Reciprocal Linking: A Disturbing Trend
by Vishal P. Rao
In the world of Internet Marketing, and Web site promotion, nothing changes faster than the parameters that rule good Search Engine rankings and placement.
This has led to a developed new science in the last few years, SEM (Search Engine Marketing). This new science, SEM, has been a boon to both Web Masters and the merchants that maintain Web sites as a way to increase exposure and revenue for their products and/or services.
SEM has become a much sought after entity, with SEM specialists, who focus on optimization of a site, routinely adding linking campaign management to their overall repertoire of services. This has resulted in a large influx of Web sites focusing on linking campaigns and reciprocal linking as it has been established that good, solid reciprocal linking campaigns increased traffic and visitors to a site exponentially.
However, like with everything else online, the idea of SEM and linking campaigns has spread like "wildfire", with sites seeking links seemingly endlessly. This has led to what can only be termed, "linking explosions", with many sites posting links to everything and anything in an effort to increase their Search Engine rankings and placements.
The actual attainment of effective linking campaigns, is a work oriented, tedious undertaking, with literally months spent developing a good campaign. While a good linking campaign does increase rankings overall, with the Search Engines, the question remains, "does it increase sales"? After all, consumers are the ingredient that facilitates the sale of a product/service in the long run, not the rankings or placement of a site. Questions about whether linking campaigns increase revenue for a site are coming into play now.
Recent data (courtesy: WebSideStory) has shown that consumers, now more than ever, are arriving at Web sites via "search features", not by direction to a Web site via another Web site link. The use of "search features" to arrive at a site has increased by almost six percent in the past year. In addition, direct navigation by visitors to a Web site, has also increased from a year ago, by almost ten percent. In direct contrast, Web link "arrivals" of visitors has dropped in the past year, by a somewhat staggering, twenty percent!
The World Wide Web quite obviously has now become more utilitarian to consumers, and linking campaigns, as a result, may become more ineffective as time goes on. Linking campaigns, by their very nature, promote "browsing" and time-consuming "visiting" of many sites, before the product/item/service, is found by the consumer. As the Web progresses and consumers become increasingly discerning in their overall approach to the Web, they are now going right to the source, more often, via "search features" and direct navigation.
Accordingly, then, the "digging around" on other sites, has diminished over the past twelve months, and in all likelihood, will continue as a trend well into the future, hampering the effectiveness of linking campaigns overall. This trend reflects an international shift towards this method of finding information on the Web, and is not localized whatsoever, crossing many demographic and geographic barriers.
It's really difficult to effectively pinpoint the cause in this shift for consumers. However, the sheer magnitude of the linking campaign craze that is so prominent now, may account, at least in part, for the shift in the attitudes of consumers. Because of the popularity of linking campaigns as a method of increasing rankings and placement, attaining "quality" links (those with a Page Rank of 5 or higher) has become more difficult for Web masters. In addition, the sheer volume of linking requests to pages with a high ranking, has also increased, to the point where higher ranked Web sites are inundated daily with linking requests, interfering with their ability to attend to their own business.
Web masters have now oftentimes taken to using any links whatsoever, as long as the links added have the appropriate Page Rank. Little thought seems to be given at times, to the theme of a links page or the relevance of links that have been added, leaving visitors to some sites confused and frustrated. This will in all probability lead consumers to turn to the Search Engines and direct navigation even more in the future, not less.
This could have dire consequences for many Web sites down the road, as those at the bottom of search listings could conceivably be forced out of business.
There are methods however that can aid in the retention of top rankings and listings with the Search Engines, in and above linking campaigns. These methods would also hold greater appeal for consumers in general, as they would add quality to a Web site, as well as content, something that will add "longevity of appeal" to a Web site:
1. The writing of good, content oriented copy which imparts value to a Web site. Good copy has always been utilized to establish good overall traffic and conversion patterns. Even Search Engines seem to understand this and routinely rank Web sites with good pertinent content, higher than other Web sites.
2. The placement of ads on high traffic sites. Just one good ad, placed on another Web site with good overall traffic, will significantly increase rankings and placement by the Search Engines.
3. The submitting of a Web site to all possible, pertinent directories. Directories were always a good method of increasing rankings and placement, and they still, to this day, are a good choice.
4. The optimization of all other aspects of a Web site, from the meta-tags to the design. Meta-tag optimization, like directory listings, continues to be a good overall optimization technique. The design of a Web site can also enhance rankings and placement, as the site needs to be "readable" to the Search Engines, and some flash and other enhancements, can prevent "readability", thus hampering rankings and placement.
5. The enhancement of traffic by offline marketing campaigns. This is one facet of Web site traffic management that many individuals neglect, but that can successfully increase rankings significantly.
6. The use of PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns. While these can be expensive, if care is not given to the bidding, they can also enhance traffic to a Web site, as "traffic begets more traffic", establishing a ranking pattern for the Search Engines.
7. The addition of keywords that are relevant to a site, throughout the copy, the title, and the meta-tags and any other text, such as articles and reports. Keywords are the "guides" that the Search Engines use to find a site and rank it. The addition of good relevant keywords always enhances rankings and placement.
Linking campaigns, as you can see, while having their overall place in effective rankings and placement within the Search Engines, are not the "be all and end all" of optimization or rankings. Many various fundamentally sound methods of optimization still exist, and should be utilized in any well-rounded Search Engine Marketing campaign.
Vishal P. Rao is the editor of http://www.home-based-business-opportunities.com
- A website dedicated to opportunities, ideas and resources for starting a home based business. He is also the owner of the http://www.work-at-home-forum.com
- an online community of folks who work at home.
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