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Old 11-02-2005   #1
Big Juice
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Reciprocal Linking – Dead or Alive?

I have been reading some articles on the state of reciprocal linking. It seems that some people think that the latest Google update has to do with filtering out artificial linking. A visit to Matt Cutts blog revels that Google is going to be aggressively targeting linking schemes. Whether it is reciprocating links, link farming or purchasing links he didn’t say but it seems to me that moderation in anything one does with their website should be the key.

I have another site that contains approximately 60 pages of links that were all part of a reciprocated linking campaign. Now I can’t say whether or not my site has been affected by this latest update but I can say this, all 50+ pages of links still maintain a PR2 rating. If Google is filtering out those links it doesn’t appear that they are assessing any penalties for these reciprocated links pages as they are all still indexing them and maintaining their page rank.

So if Google isn’t bestowing any weight to these reciprocated links it would appear that the other search engines still are. The site I am talking about and all of my other sites that participate in reciprocating linking, are all doing quite well for their targeted linking text in the other search engines. To me this says that reciprocal linking my not actually work for Google any more but they seem to be working for Yahoo and MSN still. Until reciprocal linking stops working for all search engines then this type of linking remains viable in my opinion.
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Old 11-02-2005   #2
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its not problem in reciprocal linking, problem is in unnatural reciprocal linking, problem is in useless links or resource page with or without relevant links, problem is in irellevant linking and stuff like this

build your site naturally, write your own content, work on your site, and links will come, then you can get some reciprocal links from quality sites, mix all strategies

just my opinion
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Old 11-02-2005   #3
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Google is going to be aggressively targeting linking schemes.
They've actually been doing that for a while now.

I don't recommend any reciprocal links at all. There are actually only a few reciprocal links that would be acceptable, perhaps between a company and a trade association that they're a member of--but I prefer to get one-way on-topic links only.
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Old 11-02-2005   #4
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PR ratings (PR 1 – 10) as shown on the Google toolbar have very little to do whether a site is positioning well in the SERPs or not. Therefore just because the pages mentioned in the first post maintain a PR2 doesn't mean Google is still favoring them.

I have seen many sites penalized that still had PR scores. When a filter is applied to the Google algorithm, is doesn't always mean that sites that are negatively affected by the filter are going to drop PR... at least what the toolbar shows us.

So is reciprocal linking dead? If you are referring to automated reciprocal linking programs, then I certainly hope so. That way the rest of us who are building links by either developing quality sites, resources and tools that people will want to link to and/or obtaining links by buying one way text ads on relevant sites, submitting quality press releases & articles and gaining inclusion in good directories can continue to benefit by those practices and not have to compete with everyone who participates in reciprocal link trading schemes.
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Old 11-03-2005   #5
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Originally Posted by bhartzer
I don't recommend any reciprocal links at all. There are actually only a few reciprocal links that would be acceptable, perhaps between a company and a trade association that they're a member of--but I prefer to get one-way on-topic links only.
What you are describing is a linking scheme in it's own right, no? By excluding people who may want to trade links that are on-topic, you are essentially reacting to speculation that reciprocals are bad. But you say you "don't recommend any reciprocal links at all," and then follow with some "acceptable" exceptions to that rule.

We have plenty of clients that have cultivated reciprocal arrangements over a long period of time, and they have not been "destroyed by Jagger." To me this comes down once again to intent. How can an algorithm really determine intent unless a huge flag is waiving in front of them, such as the "bad reciprocal links" that seem to be causing problems. In my opinion, any filters may be based on a percentage of reciprocal links vs. overall inbounds. If you have a thousand inbound links, and only 100 of them are reciprocated, is that too many?

Or perhaps we are simply dealing with a basic "neighborhood" rating, where if you reciprocate with any "bad neighborhood" sites, you will be penalized. If this is the case, some industries are suspect to greater upheaval in the rankings, due to past "indiscretions" by overzealous SEO's.

Bottom line, in my opinion, is that reciprocals are not a bad thing on their own, unless you have a hugely disproportionate amount of them in your overall linking, or they are mostly off topic or from bad neighborhoods. I look forward to responses/disagreements.
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Old 11-03-2005   #6
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Reciprocal linking as the only SEO method if it is not yet dead I believe it soon will be.

There are alot of sites abusing link exchange in order to get a higher than everybody else ranting. This must be causing alot of problems and it is certainly not what any of the search engines want to list first in their listings.

However, exchanging links is how new websites get discovered, these new websites are what the crawlers are looking for, to completely ignore link exchanges would exclude placing those new sites in the index! So I don't believe it will ever be bad to exchange links.

