If you’re one of the fortunate few sites in your category to sit atop the search engine rankings for the best keywords and phrases, congratulations! Now the bad news: your top ranking won’t last forever. Everyone out there can pull the same tricks you did to get there, and sooner or later someone will beat you at that game. Here’s the good news: you don’t need search engines to get a lot of traffic. The best source of new traffic to your web site, in fact, is links from other web sites.
There are four kinds of links that you can have from other web sites:
Links from search engines, directories, and indexes that use their own criteria in evaluating whether (and where) to list your site, but ask for nothing in return. We discuss these in detail in our Search Engines section.
Those that you put there, such as free-for-all (FFA) link pages, web directories that list everything, etc. These types of links are sometimes great, and sometimes completely useless. With enough of them, there’s a chance that someone will click on one from time to time.
Links that someone on their site without asking anything in return. These are great, and you should make it as easy as possible for others to link to your web site. If your site provides a valuable resource or two, you can expect to see this happen quite a bit.
Reciprocal links, where you and the operator of another site agree to provide links to each other’s sites. This may be an exchange of banners, or simple text links.
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Sometimes, quality is more important than quantity. When you’re trying to drive up your site’s “link popularity” with the search engines, though, quantity is often much more important than quality. While a good reciprocal linking campaign will eventually provide a strong payoff, there is a way to put thousands of links to your site out onto the net, at least for a short time.
Free-for-all (FFA) sites allow anyone to post a link to any site, for free. The price you pay is receiving an email back from most of the FFA sites you submit to. In order to avoid getting buried under this junk mail, we strongly recommend that you set up a separate email address to receive them.
There are two ways to handle FFA submissions. The easiest way is to just use software to handle the process. We recommend FFA Blaster – it’s easy to set up, and has a very large database of FFA sites. In fact, this program can get your site onto over 26,000 FFA link pages at once.
If software doesn’t fit your budget, you have a couple of free options. First, you can use a free FFA submission site like this one. Second, you can download Get Found for free – it only submits to a couple thousand sites, but it’s a lot faster than using a web site.
If you’re going to bother with FFA pages at all, and you definitely should during the initial stages of your site’s launch, get the FFA Blaster if you can afford it. You may even get a few odd click-throughs from people visiting the FFA pages you’ve submitted to. This website promotion technique is simply too easy, and too cheap, to ignore.
One interesting option does exist involving web rings. If you have a group of other sites that you’re trading links with, they may be interested in creating a private web ring between your site and theirs. This works best if the sites have similar traffic levels, and they all cover the same subject.
Sites on different subjects, or sites that cover different angles, are better combined into a “network” with reciprocal links. For example, 5 sites about dog grooming might make a decent web ring, but you can’t put a veterinarian, a pet supplies dealer, and a dog grooming site together that way.
We recommend avoiding web rings, unless your site fits one of the categories that can benefit, and you find one that minimizes the disadvantages that we’ve mentioned here. If web rings are popular in your site’s subject area, you’re probably better off joining the web ring that has the highest average quality among its member sites. These are likely to receive more traffic, and therefore deliver more traffic to you. The more sites there are on the ring, the longer it takes a web surfer to reach yours, but higher traffic makes up for this.
One of the biggest disadvantages to joining a web ring is that it represents a link to other sites, right on your home page. Unless all of your traffic comes from the web ring, you’re sending visitors away right after they hit your site. What’s worse, you don’t have any control over the quality of the sites that are linked from yours on the web ring.
If the other sites on the web ring are poor in quality, very few web surfers will visit many sites before concluding that all of the sites on the ring are of poor quality. Since anyone can join, it’s likely that any web ring will have its share of poor sites.
Even worse, in our view, is the web ring code itself. Web rings usually demand a lot of screen space on your web page, for a gigantic web ring logo and graphical links. To get an idea of how much space, just visit webring.org and try one of the web rings out yourself. Awful, isn’t it? If you decide to join a web ring, try to find one that uses or allows text-only links, so that you can put them at the bottom of the page, out of sight.
Web rings are collections of web sites organized around a similar theme. Each site agrees to incorporate the web ring’s code into their site. This code typically provides links to allow your visitors to go to the next site in the web ring, the previous site, to a random site, and to the web ring’s central site. The central site lists all of the sites on the web ring.
There are literally thousands upon thousands of such web rings. Because there are dozens of sites which organize web rings, there may be dozens of web rings for any given subject. Before considering whether you should join a web ring, you need to find as many of them as possible for the subject you’re interested in. If you’re really looking to dig deep into the available web rings, a search on Yahoo for “web rings” will make your head spin. The leading web ring site appears to be www.webring.org, with several other contenders nipping at their heels.
Web rings used to be much more popular than they are today. Since there are so many, the value of joining a web ring is seriously diluted. However, if your site is targeted to the right type of groups, a web ring may be an essential component of your marketing strategy. If you’re trying to reach hobbyists, collectors, or fans of a particular musical group or genre, web rings will be more attractive to you than they would be if you’re trying to sell dog food. The trick, of course, is to find and join the most popular web ring. This is not necessarily the web ring with the most sites ? what you really want is the web ring that will deliver the most traffic to your site.