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Stinking Linking Thinking

By Gary McHugh

How many times have you heard “A link has to have this PR or that PR to be of value” or “link only to relevant sites” and a myriad of other “Expert” advice on the value of links and reciprocal links?
As a webmaster myself I grew increasingly weary of hearing how “important” my links were in the eyes of a search engine. Now this may sound brave or stupid of me but believe me when I say it is neither. I could not give a FLYING HOOT how important Google, Yahoo, MSN or the “Gurus” think my sites are and I don’t care what my PR is.

Am I completely nuts? Not at all, you see my sites have plenty of traffïc without me needing to worry about search engines. Sure I can always use more, who can’t? But I am making a very good living and without a big advertising budget or spending hours and hours on SEO.

Why do I say that I don’t care how important search engines think my sites are? Because in 6 years as a webmaster and webhost, Google, Yahoo or MSN have Nevër signed up for any of my mailing lists, they have Nevër bought a product from me and they have Nevër joined as a member of any of my sites.

The opinion that matters to me is the opinion of my visitors. It is PEOPLE who buy my products and services and not search engines. If they like my site they may even recommend it to their friends. That is what I care about!

It is nothing more than logical common sense therefore that, if I want PEOPLE to visit my site, I need to get links to my sites in front of REAL PEOPLE! Even Google says “Build your site for visitors not search engines”

As webmasters, we all need to stop the stinking linking thinking and focus on what the REAL value of a link is. This is not rocket science, links are valuable if they bring visitors period! One variable, one consideration, it’s really simple.

In the last few years with all the SEO hype and advice, link directories have disappeared to the bottom of pages, featured only with tiny text links. Or worse, they have been renamed “resources” or “partners” in the hope they will not be interesting to surfers.

What’s the point in that? Come on, think logically. Again, is Google bot going to sign up? NO! Is Google bot going to buy? NO! So what is the point in going to the time and effort of putting your link on another site if only a bot can find it?

Oh that’s right! It will improve your search engine rankings and bring you thousands of visitors. WILL IT? Are you at the top of all the major search engines for several popular keywords and getting thousands of visitors a day from them? If you are, congratulations! I hope you are still there when the search engines change their algorithms next month.

My guess is, if you are reading this article, you are not at the top of the search engines, but you are still hiding your links away and following the advice of the SEO world, and praying for that holy grail of a first page search engine placement.

Why webmasters hide their links is beyond me completely. What exactly are they scared of? That someone may leave their site and go to another site? I have news for you, that’s what internet users do, they go from site to site. It’s how the web works.

I have more news for you, EVERY page of your site at the top right has a little “X” that will take people from your site. EVERY page of your site top left has a home button that will take people away from your site. And those two things you can do NOTHING about unless you are the creator of Internet Explorer, Firefox or all the other web browsers.

Wait! I have even more news, the one SURE THING about ALL visitors to your site is that they ARE leaving. I don’t care how höt your site is, I don’t care how great your product or service is. I am not staying on your site for ever and neither is anyone else, not even you!

These days I personally choose (and believe me I learned this the hard way by giving up a lot of traffïc to follow the advice of the SEO “Gurus”) to put my links directory right there in my main page, and on EVERY page where it can be seen easily by my visitors. You see as people leave my site I do have a choice where to send them. By hiding my link section I would by default send ALL of them back to Google or Yahoo or whatever search engine they use. I choose to send SOME of them to other websites, websites who like me appreciate the frëe visitors and in return send me some of their departing visitors.

If you are hiding away your links, make no mistake you ARE sending your departing visitors back to search engines. Search engines who give you NOTHING in return. Maybe you even pay them to advertise. Now that’s sensible – send them all your visitors frëe of charge and pay for some of theirs.

If you were to show your link section clearly, and I have a link on your site, there is a good chance they may come to me instead. And, IF you show your link section clearly, I will certainly return that favor and send you some of my departing visitors.

How I get traffïc to my sites is nothing new. It is not some “AMAZING new traffïc system”, it doesn’t cost anything and it certainly doesn’t require a lot of maintenance once set up. It is based on how the web has always worked, links and people.

That has nevër changed. My guess is you are just not utilizing that method any more. I made the same mistake and gave it up for awhile too. By hiding your links you are reducing the number of visitors you get now, in the hope of thousands of visitors later. Personally, I’d rather have 300 visitors a day from my links now than a “Maybe” of 20,000 a day some time in the distant future.

