No, it's not clear at all. It's probably true that there are some patterns of reciprocal linking that aren't successfully detected by Google.
But how can that be a surprise? Zillions of unethical spammers are trying every technique they can think of, to create artificial linking structures that Google won't spot. Obviously, clearly, some of them are going to create systems that are indistinguishable from real links (at least, to Google's current automatons).
And Google keeps trying to improve its automatons. But it's a million pathogenic mosquitoes against one net--if there are ANY holes, no matter whether visible to a human or not, some of the mosquitoes will get in.
Why would anyone think that anecdotal evidence has any weight in judging what Google's views are.
Something to watch out for; are the links topically related? I *think* google is a lot more flexible when it comes to topically related link exchanges.
As soon as google realizes that the links are reciprocal and unrelated, aforementioned sites are going to get hammered so hard that the owners wish they never engaged in the practice alltogether.
It is a black swan. Within 12 months they will be gone, just the time, when they will feel comfortable. Google is quite cruel in this matter, they let us succeed with recips, then kill us radically! Beware of copying this technique.
I have a feeling (no evidence) that there may be a scale or threshold element in this issue.
Google's algos are based on a US scale. The worst link exchange excesses are in larger markets in the US and therefore Google is set up to deal with these. If you operate in a small niche or small geographical market the number of backlinks required to out compete your competitors may only be hundreds. At this level you slip under Google's current radar.
I have some competitors who do link exchanges and buy links and thereby have more backlinks than me, not that many but they do have more. This is a massive deal for me but I guess of absolutely zero concern to Google. I've come to the conclusion that the safest way to deal with this is to redouble your own efforts to encourage natural on topic back links.
I think HS has it right.
I have several competitors in my space who have aggressive recip programs and they are definitely benefiting. Their recips are generally on topic and they don't comprise a large % (looking at their backlinks, i would guess about 20%) of total links, so, seems to work quite well.
alas, too cheesy for me, though..
|Why has Google changed its view of this practice? |
For a long time people have stated that recip links don't work however nobody ever really provided any proof.
If I have the best webpage on red widgets and you have the best webpage on blue widgets and we link to each other do we all of a sudden no longer have the best pages?
If sites are related and each sites visitors might find value in visiting the other site, thus improving the user experience, what's wrong with reciporcal link?
Sure there are the link farms, etc. but Google will discount those links any way.
Without links, the web would not exist. Start thinking about what's good for the visitor and their experience and you will do fine.