Thursday, April 07, 2005

Your Freelance Website: When NOT to Trade Links

Barely a day goes by when I don't receive a link exchange request. This form of marketing can be effective if some guidelines are followed. FYI, I run two online businesses -- one product-oriented; the other service-oriented. I've found the following to be true for both types of businesses.

1) Paid Advertising: If the site requesting a link exchange doesn't engage in any form of paid advertising, I'd be hesitant to exchange links. Why?

Quite simply, you get what you pay for. If someone is serious about their business, then they spend money to maintain it. When I first published, I traded links with other sites freely. However, updating this page got to be a chore because many sites are simply abandoned after a while and a good many of the links would go dead -- which reflected poorly on my site.

If a business owner is spending money to advertise, then they are more likely to be putting in all the necessary effort to grow their business -- hence, sites are less likely to simply disappear.

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2) Length of Time in Business: One of the first pages I visit when I'm seriously considering purchasing from an online vendor is the "About Us" page. Here, you will usually find information about the company/owner and how long they have been in business.

If a site is just getting started, then they are trying to build their online presence. Hence, a link exchange is likely to benefit them rather than you. I encourage all freelancers to wait until a site has been online at least a year before linking. Most fly-by-nighters won't stick it out this long – especially in the editorial industry.

3) Look/Feel of Site: Many sites are simply unprofessional in appearance. If there are misspellings, out-of-date information, dead links, etc., I'd pass on exchanging links. Why?

My mother used to say the company you keep is a direct reflection of who you are. That line of thinking applies here. The sites you exchange links with form an impression in your clients' minds -- consciously or unconsciously. Make it a good one by associating with professional, well-presented businesses.

An obvious measure not discussed here is to make sure you trade links with complementary, not directly competing, businesses.

Happy linking!****************************************************************************
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