Some of the methods used by some sites to exchange links is 1> the page must have a PR3 or better and they will link to any site regardless of the content. 2> there is no theme that if the all of the links are looked at (followed) basicly all you get is a dictionary or noise (link spam).

I would tend to agree that if the site only has link exchanges in most cases the site should only raise to maybe a PR3 or 4. And, if the all link exchanges are to PR3+ pages likely they are creating those exchanges only for the search engine rating ... some of those sites may have appeared on the radar.

I exchange links to new sites and older sites, I look at content of the page and make sure they are not playing any games with the exchange of links. If the content matches the theme of my page I exchange links -- I exchange links to far more lower ranked sites than high ones and if anything my traffic is slightly higher after this update.

I think the future is heading toward trusted links and not bulk links (page rank is no longer an indication of trust), A page that only links to sites that link back from pr3+ pages is not very trust worthy.

So "all you need to do to rank well is exchange links - look for high rated pages to improve your rating" is a dead concept -- but exchanging links to sites that are related is not.

Last edited by crazylogic : 11-03-2005 at 05:01 PM.
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Old 11-04-2005   #7
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Is reciprocal linking bad from Yahoo's standpoint?

We recently added a links page with links to complementary sites about our topic, flowers. Ovenight our ranking went from #10 for the term "fresh flowers" to #40. We have not had the same dropoff on Google where we still are in the top 10. It makes me skeptical that Yahoo values reciprocal links.
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Old 11-04-2005   #8
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Blows me away

Recip linking is alive and well. As long as your not trying to trick the Search Engines and maintain natural link processes you will be fine. Their are many factors that affect search position....you don't know what most other websites are doing. Maybe they have redesigned their link structure and improved their website and thats why they are now ahead of you.


You don't need huge lists of link partners (Most sites 50-150) others only 5-10 and others over 200. Depends on your website. Add websites you would think your visitors would find valuable.

Not only have our link programs worked but each jagger update has been great so far. In fact most the websites I see at the top of GOOGLE have some sort of link program in place.
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Old 11-06-2005   #9
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<<<<Recip linking is alive and well. As long as your not trying to trick the Search Engines>>>>

Aren't recip linking all about tricking the search engines? If there were no search engines will you spend so much time to obtain all those recip links?
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Old 11-07-2005   #10
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If there were no search engines will you spend so much time to obtain all those recip links?
I would imagine, you'd want those reciprocal links even more if there were no search engines as you'd need more ways for people to find your sites.

I was doing recip. linking in the mid 90's when it wasn't for search rankings at all...just plain old traffic and getting the word out. Good recip links still work that way today.

Note that I said GOOD ONES though. Unfortunately, most people these days aren't looking for good ones...or aren't getting them, or something. They're just getting any old links, which is just dumb.

Last edited by Jill Whalen : 11-07-2005 at 11:41 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 11-07-2005   #11
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<<<I would imagine, you'd want those reciprocal links even more if there were no search engines as you'd need more ways for people to find your sites.>>>

Jill,

and that's fine and what you are doing is perfectly fine but if I have to guess there are only a few like you (maybe 5 hehehe) If I had to estimate I will say 95% or more of the reciprocal links are done to trick the search engines and if not to trick then to gain ranking not for traffic.
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Old 11-07-2005   #12
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Yep, sadly, you are probably right.
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Old 11-08-2005   #13
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If I had to estimate I will say 95% or more of the reciprocal links are done to trick the search engines and if not to trick then to gain ranking not for traffic.
Oh, pulleeeeze! Are you implying that anything done to "gain ranking" is tricking the search engines?

Quote:
if not to trick then to gain ranking
So can we assume that the average site owner does not care at all about their rankings? And isn't gaining rankings what people who call themselves SEOs get paid for? Or is it all selling snake-oil under the guise of fancy marketing euphemisms?
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Old 11-08-2005   #14
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<<<<Oh, pulleeeeze! Are you implying that anything done to "gain ranking" is tricking the search engines?>>>>

So let's call it what it is and let's allow buying links too. Nothing wrong with "gain ranking" but let's stop pretanding including the search engines of what's going on.

If 95% of all links are done to "gain ranking", "trick the search engines", "SEO" and the like then for the search engines what's the value of those links?
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Old 11-08-2005   #15
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To say that reciprical linking is dead is like saying I only care about traffic from Google.

Google says you shouldnt use "optimization techniques" that are solely aimed at manipulating the rankings. I say you shouldnt adjust your online marketing tactics because Google tries discount certain marketing aspects.

I still fail to see how purchasing or reciping a link(s) on a relevant site(s) could be in question. Google has turned links into a commidity (thank you very much) that everyone treats like digital gold wherenow, of course, arent as freely given away.

Why give something away when I can make money on it?

