Think twice before you link

Recently, a client of ours have received an email, as below.

Dear Webmaster
I visited your site ( liked the contents so would like to propose link exchange partnership with your site. As you probably already know, link popularity is a major factor in getting a site noticed by the search engines and getting traffic onto that site. An additional link would help both you and us to get more traffic. If you accept this link exchange partnership then place the under mentioned details in your site's link page.


Looking forward to hear from you as soon as. Thanking You!
Disclaimer: This is NOT SPAM -- this is a one-time reciprocal link request. We have NO INTENTION to email you again. You can also reply to this email with REMOVE in the subject line to make sure we'll NEVER send you any more e-mails in the future.

Now. As a business owner, your first instinct will be to link to them happily. Why not? They have found you. You reputation is now growing. Why else would they want to link to your site? Linking to them might even make your site more famous. It's too hard to resist that urge to link. Every website wants to be famous and be the next Facebook or Google. If you are thinking, "No, I will never fall for that," congratulations are in order. However, in our experience, a good portion of our clients did fell for it. At least some were intrigued by it. Enough to come and ask if they should do it.

This email even have the typical carrot and stick of a good marketing email. The carrot being boost "your link popularity," and the stick being "we have NO INTENTION to email you again," making you want to take this incredible offer immediately. Now, please read carefully and think. Why do we have to email them with "REMOVE" in the subject if they have NO INTENTION plan to email you again. It could be that their intention is to sell your email address to their "trusted partner" so that they can bother you with something else again? Probably.

Well, here is the reality for you. We will tell you the two simple reasons.

Technical reason one: Their Google PageRank (how important Google thinks your website is) is lower than yours. By linking your site to them, their site's PageRank goes up. Nothing to gain for yours.

Technical reason two: These kinds of site typically employ black-hat (dirty and not recommended) SEO (Search Engine Optimization) practice in boosting their ranking. Typically, your website link will not be the only link on their page. Your link will be buried among hundreds of other links. Their site might even be already punished by Google. Don't put your site in the pile to take the beating. Take the high road. Our recommendation to client is always, when it comes to Google, play it straight. Abide by the rules. Google will take care of you.

Business reason: Do you really want your company, say, your prestigious education consulting company or private school to associate with online degrees, Internet degrees, or other such degree mills? Of course not. You should not even touch them with a ten-foot pole.

Be wary of this kind of emails. Don't consider it, unless you have a compelling business reason. Bring in your technical people too to listen to their technical reasons. A link is a currency in online world. Do not hand it out easily. Do not accept it from people handing it out to you either.