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Making the Most of Linkbacks

By Marc McDonald
Posted Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Virtually all Webmasters these days are aware of the fact that exchanging linkbacks with other sites is an excellent method for building traffic.

In fact, if you go about it the right way, you can build a sizable audience for your Web site (even if you don't have much luck in achieving good positioning in the search engines). I've had a good amount of success in building traffic to my sites over the years, and linkbacks have been a key component of that success.

There's a number of tips and tricks I've learned over the years about the best way to benefit from linkbacks with other sites. These include:

1. Make it as easy as possible for other Web site owners to link you. One way I've tried to achieve this over the years is by creating a page that has ready-to-use "cut and paste" HTML linkback code that Webmasters can grab and add to their pages, if they want to link one of my sites. In fact, I have no problems at all with linkback partners who wish to directly link to a button or banner image that resides on my server.

The way I see it, if someone is willing to link a site of mine, then I'm certainly willing to pay for the necessary bandwidth. If you require people to actually grab a button or banner from your site and upload it to their site in order to link to you, then you're only adding another step. This may not seem significant. But I've found it can be for many site owners, particularly newbies. The fact is, most successful Web site owners tend to busy and pressed for time. Anything you can do to save them an extra step is significant and, over the long run, will result in more linkbacks.

Another advantage of offering ready-to-use "cut and paste" HTML linkback coding is that you may find that a lot of Webmasters will link your site, simply because they like what you're offering. If you run a useful, worthwhile site, you'll find that a lot of other site owners will link you and not even ask for anything in return.

2. Forget full-sized banners. It's hardly news that the banner ad market is pretty dead these days. That goes for banner linkbacks, as well. (Although some people refer to small buttons or icons as "banners," the term properly refers to images that are usually around 468-by-60 pixels in size). The fact is, these days, banners get very few clicks, for the most part. In fact, I've found that a well-worded text link can actually draw more clicks than a full-sized banner these days. And, what's more, a text link doesn't impact a site's all-important load time, unlike a full-sized banner. Besides text links, I find that 88X31 pixel buttons also perform well in linkback deals, particularly if you have an eye-catching design. Animated buttons tend to get more clicks than static buttons. But nevertheless, I always offer potential linkback partners a choice of several designs, both static and animated. If you offer linkback partners a choice of designs, you'll increase the odds that they'll be willing to display your button.

3. Piggyback on other sites' search engine success. Spend some time at the major search engines. Type in the most likely keywords that you think people would use to locate your site. Then take a look at the sites at the top of the search results. It's possible that your site will never achieve top search engine placement for a given set of ideal keywords. But don't fret: although you may not have direct control over the search engines, you can benefit from the sites that are well-placed. I've had a good deal of luck over the years, working out linkbacks with sites with excellent search engine placement on desirable keyword(s). The fact is, if you can't be the top site in a given search, you can have the next best thing: to be linked prominently on that particular site.

4. Closely monitor your site's referral statistics. When you work out various linkback deals with other sites, it's important to keep tabs on how many clicks these sites are sending you. Ideally, both sites in a link trade will send each other an equal number of clicks. Of course, it rarely works out that way. But the fact is, you should keep tabs on linkback traffic and make sure that your link partner is sending you a fair number of clicks.

5. Look for sites to linkback with who likely draw an audience that would be interested in what you offer, as well. When you consider doing a link trade, you shouldn't simply focus on the traffic your link partner is drawing. What is more important is how likely that site's audience is going to be interested in what you offer, as well.
One thing I do is to always spend some time browsing around a potential linkback partner's site. The question I always ask myself is: "Would a typical visitor to this site likely be interested in what my site has to offer, as well?"
It pays to spend some time, exploring any sites that you work out linkback deals with. Even if a linkback partner is steering you loads of traffic, your all-important credibility will suffer if you're sending your visitors to a linkback partner who has content that's inappropriate for your audience.

6. Pick linkback partners with potential. I think this method is often overlooked by Webmasters who do link trades. To me, a suitable link partner is someone who runs a useful, credible site that I know my visitors will enjoy and benefit from. But the ideal link partner I look for is someone who runs an outstanding site that hasn't yet found an audience, for whatever reason. Perhaps the site is too new to have built an audience. Or maybe the site owner excels at content, but has poor promotion skills. Sites that fall into this category make for ideal link partners. If you're the first site to send significant traffic to them, it's something that they'll always remember (and always be grateful for). What's more, if they have a worthwhile site, it's usually only a matter of time before they do build a sizable audience, which, of course, will benefit you over the long run.

7. Regard your linkback partners as more than just a link. The most valuable asset you can build as a Web site owner is your partnerships and relationships with other site owners. Over the years, I've built up a sizable network of Webmaster friends and partners who've played a key role in the success of my sites. I began my relationship with most of these folks via a simple link trade deal.
In many cases, what started out as simple link trades have evolved into valuable business and Web partnerships. As a result, I've cultivated a network of valuable, trustworthy contacts, who I can depend on and share useful advice with.

If you follow these steps, you'll be able to make the most of linkbacks in building your site. Using linkbacks effectively is the single most potent technique for building an audience for your site.

About the Author
Marc McDonald is a former journalist and editor with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the creator of as well as several other popular Web sites that have received extensive media exposure from CNN's "Headline News," the BBC, Fox News, ZDTV, CBS Radio, the Washington Post, and many more. Visit the at: ( and AAAPostcards at: (


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