Why I Don't Participate in Link Exchanges
This explains what link exchanges are and why I don't participate.
I have added this page for two reasons.
First, it helps people exploring my Links section to understand my position.
Second, I refer writers suggesting link exchanges back to this page.
What is a link exchange?
Link Exchanges are programs in which one site offers to link to another site in return for a reciprocal link.
The key component of a link exchange is the requirement for a reciprocal link.
Why don't I participate in link exchanges?
I believe that if a site truly wishes to benefit its own visitors, then it should link to another site, if, and only if, that link would benefit its visitors.
So, if I discover another site, and if I believe that site would benefit my visitors, I link to that site.
And, if another site discovers my site and believes it would benefit its visitors, then (if it cares about its visitors) it should link to me.
Now think about it.
If we both believe that links are beneficial we should both link. No link exchange is needed; we should just both link because it is the right thing to do!
Consider the other possibilities. Suppose that I think a link to the other site would benefit my visitors. And also suppose that the other site doesn't think that linking to me would help its visitors.
The right thing, in this case, is for me to link to the other site and for the other site not to link to me. If the other site links to me, it is not helping and may even be harming, its own visitors. And, if I tell the other site that I won't link to them unless they link to me, then I am harming my visitors. Either way, a link exchange is bad for our visitors.
Or, consider that the link won't really help either their visitors or my visitors. Why link? To link is just to harm both sets of visitors. Again, a link exchange would be bad.
What is the harm?
People defend link exchanges by saying that you shouldn't participate in linking to the other site if you oppose it or if it goes against your ethics. But if you find the other site is "ok", then why not participate . . . no harm is done.
But if you find the other site "ok", shouldn't you link even without the exchange? And if it isn't good enough to link without the exchange, what makes it good enough to link with the exchange?
But what about search engines?
More than one webmaster has written me suggesting that I just don't understand. You see, Google uses "link popularity" to help rank sites. You need to gets these links to raise your ranking in the search engines.
But I do understand.
I don't do things on my site for the benefit of my search engine ranking. I do things on my site for the benefit of my readers.
It is about integrity
It is critical to remember who are the customers of search engines. Webmasters and websites are not the customers. The surfers who are searching are the customers. The purpose of a search engine is to give the surfer the pages that are "best" given that surfer's search.
To me, link exchanges are a way of lying to the search engines, of deliberately and deceptively attempting to manipulate the rankings and of completely missing the point of what search engines are about. I link on my pages for the benefit of my readers. If it helps someone else's ranking, then cool. But that is a side effect, not the primary motivation.
If I find out that a site has only linked to another site because that other site would link back and hence both are able to manipulate their rankings, why should I trust anything the site has to say? Why should I trust that such links are true and honest representations of the owners opinion?
On my site you can trust each and every link. Why? Because there is no secondary motivation. Because my motivation is to serve you, my visitor. Period. End of story.
each link on my site is an expression of my personal honor that the link has value to the visitor. It is my honor at stake. My personal honor.
If I put a link on my site because it improves my ranking, I lessen my integrity. If I refuse to put a link on my site that would help my visitors because the other person will not link, I lessen my integrity.
Do not ask me to link to you because it will help your ranking. I don't care diddly poo about your ranking. Ask me to link to you because I will be able to say, with all my honor and integrity, to my visitors, that they will benefit from the link.
It is not that I do not understand. Rather it is that I completely understand and completely reject that approach as deceptive and deceitful.
The right way to get people to link to you is to offer content that is useful to their visitors. They will gladly link to you then. And, if you offer value and get honest links, then when someone searches, the engine will deliver your page because it truly is the best page for the surfer.
Yes, link exchanges are about manipulating search engines. And that is precisely why I don't do them.
In the best possible case, a link exchange would cause two sites to link to each other that would have linked anyway.
In all other cases, a link exchange causes sites to link to each other that would not have linked except for the exchange: these links are not truly for the benefit of a site's visitors.
So, best case, link exchanges can't really help. And they can hurt.
How do you feel?
Suppose you found a site with this notice:
How would you feel about the quality of that site? How would you feel about the ethics of that site? How would you feel about the links on that site?
How do you feel?
Now suppose you found a site with this notice:
How would you feel about the quality of that site? How would you feel about the ethics of that site?
This is my policy.
I do not participate in link exchanges.
What Others Say
Video Streaming Service Providers: This site's About Us page links to this page on my site in it's explanation of why it is not using link exchanges to try to manipulate search engines. Thank you, guys. I appreciate the thought (and the link). ««»»
Why LinkNOT?: This page's author, P. C. Spica, wrote me to say: "I just found your article against link exchanges on your web site, and very much enjoyed reading it. I recently posted an article on the same topic on my personal web site, so I have now added a link to your article. . . . Obviously, I am not asking you to link back :)" --- Well, I'm linking back anyway, for all the right reasons. The article includes a nice discussion of the impact of Google's algorithm on linking practices. ««»»
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