You can take or leave this article as you please. If you are an SEO “Guru” or “expert”, please do not email me. I do not want to hear from you. SEO doesn’t work apart from a tiny percentage of websites. Even if it does, it offers only temporary results at best. I have been there and done that. The FACT is, even IF I get to the top of the search engines after a lot of hard work or financial investmënt, you CAN NOT guarantëe I will stay there. These days Google and other search engines are changing the way they order their results far too regularly to make SEO a valid investmënt of my time or monëy.

A dating site I once owned was at number 3 in Google for the term “frëe dating” after some very long, hard work optimizing the site. Then, in an instänt, the traffïc stopped when Google changed their algorithms in the famous Florida update and left my site on page 56 of the results. It is simply NOT good business sense to invest time or monëy in results over which you have no control.

These days, I have hundreds of visible links on other sites and unless Google can shut down the internet there is NOTHING they can do or change that will affect the traffïc from those links. To me at least that makes a LOT more sense for my business and is a much better investmënt of my time.

I will tell all of you reading this article that I am currently spending a LOT of time working with webmasters AND web users to stop this rot. You see I re-discovered something very simple and very effective that works. It benefits all my sites AND internet users as a whole, so you can be sure I am going to share those findings not only with other webmasters but with surfers too.

I have written e-books and articles aimed at both groups of people, and have little armies of both types growing in numbers daily. So pretty soon those surfers will know about your hidden links (if you are hiding them) and use them anyway. The sad thing is, if you don’t fix your Stinking Linking Thinking and bring your links directory out of the bowels of your site, the chances are you will not get a link on the websites of webmasters who are showing their links and once again starting to work together instead of competing for a first page search engine listing.

The choice my friend is yours. You can link for traffïc or you can link for the “Maybe some day in the future first page listing” that you have NO control over.

My advice is simple, invest in a decent links program to set up your links directory properly and get active exchanging links with sites who are SHOWING not hiding their link directories. They are out there if you look for them and they are growing in number.

Forget site relevance, how do you know what is relevant to a visitor? Do you know all your visitors personally? Do you have some mind reading scrïpt I don’t know about? Just because they are on your widget site does not mean they are not a keen fisherman and not interested in a fishing site.

Link to any quality site that will make your link accessible to people. Give your departing visitors choice of sites, they are interested in more than one thing! A varied links directory is a very useful resource to your visitors as they leave.

The advice from Google to link to “relevant” sites has always puzzled me. How useful would Google be if it followed its own advice and only linked to other search engines and those search engines only linked to other search engines? Does their advice make sense? Hell no!

By getting just 3 new visible links a day on other sites, will mean over 1000 links pointing to your site by the end of a year, links that can and will be found by real people. Does that sound like hard work to you? 3 new links a day? It takes much less thinking about than algorithms, keyword density, alt tags, meta tags, trends and SEO. It also produces results and leaves you frëe to concentrate on the people who matter, your visitors!

Finally one last bit of news for you. If you exchange quality visible links with other sites that PEOPLE can find, guess who else will find them? That’s right Google, Yahoo and MSN so you may well do better in search engines as a result, but whether you do or not, you WILL get visitors.

In closing, please do not get me wrong. I am not against search engines at all! I use Google daily, it is a very useful tool. What I AM against is giving them complete control over my sites traffïc. What I am also against are the dreams being sold by the SEO world, and thats what they are, dreams with BIG odds of success and temporary results.

Understand this! Search engines do not like SEO either. They want to deliver accurate results to surfers not the best optimized pages. If search engines dont deliver accurate results, surfers stop using them and they don’t get to sell the advertising that makes them their profït.

That is why Google and other engines are constantly changing their algorithms to combat SEO tricks. SEO has just become too complicated and too temporary in its results to make it viable.

Dump your stinking linking thinking people, start working with and not competing with other sites and start getting visited.

About The Author
Gary McHugh is author of many traffïc related e-books and co-author of

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Camilla Todd
Camilla Todd is Head of Digital Marketing at WNW Digital and manages Search Engine Optimisation, PPC, Social Media campaigns and Brand Awareness for WNW Digital SEO clients. You can follow her on Twitter @camilla_wnw, email her at or phone on 01392 349580

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That was a really good article! I really liked your concept of having people leave your site to go somewhere potentially complimentary rather than back to the search engine. Good clear thinking on your part. Thanks for the other articles too,