When most people think about link trading, they imagine building massive numbers of links to their home pages. But is it more effective to get homepage links or deep links? And is it more effective to focus your link trades on one page or to spread it between multiple pages?

Deep links are any link pointing to a page other than your homepage — for example, links to individual product pages or blog posts.

One way to look at the question is in terms of your goals. Which pages are you most interested in driving visitors to? Ultimately, you want them to go to your sales page. So is it more effective to drive traffic straight to your sales page, or to a content page where your visitors get can to know and trust you first?

If they already know that they want to buy what you’re selling, the sales page may be the best landing page. If they know they want the benefit, but haven’t yet decided to pay for it, a content page might be better — particularly if they’re still looking for a free solution.

So the answer isn’t cut and dried, and probably varies from product to product based on how much knowledge the average member of your target market has. (The more they know before they get to your site, the more likely they’ll be ready to buy.)

The other question is which linking strategy is best for SEO.

First, is it easier to get a homepage ranked high or a deep page? Or is there any difference? Reading what some SEO teachers say, it sounds like it’s harder to get deep pages crawled and indexed, but by “deep”, do they mean pages located inside many directories, or pages that require lots of clicks to reach once they’ve arrived at your site? (I can only guess, but I’d imagine depth it’s mostly if not entirely a matter of number of clicks.)

Second, is it better to focus all your incoming link juice on a single page or to spread it out? If you’re just starting off and are trying to get your first highly ranked page, focus might be better, but over the long haul, I’d probably opt for more breadth. Why?

  • All your internal pages should be linking back to your homepage, so your homepage will be getting link juice even if most of your inbound links are pointing deep.
  • If only your homepage ranks well, you’re only going to get search engine traffic for keywords your homepage is optimized for. If you’ve got a bunch of internal pages ranked well, you’ll get traffic from a much greater variety of searches.
  • Links to your deep pages are going to address more specific interests, so as long as you’re getting linked to from pages relevant to the pages the links point to, you’ll get more organic traffic through the links themselves. And the content on those pages will likely hold the attention of your visitors longer.
  • SEO experts talk about your “deep link ratio” — the percentage of inbound links pointing to internal pages vs. your homepage. Too many links pointing to your homepage and too few to internal pages suggests that your site doesn’t contain much interesting content, and perhaps that you’re using artificial methods to get those links. On the other hand, lots of links pointing to internal pages suggests a content-rich site that’s getting links naturally — ie. the links look more like real “votes” for good content.

The smarter search engines get, the more value they’ll give to natural linking vs. links whose purpose is only to manipulate search results. If your link trading is designed to benefit human visitors — like linking to deep pages specifically of interest to people interested in the page the link comes from — it makes sense that the search engines would want to rank you higher.

For more on link trading best practices, download my free special report on the death of the link exchange.

Agree? Disagree? Other insights? I’d love to read your comments.