7 Top Ways to Avoid Link Theft

If you have a link directory on a website, how do you stop link theft by sites that don't link back, or trick you into thinking they do?

Whether link theft is anything to get concerned about depends on how many links your website has, the quality of those links (Google Page Rank) and how many of those links you lose. Search Engine Ranking is certainly something that's becoming more dependent upon the links to your website.

You might be forgiven for thinking that when a website no longer links back to you, that it was an accident your link was removed from the link directory. Of course accidents happen as I know from using some link manager software. Just one click in the wrong box and a website link disappears the next time you update your link directory. But the real link thieves are those people that use methods to rob you of a link.

Here's 7 Top Ways Link Thieves work and how you can avoid being their next victim.

1. If a website asks you to exchange links, don't link to them until they have given you the URL location of your link in their link directory. If you link to them first they may forget to add your link.

2. Visually inspect your link by visiting the website page your link has been placed on. In your web browser, view the source code of the page. In Internet Explorer go to View then Source and this will open up your default text editor.

Using the text editor search on the page for your website domain and ensure when you find it that the link is a standard text link of the form :
a href="http://www.yourdomain.com/" target="_blank">Link Title.

The target="_blank" just launches a new browser window when the link is clicked. The link should have no JavaScript code like: onclick="javascript:newWindow('http://www.yourdomain.com')">Link Title.

Links like this JavaScript one can be made to look visually identical when viewed in a web page browser, but to a search engine it's as if this link is not there. Whilst a visual inspection to catch this form of theft is always the best, you can catch some, but not all of these types of links by using reciprocal link manager checking software.

3. Check that your link on the other web sites page is not being put through a redirect. By hovering your mouse over the link, check what link text appears in the status bar of your web browser.

If your link appears as:
"http://www.theirdomain.com/page.html" or
"http://www.theirdomain.com/redirect.asp?id=2273" and not
"http://www.yourdomain.com"
Then your link is on a redirect.

Any form of link that has theirdomain and not yourdomain in the link URL is only of benefit to the other site owner and not you. Links like this point to their domain and not yours which gives the other site the link benefit in the eyes of the search engines.

Don't link to this site if you want some search engine benefit from the link.

If you just want traffic from visitors clicking on the link, that's the only benefit you'll get.

4. If you want to get search engine link benefit, don't link to web sites that have dynamically generated link pages. If your link is on a dynamically generated link page the URL of that page could be something like :

"http://www.theirdomain.com/links/index.php?&lk=5".

The fact that the URL has a ? or & in the URL means that most search engines will never read that page, so they will never see the link back to your site.

5. Use the Google Toolbar Page Rank Tool to check the PR of the page your link is on.

If the PR is 0 but the PR of the home page is much better, this could mean either the link directory is new ( not likely if it has a lot of links ) or there could be something about the page which is preventing Google from reaching it.

Using your web browser view the page code as in 2 above and check for the robots meta tag at the top of the page between the and tags.

If it says :
meta name="robots" content="index,follow" or
meta name="robots" content="all"
then all is OK.

If the tag says :
meta name="robots" content="noindex,follow" or
meta name="robots" content="index,nofollow" or
meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow" or
meta name="robots" content="none"

Then this page is not being given full access to the search engines. Do not link to this sort of page.

6. If the robots meta tag you checked is OK but you still suspect a problem with a low PR then you should check the sites robots.txt file. To do this type the main URL of the site into a web browser but add robots.txt for example: "http://www.domainyourlinkingto.com/robots.txt"

The robots.txt file is read by the search engines and it tells it the directory and files it can access. A simple robots.txt file might look something like:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /cgi-bin
Disallow: /forms
Disallow: /contact.html

If the URL of the page you were linking to was: "http://www.domainyourlinkingto.com/dir/web-design.html"

Then you would want to be sure that in the robots.txt file you should NOT see:

Disallow: /dir
Disallow: /dir/web-design.html

This is telling the search engine robot not to index or follow the links in the link directory called dir and to ignore the links page web-design.html.

And you should not see :
User-agent: *
Disallow: /

If you see :
User-agent: *
Disallow:

Then that's OK.

All sounds a bit complicated I know, but there is no easier way to explain this sort of thing. Some reciprocal link manager checking software will also detect the incorrect use of the meta robots tag and also check the robots text file.

However some link manager software I have experienced, incorrectly reported a link page as blocked by the robots text file because it read "Disallow:" as prohibiting the search engine when in fact it means allow (see above). It is "Disallow: /" that would tell the search engine not to index the site.

7. Once you've completed your link exchange and done the checks to ensure you're not being cheated you must then check your links at regular intervals. Once you have more than about 50 links you will soon find link checking becomes a time consuming process. It's far better to build your link directory using some form of link manager software that will automatically check your links at intervals you specify.

To help you in making the right choices about setting up a link directory read my article
"10 Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up a Link Directory" which you can find at
http://www.webpageaddons.com/link-mana ger-mistakes.htm

Of course not all link theft is intentional, sometimes it's just the webmaster not knowing that the way he has set up his link directory will not provide search engine link benefit to anyone that links to them.

However some link theft is intentional, the webmaster knows exactly what they are doing and by following this advice you can avoid being their next victim.

Tony Simpson, Has been into Web Site Design, Promotion and Optimization for 5 years. He provides advice, product reviews and products at Web Page Add Ons to make automation of your web site work for you.

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