How to Handle Reciprocal Link Requests

Why you shouldn’t always say yes.

This morning, I got a feedback message from the owner of another Web site:

My name is [omitted] and I have recently visited your site and wondered
whether you might be interested in exchanging a reciprocal link with our site.

If interested, please respond with a reciprocal link to my website.
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Here is our website information:
————————————
Home page URL: http://[omitted[
Website Title: [omitted] Directory
Description: A Wholesalers and Dropshippers directory for traders, ebayers and new businesses.
E-mail Address: [omitted]
Category: (wholesale, wholesalers, dropship, dropshippers, suppliers, trade, Business, Business Services)
Keywords: wholesale, wholesalers, dropship, dropshippers, suppliers, trade, wholesaler, wholesales, directory, list, goods, products, uk, usa, Wholesale Products, wholesale directory, jewelry, clothing, product, gift, t shirt, bead furniture, dvd, watches, apparel leather, food, shopping, USA, America, American, Canada

My, that’s quite an informative request for a reciprocal link. I wonder whether he expected me to set up a Web page for him on my site.

I deleted the request without even replying. Why? Let me tell you.

Reciprocal Link, Defined

To make sure we’re all on the same page (no pun intended), let me start by explaining what a reciprocal link is.

A reciprocal link is an arrangement where one Web site owner includes a link to another Web site owner’s site, with the understanding that that other Web site owner will include a link to his site. A links to B and B links back to A.

In general, it seems like a good deal. After all, you’re getting exposure for your site on another site, right? And all it’s costing is the time and effort and page real estate to add the other link — in other words, hardly anything at all.

But Is It a Good Match?

Consider the request I got this morning. The site owner operates a site that’s a directory of wholesalers and dropshippers. Okay. So what does that have to do with my site?

The answer is nothing. There’s no relationship between what I write about here and the information that’s available on his site.

As a result, only a small percentage of my site’s visitors would be remotely interested in the information on his site. And a small percentage of his site’s visitors would be remotely interested in the information on my site.

What’s the Real Cost?

So you might be wondering, what’s the harm of including a link to an unrelated site on your site? After all, it doesn’t really cost anything.

Well, here’s the way I see it. If you included a link to every single site that asked you for a link, you’d soon have a huge link list with little or no value to your site visitors. You’re using up page real estate to clutter up your site with pretty much useless information.

And on the other side of the reciprocating agreement are sites that are doing pretty much the same thing: building long lists of links to unrelated sites, just so they can get your link to theirs. Is anyone really going to find your link — provided they even bother to look — in that long list?

Is it worth degrading your site to get those links? I don’t think so.

And Are These Requests Real?

That brings up the question of whether the requests you receive are real. In other words, did the site owner who contacted you really visit your site and think it would make a good candidate for a reciprocal link?

In this day and age, spam is all too common. It’s possible that your e-mail address got into the hands of someone who is sending the same exact message to thousands of other Web site owners or bloggers.

The message I received is certainly generic enough to go out to anyone. But in my case, I didn’t get it directly by e-mail. Instead, I got it through the use of my Feedback form, which requires either a really smart spambot or a person to create and send the message. So there’s a good chance that this site owner actually did visit my site.

If so, however, what gave him the idea that I’d link to a dropshipper directory?

When to Say Yes

Of course, some reciprocal link requests will be beneficial for both you and the other site owner. But how can you tell? Here are some things to consider:

  • Is it a good match? As I mentioned before, there should be some relationship between the two sites. Would a link to the other site benefit your site’s visitors? If so, it’s worth considering.
  • What is the other site like? Is it a quality site, one you want to send you site’s visitors to? I’ve ignored many link requests to sites that just weren’t up to my standards due to content quality, design, or excessive advertising.
  • How many links are on the other site? Are they links to related sites? Remember, if the other site has hundreds of links to other sites, it’s not likely that anyone looking at the list will find yours.

Of course, once you decide to enter into a reciprocal link agreement with another site, you’ll need to keep tabs on the other site. Has your link to the other site been created as promised? Is it still there, week after week, month after month? This will increase your site management workload a bit. But if the reciprocal link is one worth having, it’s worth the extra effort to keep track of.

Conclusion

If you get a request from another Web site or blog owner for a reciprocal link, don’t just say yes. Do your homework to make sure you really want that link on your site.

A free link isn’t always free.

2 thoughts on “How to Handle Reciprocal Link Requests

  1. I have to say that I would have done the same thing. It is hard to know how to handle these offers, but I think a generic one that seems pretty general and spammy probably won’t put a lot of care into getting you a proper reciprocal link. It is a challenging business. How many do you get of these and how often?

What do you think?