Saturday, January 03, 2009
Don't Act Ugly When You Want An Online Link - That Doesn't Work
I'll always remember the first foodie to hit me up for a link exchange. She sent an email telling me that she had linked one of my recipes. "You don't have to link me this time, but I expect return links in the future," noted my fellow food writer.
I was not impressed. I did not ask for a link and never have. If my work helps readers at another site, it's great to be linked. If I'm linked simply with the idea that I'll link back, then I'd rather not be linked. I take pride in my work, and a straight link exchange feels like cheating and that I don't think my work is good enough to stand alone.
Bad Link Requests
Anyone who has been writing online very long has probably had some really wacky link exchange requests. I must say, "Why would I link to a site on martial arts on a barbecue site?" Does the site owner think my readers are going to kung fu cut their chops or something?
Michael Bluejay has a great article called Why Your Link Exchange Request Failed. It is definately worth reading, and it may explain why many site owners are not excited about link requests.
Yes! I Do Link
My blog and web sites include a lot of links. It's rare that I even notify the owners. I just link good stuff that I know my barbecue readers would enjoy.
In some cases, I do contact site owners for extra information. But, I'm linking because I think the other person has good content and not because I want or expect anything in return.
An example here would be that I got in touch with Leslie Haywood about her Grill Charms. In addition to noting those on my blog, I spoke with her about a feature article for my web site Yes You Can Grill. Leslie is now one of my Barbecue People featured on my site.
Content Based Links are Much More Valuable
My style is to include links on my content pages where they will be much more effective. Unfortunately, some web site owners or bloggers don't seem to understand this concept.
One food writer got really huffy when I offered to link one of her pages in an article rather than list it as one of those "see also" links that are popular (but get very few clicks). She didn't bother to send over a solid dessert link to round out a barbecue meal.
Oh well. I linked one of my own desserts. I'm still working on desserts (obviously), but I'm not looking through someone's collection after being asked for an exchange (and getting blown off). She wanted the favor. I didn't. And, I offered a better deal than she requested. She just didn't know it.
Michael sums this up with an example and this explanation:
"Notice something else: I didn't put his link on a links page, I put it on a content page. That was the most logical place for it. And the link is 100 times more valuable for him on the content page rather than a links page. And that works out a lot better for him, both for the number of clicks he'll get and for transferring Google PR power, which is what most link requesters are after in the first place."
Message Board Requests
I write for a couple of larger sites (covering multiple topic areas), and I'm always amazed when someone starts a thread about trading links. There will be return posts saying, "I added you." Then it's, "Thanks. I added you back."
Seriously, how much good does a link to knitting do for someone who writes on mountain biking and vice versa? There's not much overlap on those topics. Both sites end up with those long link lists that are virtually worthless to readers when the trades don't make any sense.
Bad Google Juice
Google does factor in links, and they should. That can be a good measure of quality content when the links are related and based on providing good supplemental content.
I'm more than glad to link Craig "Meathead" Goldwyn and his Amazing Ribs web site. He knows his smokers, and I know readers interested in outdoor cooking will benefit by dropping by his barbecue site.
I'm not linking to sites on fashion and make-up on a barebecue blog, because that just doesn't make any sense.
Google, of course, is aware that a lot of link exchanges are made online. In fact, there are sites that will just randomly link your site all over the web (not a good idea). As the system continues to get more sophisticated, I'd guess that random link trades will heavily impact on page rank and incoming ads.
Getting Off the Grumpy Bus
Yes. I do understand. Trust me I do.
Most food writers do it, because they love to cook and love to share recipes. (If not, then someone needs to look for another topic area.) Food and cooking does not pay well - at all. Just stating a fact.
When you work hard and put your heart into a blog or space, it's very discouraging when no one visits and no one comments. Well, they can't comment if they don't visit. Duh. You get the picture, and if you're new at this, you've probably found that it's really hard to get a foodie blog or cooking site off the ground and getting traffic (other than your Mom).
Some Tips for Foodie Writers and Cooking Bloggers
Focus on putting up quality information. Just ignore stats and such in the beginning and put your energy into making a space you'd personally want to visit.
Check out other foodies and interact. This is different from shooting out loads of "link me - link me" emails. Just hang out now and then and get to know others who share your passion for cooking and for writing about food.
As people get to know you and check out your site, you'll start to get those coveted links. I know that I link when I'm writing something and someone comes to mind who writes in the area I'm covering. It might be a while. But, that perfect moment will happen, and I'll hit someone with a link that I know my readers will like. Often, it's someone I know from online, but it can also be a random writer who is just simply doing great work.