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Meet the author:
Jill Olkoski

Jill has a MA in Clinical Psychology, a BS in Computer Science, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

She currently owns Aldebaran Web Design in Edmonds (near Seattle WA) and enjoys educating her clients on topics related to small business website design.

In Jill's previous life, she spent 17 years in the engineering and quality organizations of a Fortune 100 tech company.


How Not To Build Backlinks To Your Website

September 1st, 2008

I often receive requests from people I don’t know asking me to exchange links. Exchange means that they’ll put a link on their website to me if I put a link on my website to them. Then we’d become one big happy link family. And the more links to your website, the better, right?

Well, it depends.

Let’s do a refresher on what makes links from other websites valuable. First, they should be coming from websites that have a good “pagerank” with Google. There are tools available to check out a website’s pagerank, like this one. Compare the website’s home page “page rank” to the page they’re saying they’ll put your link on. If the page rank is “n/a” or 0 (zero), look elsewhere for links.

The second thing to remember, is that the page they’re putting your link on should have content that’s relevant to your keywords. For example, if you’re a dog trainer, you should try to get on dog related websites – the links are evaluated in context with the content that surrounds them.

The third thing, is understand how unethical folks will promise you a link, but in reality attach a “nofollow” value attribute (HTML) that in essence, tells search engines not to follow the link, thereby rendering the link to you worthless. If the page has other links on it, view the source code and find the code that’s got the link, and look for a “nofollow” attribute. If you see it, it means this person is trading worthless links. (I’ve added them to the links below, so if you view the source code of the page, you can see what they look like)

So, with these three rules in mind, let’s look at an email I received recently asking me to exchange links. Here’s the email:

I was looking at your site and it’s very interesting and well structured. I also have a website, please take a look at it:
I was thinking if you would like to make a link exchange, this will be a benefit for both of us, don’t you think so?
Here are my site details:
Title: Safeco Field Hotels
Description: Stadium Hotel Network offers great rates on over 50 hotels near Safeco Field.
The reciprocal link of your site you can find at:
If you accept my link exchange invitation please add my link on your page, and I will put your link to my site as soon as possible.

Kind regards,

Now, let’s test Rule #1.

1. What’s the PR of the home page and the page the link is promised?

The home page has a PR of 3, which is fine. However the page that the link will be on has a PR of zero. Not good.

Let’s look at Rule #2.

2. Is the content relevant to my business? “Safeco Field Stadium Hotel Network”? Um, I’m a web designer, so no, this is completely irrelevant.

And finally, Rule #3.

3. Since there are no other links on this page, I can’t tell if there are “nofollow” tags

So in summary, this is not a good deal for me. In general, as a rule, I don’t add links to other people’s websites because they ask me to – rather I add them because I think they’ll be helpful to my clients and blog readers. Understand what I’m saying, that links should somehow add value to my web page, a source of additional information – not simply a link to someone else’s website that is not at all relevant, like the Safeco Field Stadium Hotel Network.

Now, why you ask, would someone send me this email. The answer is, because they’re engaging in a link building campaign, trying to get as many links to their website as possible. Apparently, they don’t care where the links come from, as I imagine not many folks who are looking for a hotel will also be interested in web design services. 🙂

If you’re going to send folks unsolicited emails asking for links, at least tell me WHY a link to your website will be of value to MY website visitors. Convince me. Don’t try to flatter me with a generic complement like “I was looking at your site and it’s very interesting and well structured”. Not good enough. Although I do love flattery, it won’t get you a link from me.

Another tip to getting links from others, is to post VALUE ADDED comments on other people’s blogs. If you join the conversation and have something that really is going to improve the quality of the conversation, go ahead and include a link to your website, or relevant article. I frequently do this, and since many blogs are monitored by humans, they let my links remain, because I’m careful not to look like a spammer, but rather someone who is participating on the conversation and ADDING VALUE.

Happy link building!

J. Olkoski
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.

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