The dream of any webmaster is to get their site up to the top of the list of search results when people look for products or services that are available on the site. There are lots of ways of trying to do this, with correct keyword density being an integral part of search engine optimisation.
One proven way of increasing the chances of success for your site are link exchanges, where similar websites gain links to each other. Google and other major search engines will determine a site's importance partly by the number of links that point to it. Any site that has a lot of incoming links will be considered important and popular while those with few or no links are deemed to be unimportant and so are rated lower as a result.
Do not underestimate the value of link popularity. If you've one of the 90% of websites with fewer than 10 links pointing to it, you're likely to be fighting a losing battle with the other 10% that have many more. The importance of undertaking the construction of a network of links can't be overstated. But you need to go about it in the correct way, otherwise you'll make a lot of unnecessary work for yourself and won't achieve what you want.
Link exchanging can be a tedious business if you do it manually. You need to identify suitable sites, send an email to each webmaster requesting to exchange links and then, if accepted, exchange URLs so that they can be inserted to a link page at each site. Since you're trying to build up several links to make your site appear popular, this form of online link exchange is likely to try your patience. Contacting unknown sites in this way can, of course, be a risky practice and can result in you receiving lots of extra spam. However, making contact by phone is hardly an alternative.
If you want to speed up the process, you need the right tool to do it. There are several link exchange directories that promise to help but be careful which you choose. Some claim to provide an instant link exchange but simply supply programs that require you to submit linkexchange requests and reply to them individually, which isn't much of an improvement over totally manual methods.
What you really need is a link exchange directory that will truly automate the process. Many of these have several sites that are available for link exchange and provide filtering so that you can prevent link exchange with sites that are unsuitable. Some directories require you to submit a link exchange form that provides a URL, description and category for your site, enabling a proper match to be obtained. But remember, any automated linking process is going to have it's weaknesses (such as you link being placed on a page with hundreds of other links, negating any value), conmen (such as those requesting your email address just so they can spam you) and pitfalls (such as the automated scripts being recognised by search engines and getting your site penalised in the rankings).
There are some SEO services that include domain name registration, web design and web hosting, so you can set everything up on your computer from a single source and they say they'll do all the promotional work too. We've tried a few and none have lived up to their reputation. If you have used such a service and have had success please get in touch as we would like to be able to post such a service on this page to help out real optimization novices.
Choosing suitable sites is important because some link methods have simply aimed for multiple links of any kind to try to improve popularity; in many cases, it's a case of quantity rather than quality. A consequence of this is that most major search engines now insist on links being relevant rather than simply being there in quantity in order to achieve high ratings. Before making any contact, check if the business of the company has any relevance to yours. You can do this by matching the site's keywords; if you're a mortgage provider, a site that contains 'real estate', 'realtor' or, at a pinch, 'lawyer', might be a reasonable fit. However, if you're pushing automotive sales, teaming up with Christian or medical sites won't do you any favours and certainly won't impress the search engines.
There are may excellent directory which, of course, cost you money in the form of an annual subscription. However, if it saves you time and gets you up the listings, think of it as a good investment. Some do offer a genuinely free link exchange directory service. They make their money through adverts or they ask you to provide a reciprocal link exchange, improving the visibility of their site so they can increase income from their paid-for services and text ads.
As well as relevant links, the right kinds can be useful. Reciprocal link exchanges result in two-way links between websites, driving traffic either way. A development of this is a 3 way link exchange, which creates links that may appear more natural to search engines due to the multiple connections.
Using a reciprocal link exchange directory can bring you extra visitors. Best of all, if you link to relevant sites, you will get highly targeted visitors because they've already been looking at a similar offering before coming here. An obvious disadvantage is that traffic may be attracted from your site to a linked one if it appears to offer something the visitor needs. If you're running a generalised shopping site and the links are to more specialised sites offering fashion, jewelry or sports clothing, then your visitor will go there if that's what they want. So it's up to you to make your site attractive to visitors and to get the right links.
If you're unsure about the subject and don't know how to get started, a link exchange forum can give some useful tips and provide a bit of an education into the whole process. Additionally, the main purpose of link exchange forums is that members will advertise sites where they are keen to get links so you can choose ones that appear suitable. This does bring you back to the manual process but at least you're identifying willing partners who are eager to have a link exchanged.
We have sites listed in our directory that are definitely interested in traffic link exchanges. Whether they are also interested in other types of link exchange (where links affect ranking) we don't know, but I'm sure they won't mind you asking politely: