Dew on spiders webOK – you’ve built a web site and according to popular SEO theory it’s time to go out there and get some links, because link popularity is something Google says is important for a good ranking. So, you begin contacting other webmasters and offering to exchange links.

Not only are you careful to ensure the sites are relevant, or in a complimentary market to yours, you’ve made sure the links you are getting are from pages with good PageRank or “PR”, because all your best SEO buddies have told you that good PR is extremely important.

After several months of tedious work you can see your web site has finally gained some Google respect, a PR of 2. You are proud, a bit excited and continue your work of exchanging links with as many webmasters as you can find. Some have suggested special three way links or even four way links as though there were some special advantage to these. Not quite sure whether that is so important or not you go ahead and accept the links because the PR of the page being offered looks good and the incoming links are from relevant sites so, hey! What’s the harm?

After another few months your Google toolbar indicates your homepage PR has gone up to 3 but you begin to notice what most web site owners eventually discover: your traffic hasn’t really gone up that much. Sure it’s gone up a tiny bit – but a careful review of the web logs shows 70% of your traffic is search engine robots visiting your site everyday as a direct result of all the links you placed. The actual number of humans visiting your site is still abysmally low.

This same story is played out over and over again throughout the Internet world because link exchange is not an effective means of building traffic, and toolbar PR is not an indication of how much traffic you are getting – only an indication of how much link popularity you are gaining. Let me say that another way: PR is no indication of whether any of your links are bringing you traffic.

I’ll ask you a question: all things being equal, would you rather have a PR5 home page and 20 visitors per day, or a PR2 home page and 200 visitors per day? The answer is obvious isn’t it?

Now let’s look at a different scenario.

Let’s pretend your name is Dr. Richard Smartypants and you happen to know more about arterial plaque buildup than any other person on the planet. You’ve just written an article about a new advanced treatment that can cut arterial plaque buildup by 50%. You publish this article on your web site and do the following:

  • You send out several tweets (see www.twitter.com) to your followers letting them know the article has been posted
  • Your blog software is set up to instantly ping all the blog update services to let them know you just posted a new blog
  • You let a few of your closest colleagues know about the blog post and ask them to review it for you
  • You post a quick note on your MySpace page about the new article
  • You visit a few popular Medical Science Forums where you are a member and your Forum signature indicates you’ve just posted a new article in your Blog.

Within a short time a number of things happen. The social community begins to get wind of the new article and the viral engines of the Social world start moving in your favor. Twitterers start tweeting, stumblers start stumbling, diggers start digging, sphinners start sphinning and del.icio.us things start happening to your article (at this point I feel it is only proper that I offer a sincere apology for all the ridiculous puns just used).

The result of all these visits is a natural amount of links back to your site from various supportive readers. Visitors to other sites who spot the link will then visit your site and enjoy the article and hopefully the cycle continues. The cycle can even move into other non-web media if some readers happen to work for newspapers, radio shows and Television. Dr. Smartypants may even get requests for phone interviews and TV appearances and so will be able to promote the article and his web site even more heavily.

This is an example how a simple blog post can generate hundreds or even thousands of natural links if all the right pieces are in place. As redundant as it sounds, success is based on quality and using successful promotional tactics.  Quality research & writing must come first. Web content must be “linkworthy”. Each and every person with a blog or any type of web site has the capacity to write something phenomenal – it just takes time and the will to do it. Don’t write more frequently than is necessary. Wait until you have something truly important to say and you have researched it well. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see you on TV with Dr. Smartypants next month!

What ways have you found to promote your web site effectively using the web?

2 thoughts on “Why Natural Links are almost always better than Exchanged Links

  1. Hopefully people will read your post and understand the difference between artifical metrics like PR and real targeted traffic. A lot of people seem to focus all their efforts on something like PR as though it’s the end all and be all of a successful site. Better to see the bigger picture and understand that PR is one factor among many. Sure I’d rather my site show a PR 6 than a PR 2, but neither really matters much in the big picture.

  2. You’re so right Steve. I have so often found that those who focus on PR are typically narrowly focusing in on one or two major keywords rather than the hundreds or even thousands of smaller keyword phrases that bring in so much more traffic to most sites. Thanks for commenting. I always enjoy your thoughts and your blog.

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