even pay attention to where it was and the page rank of the page it was on.

  6. tom
    February 15, 2011 at 4:06 am (3516 days ago)

    xcellent comments about link exchanges

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1 Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Monday Question: Do Link Exchanges Work?

  1. Andrew Wee: Do Link Exchanges Work?
    September 19, 2007 at 1:14 pm (4760 days ago)

    [...] Wee answers a question regarding the effectiveness of exchanging links. Before doing so, you should research the page rank of not just the other party’s homepage, [...]

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