Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What's In Your Link Wallet?

Ahhhh, paid links. This time last year they were all the rage and quite the link darlings. Fast forward and we find them being shunned in favor of things like “link bait”, tagging and article writing. What happened? Why did they jump off our link radar?

The zeal to buy links probably died somewhere between being told by a Google rep they were "bad" and paying exorbitant link fees. Not only did we hear the warnings not to buy them, we read about their evilness on a blog… It was enough scary apathy to make us look for the next big “link thing” and follow the herd to the current buzz.

Which is fine really, baiting, tagging and writing are all good tactics and if done with some imagination, will net links. But!! While everyone is away playing with the new toys, let’s go out and buy some links.

Where To Go.

Before we go on, two things. First, I don't want to get into the "link buying is link manipulation which is against the code of the engines" discussion. No thanks. To me this is nothing more than an advertising tactic that supports an ongoing SEO and marketing strategy which by all "normal" accounts - is acceptable.

Second, it goes without saying that any link you pay for should conform to your standards. If that means a clean HTML link, fine. If you want to add tracking code and don’t care about the link pop it passes – fine. Just be clear about your expectations when you dialogue with the site owner.

If your website compliments a bricks and mortar store, your first stop should be the local Chamber or Retail Association. The second should be any local business with a website your customers would potentially visit. Why? Local search is hot right now and the engines are actively looking for content to fill their maps and local sections. The commonality factor is the location so be sure to use your city and state in the anchor.

It makes sense to me that sites hosting Adsense will be open-minded about selling link space. Look for sites within your community with Adsense and evaluate their potential as a link partner.

However….don’t agree to buy space on a page that hosts the words “sponsored links” or wants to add you to the very bottom of the page along with a number of other links. Both of these issues will probably get your link ignored (by the engines) and can be a waste of money.

Want to throw away more money? Then pay for links on sites that don’t host your demographic. Look for sites your customer base frequents and pay for highly visible links there.

One last tactic… buying links in niche and article directories is a great and economical way to get started. Be sure you’re on pages that compliment your products, you're using targeted anchors and those pages are passing some meter of green. Leave all your links up for at least a year and then re-evaluate. If you can’t find a return to your wallet, axe the link.

No comments: