Getting links is one of the most misunderstood aspects of building site traffic. Many people take the approach that link exchange systems are the key to everything, put all their eggs in that one basket, and then they wonder what went wrong when they can barely secure several positive responses. That does not mean link exchanges are a waste of time, they can and do work for some – the key is knowing how to make them work.
One of the most important aspects of pulling off a successful link exchange is your request. Actually, it is the only important thing. You do not want to look like you are requesting a link exchange from everyone – which is what a form letter looks like. Take the time to get the actual name of the webmaster/webmistress you are addressing. A letter starting with “Dear sir/Maam” or “Dear Webmaster” is going to the spam folder 9 times out of 10 probably.
Don’t make your letter all about your site. Make sure you compliment the site you are requesting a link exchange with. Detail how a link exchange will be beneficial to both of you. Perhaps point out that you cater to a niche crowd that would likely enjoy the offerings of the site you are requesting an exchange with. Also create an aura of exclusivity by letting them know you are only offering to exchange links with a small handful of sites – this also helps take away the spammy nature of most requests.
Create some goodwill in advance. This can be as simple as subscribing to their RSS feed, requesting permission to quote something on their site, or even making a small purchase from their site – just think of it as a business expense. When you do something nice for someone it makes it hard for them to not want to return the favor.
Finally, keep it simple to reciprocate. Make sure you include copy/paste HTML code with your link information so that it is as easy on them as possible. Keep in mind that ideally you would like to keep up a good relationship with each webmaster because you may need a favor from them again in the future. It is not as easy spamming for links but the long term returns are far better.
According to Business Data Solutions, reciprocal links are horridly misunderstood by today’s webmasters: “Even many so-called “web marketing gurus” really do not understand the dynamics of linking. Everyone knows that it is important to search engines, but very little has been written about the real benefits of website promotion through reciprocal linking. Studies have shown the true value of linking, and the advantages of building a substantial link exchange network. For sites that serve a market of enthusiasts, like sports or hobbies, or those that have a large number of resource or directory sites, like careers, then linking should be the foundation of the site’s traffic. For businesses, it is a way of driving website traffic that you would not otherwise have received.”