There are automated software programs that some web marketers use to try to generate links for their sites. Most work the same way. You do a search at a search engine for a certain term, and the software program will visit each site in the search results, combing the HTML looking for email addresses. Once found, these programs then send an email of your creation to every site it has found an address for, asking for a link.
You may have seen one of these programs in action. If you've ever received an email that started with something like:
I was just visiting your site and think we should exchange links.
Exchanging links is a great way to...
I bet you've received one just like it.
As tempting as these tools may seem, in the end you'll end up with a couple of links and a ton of spam. They are useless. With hundreds of novice web marketer using them indiscriminately, they have become a scourge. They were never really useful anyway. A case of a sound concept with poor implementation. Here's why.
The process of finding target sites for links must be 100% personalized. I can tell any time I get an automated link request email, and I delete it the moment I see it. Any link you get as a result of using one of these tools will be just as worthless as the tool itself. It's insulting to tell me you saw my site when you didn't. You sent a software program to my site, you never saw it. If you did you would have called me by name in the email. You would have known I don't even have a links page. You wouldn't have sent the SAME email request to all 7 addresses on my main page, all of which come to me.
My advice to anyone using one of these programs is to at least take the time to actually visit any site from which you are requesting a link. Find out who runs the site. Address them by name. Tell them your name. Show them you have seen their site. Explain why you think a link exchange makes sense, and if they have a links page already, let them know you have been to see it. Offer to talk by phone. This may seem like a lot to do, but it works.
The goal is to leave zero doubt in the reader's mind that you are a real person who has been to their site and taken the time to evaluate it. Give me 10 targeted evaluated links instead of 100 junk links any day.
When Warner Brothers launched a site about the movie Ben Hur, I went out and looked for Ben Hur links pages, and found several. I then sent a personal one-at-a-time email to the owner of each of those sites, introducing myself and explaining I was seeking links from them for the Warner Brothers Ben Hur web site. 100% of them gave me the link. If I had used a software program to do this I never would have even FOUND these sites.
Eric Ward founded the Web's first service for announcing and linking Web sites back in 1994, and he still offers those services today. He's the editor of LinkAlert! and founder, NetPOST, URLwire, and LinkPlan, and also writes columns for ClickZ and Ad Age magazine. More information on Eric: http://www.ericward.com/linkalert/ or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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