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August 29, 2007

3 Way Link Exchange – A deal or a dud?

After word got out that dear old Google is either ignoring or giving fewer points in that mystical concoction called Google’s algorithm, website owners like you are probably receiving a substantial number of 3 way link exchange offers. X offers to add a link to Y’s site in exchange for a link to X’s site in your link directory, usually with a short sales pitch proclaiming this 3 way link exchange to be the perfect method to get those all important one way links Google rates so highly. On the surface, it seems like a wonderful deal. You provide X with a link on your website, and you get a link on Y’s website in exchange-so you and dear old X both get a one way link and a couple of points added to your Google algorithm right?.

Trouble is, it seldom works that way. A great many of these 3 way link offers we receive are actually not worth the time and effort it takes to set X’s link up in our directory. In fact, a large number of webmasters create a simple web design and host it on a free hosting provider to use as a “catch-all” for link exchanges. Here are three steps you can use to help you determine whether your 3 way link offer is a deal or a dud.

Step 1. Before you accept their offer, check out Y’s site. Are all the links listed on the link page related to your site contents? If the answer is no, then I suggest you politely decline the offer. If the answer is yes proceed with step two.

Step 2. Right click on the page and select view source. Is there a meta description and meta keywords included in the head of the page. Are the description and keywords appropriate for the contents of the page?

While many SEO experts suggest that most search engines no longer use meta tags, it’s been my experience that a few search engines will not even accept a submission of your site for indexing without meta tags. Keep in mind, that your SEO efforts should take the requirements of all major SE’s into account. While we all long for that magic top ten on Google for our keywords, getting that top ten spot on other search engines will substantially increase your website traffic. Whether Google places any relevance on meta tags in the ranking algorithms is anyone’s guess, however, after personally conducting a test using the same web page design with and without meta tags in the head, I can assure you Google definitely relies on meta tags for placement of Adsense advertisements. In my opinion, the lack of meta tags on a link page (especially if that page contains Ads by Google, is a sure sign that the webmaster is either unaware of the importance of using those nifty little tags, or could care less whether that page is indexed by the search engines or not.

There are always exceptions to every rule however, so if the description and meta tags are missing, I suggest you follow step 3 before you make a decision.

Step 3. If you haven’t already done so, install Google’s toolbar (a link to the download is available on Google’s site). One of the great perks of Google’s toolbar is that it provides the PR of the page you are viewing. Whenever possible, try to place your links on pages with a minimum PR of 2/10. Although I have accepted offers for a link on pages with a lower ranking if it passed the tests in Step 1 and Step 2, this is a good rule of thumb. Most SEO experts agree that the higher the PR, which is an indicator of the importance Google places upon upon the page, the more value for your link.

Keep in mind, if X places your link on a page filled with unrelated links to other websites, and the description and keyword meta tags are either missing or not related to your site’s content, and Google gives the page a ranking of 0/10, that’s precisely what your link on that page is going to be worth in Google’s algorithm–Zero.

Author:  Loretta Wright is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Topcat Hosting, where she takes full advantage of the low cost hosting plans for the eight websites she personally owns.

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