As our blogs have become more popular, I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the number of people looking to take advantage of them by using them to promote their own sites. So there’s been an increase in the number of spam comments left just so the author can leave a link back to their own site, an increase in the number of spam trackbacks, left for the same reason, and an increase in the number of people asking me for links – reciprocal or otherwise.

The requests for links tend to fall into two categories:

1. People looking for a reciprocal link
2. People simply asking me to link to their site, with no offer of a linkback or any other inducement to comply

The reciprocal link requests, of course, are part and parcel of blogging and can, if used correctly, be a good way to make connections with other bloggers and bring traffic to your own site. The problem I have with reciprocal linking at the moment, is that it’s so often not done correctly. I’m talking here about the owners of sites about motorbikes, say, who ask to swap links with my fashion blog.

Now, in this case, a reciprocal link between the two sites would be of no real benefit to either of us. People come to The Fashion Police because they’re interested in fashion. They’re unlikely, therefore, to click on a link to a site about motorbikes – or, if they do, it’ll be sheer coincidence that a person interested in fashion and motorbikes happened upon the site. Similarly, people visiting a blog about motorbikes, probably won’t click on a link to The Fashion Police, so the arrangement benefits no one.

All of this, of course, is just plain old common sense. Doesn’t stop people sending me requests to exchange links with unrelated sites, though, so if you’re thinking about approaching a blogger with a link exchange request, please, before you fire off that email:

1. Make sure that there’s some degree of overlap between your site and the site you want to link to, so there’s a mutual benefit in exchanging links.
2.Check that the blog you’re approaching actually accepts link exchanges in the first place.

I mention this second point, because not all sites are open to link exhange requests. At The Fashion Police, for instance,for instance, we no longer have a blogroll.  Oh we used to have one: in the early days of the site we linked to anyone and everyone who asked – assuming that their sites were relevant to ours, of course. As the blog grew in popularity, however, it became more and more difficult to keep up with the requests for link exchanges. If we were still exchanging links with everyone who asked, we’d need an extra few pages to keep up with all the links, so, rather than picking and choosing which to include, we decided to drop the blogroll completely.

Every day, though, we get requests from people who’d like to be “added to the blogroll”. Interestingly, a lot of these people claim to be big fans of the site, which they’re clearly not, or they would have noticed that it doesn’t have a blogroll which they could be added to. Again: if you’re going to ask to exchange links with another site, spend just a few minutes researching that site, so that you can establish whether it’s approprite or not to contact the owner about a link exchange. Ask yourself:

  1. Is this blog related to my blog in some way?
  2. Does it accept reciprocal links?
    Be aware here that most of the more successful, commercial blogs which carry paid advertising will not be open to link requests. As harsh as it may seem, they will not give away for free something that they can charge for.
  3. What do I have to offer this blog owner?
    As a blog becomes more successful, its owner is forced to become more discriminating about what type of links they place on their sites. The owner of a hugely successful blog, which has thousands of readers every day, for instance, isn’t going to link to you just because you asked: there has to be something in it for them, too. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask:it just means that you should consider what the other blog owner has to gain from linking to you, not just what you have to gain from the exchange.

Which brings me to the second breed of link requesters I mentioned back at the start of this post: the people who ask for a link and don’t offer anything in return.

These requests always leaving me scratching my head: they’re the blogging equivalent of just walking up to someone in the street and asking them to do you some kind of favour – at best, it’s a little surprising, at worst, it’s downright rude. Why should you do a favour for someone you’ve never met, and who is offering you nothing in return? Why should I give valuable real-estate on my blog to someone I have no relationship with, who isn’t even offering to do the same for me?

Now, you may think this sounds mean and uncharitable, and you’re right. It is. It’s nice to be nice, after all, and it’s nice to help people if you can – and the fact that people are willing to help each other is one of the great things about the blogosphere. The problem, then, is not the request itself so much as the approach. We do give free links to other blogs and websites, for instance: we do it every day. What we don’t do, however, is just link randomnly to ever single person who asks – and trust me, there are a lot of people who ask.

Some people try flattery. “I absolutely love your blog,” they’ll say. “Could you please link to mine?” Other’s are more direct: “I have a blog about xxxxx. Please link to me,” they’ll write, sounding almost like they’re making a demand rather than a request.

This type of approach doesn’t work on me, and I’d be surprised if it works on anyone else. Again, before asking a blogger to link to you, try to think about what they’ll get out of the relationship, and offer them something of mutual benefit rather than just firing off an email demanding that they link to your site. You’ll be much more likely to get a favourable response.


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