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“Hello, advertise on our website and it’ll only cost you…” “HOW MUC

One of the clues that I must have a reasonably well established website is the constant barrage of emails from various companies seeking link exchanges, from B&Bs I’ve never visited to insurance companies I’ve never bought from, presumably because my site’s decently placed in the search engines and they want a leg-up themselves via hits on my site.

I’ve read arguments for and against links on search engine optimisation, and for years I did have a long links page, leading to stuff I thought was useful and also to various related sites where there was thought to be a mutual benefit.

In the end though, when I did a major overhaul of the site about 7 or 8 years ago, the links page was finally removed. Just a couple of links have been left to basic training schools I work with, and three more the bike forums I’m active on.

Why? Because having established a link, a lot of the people who’d asked for it then either deleted the page I’d linked to, or the entire site went down the pan, leaving my site pointing at a dead link. Link checking software usually detected the first problem but not the second if the domain (as increasingly happens) disappeared into a holding page.

OK, it may not take a LOT of work to maintain a links page but it’s not ‘build and forget’ and it all adds to the overhead of time and effort in maintaining the site. Whilst Google may not penalise dead links when ranking pages, it doesn’t look good for my sight to casual visitors!

In any case, I think the days of portal-style links pages (now there’s a blast from the distant past; ‘portal sites’ – remember them?) are well and truely over. I’m positive few people actually bother to check out what’s on a links page any more – I know I don’t.

I might follow an embedded link at the end of an article that leads to a relevant site, but clicking on a links page and randomly scrolling down a long list of text links or clickable buttons in the hope I might find something?

Nope. It’s not happening! If I want something specific, Google is far more friendly, once you’ve excluded the aggregation sites, anyway.

Anyway, the latest speculative email arrived this morning.

I won’t embarrass the company by naming them, but did this particular email just want a free link exchange?

Oh no!

They actually wanted me to pay them fifty quid for the privilege of a text link or a small button on a “page dedicated to rider training schools” on their brand new site which is “currently under construction”.

I had to take a peek at this website that considered itself worth paying to advertise on.

Wow! A quick look at the website itself revealed something that would have looked dated in 1995, when I built my first site.

Clunky freeware clipart banners, embedded tables with thick borders to produce a sort of menu, low definition buttons that look like they are straight out of an old EGA display, and oddly-resized graphics where the height/width ratio hasn’t been kept.

Oh, and a nicely patriotic waving Union Flag animated gif of the kind that adorned website 15 years ago.

Retro might be chic in some fields, but naff web design is naff web design.

I sincerely hope that a major overhaul is in the works but as they already have a links page I suspect it’ll just get tacked on to that and my putative advert would vanish into the unseen ether, along with my £50.

Did I mention that was £50 annually , by the way? That’ll be to check the link to my site each year, no doubt!

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