Despite what Google is trying to do, folks in our types of business learn very quickly and adapt. And whats worse, we share what we know so others can adapt. Google will no more be able to stomp out link/ad buying than they have been trying(?) to stomp out click fraud.
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Old 11-08-2005   #16
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If 95% of all links are done to "gain ranking", "trick the search engines", "SEO" and the like then for the search engines what's the value of those links?
Every purchased and reciped link/ad is an investment. Its an investment in SEO and its investment in traffic from the site hosting the link.

Quote:
Aren't recip linking all about tricking the search engines?
If your going to make a statement like that you might as well say that all SEO is "trickery".

Quote:
If there were no search engines will you spend so much time to obtain all those recip links?
Of course, as long as the page they come from is relevant. Traffic from irrelevant sites is just as much garbage as traffic from irrelevant rankings.
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Old 11-09-2005   #17
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From the suggestions on Yahoo's help page entitled:

How do I improve the ranking of my web site in the search results?

Quote:
Correspond with webmasters and other content providers and build rich linkages between related pages.
Note: "Link farms" create links between unrelated pages for no reason except to increase page link counts. Using link farms violates Yahoo!'s Site Guidelines and will not improve your page ranking.
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Old 11-09-2005   #18
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I think it also can be confusing when reciprocal linking means different things to different people.

I ask you for a link if you'll give me a link. That's reciprocal linking. Nothing wrong with it. People were doing it before Google came along. The web's built on it. We shouldn't have to change or worry because of it.

But where are the links going from? If we agree to link directly between two pages -- I point at a page on your site with my link, you point at a page on my site with your link, that's even more a reciprocal link. And since it's so direct, there's a better chance for a search engine to see the two sites are backscratching each other this way to decide they want to discount the link credit. Not necessarily ban you, penalize you -- just perhaps decide that rather than give you say 1 full point of link juice, you'll get 1/10th. These numbers are entirely made up, only for illustrative purposes.

Now how much are you reciprocal linking? If you have lots and lots of links to a range of web sites all on the same page, it's possible to determine that the page appears to have no particular pattern or theme/focus to it. And thus the link pointing outward might not count for as much.

What if you have lots and lots of links to the same sites that all point at you, but no one outside the little network seems to point at you. Now you might be seen as taking part in a link farm, with links discounted or even, just possibly, some type of penalty applied.

Freak out time! And part of the reason you're hearing many people tell you to not worry if what you are doing is natural. It's natural to cross link to sites. It's not natural to cross link to hundreds of them.

Another example. I link to Threadwatch posts all the time from our blog. Threadwatch links to me all the time. Sometimes we might even link back and forth between the same pages. More often, I point at a page that doesn't point at me and vice versa. That's natural. In addition, both sites seem natural because they have tons of links coming to them from outside each other.

If your head is still spinning, ages ago I wrote up my golden rules of link building. That link takes you the article with more explanation, but here's the summary:

Rule 1 - Get links from web pages that are read by the audience you want

Rule 2 - Buy links if visitors that come solely from the link will justify the cost

Rule 3 - Link to sites because you want your visitors to know about them

I'm not a massive industrial link builder, in the trenches in the way many others are on the forums. Nevertheless, I still think these rules hold up for the new person feeling lost. I don't think you'll get into trouble if you follow them, especially 1 and 3.

Are you reciprocal linking because a site will give you a link? That's really not likely to hurt you -- but it's also not something you are doing to benefit your visitor. Skip that type of link, and you're totally safe. But is it a site you do want visitors to see? Then screw what some search engine might thing. They aren't the boss of you and shouldn't be if you feel something is link worthy. But if you are also working links to benefit your visitors, you'll probably be well safe if the search engines do want to be bossy.
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Old 11-09-2005   #19
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Agreed...

I agree with everything you said, Danny.

One thing you didn't address, though, that should be mentioned is that Jagger definitely seemed to discount the value of reciprocal links, at least in my experience. PR's shot up on my sites that have natural incoming links (albeit few) and I lost PR on all of my sites that I have done massive cross-linking campaigns on.

I learned an important lesson - if I ever aggressively pursue cross-links again it will definitely be within my industry - live and learn.
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Old 11-09-2005   #20
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Thanks all

I want to thank all of you who joined in on this, the thread I started. I know that the topic is nothing new. I wanted to get people talking about the subject not for my own benefit but for the benefit of those whom the topic is new, or rather, not fully explored.

With Google going through this rather longish update I was seeing a lot of posting going on about the topic and as usual, a goodly portion of the talk was based on misinformation. None of us truly has the straight dope on the topic but when we get together to freely discuss our observations and opinions well… that can go a long way to quell the fears of the slightly less informed.
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