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Is there any value in reciprocal links any more?

 3:28 pm on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

I was recently advised by a company doing my SEO that Google and the other big search engines no longer see value in reciprocal linking and that all link building should be one way (be that through traditional link building, article subs etc). They've also advised me to remove my existing reciprocal link pages.

The only benefit I can see is reducing the number of outbound links from my site - which would be important if the links were off topic, but if all the recips are on topic is this the right thing to be doing?

Any thoughts / experience / know how most appreciated here :)

[edited by: LineOfSight at 3:29 pm (utc) on Aug. 23, 2006]



 10:59 am on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

*Reciprocal linking should never be done to affect serps..*

I'm reminded of all those Coop members who steadfastly insisted it was an advertising program and not a links scheme but went ballistic when DP introduced a rel:nofollow option...


 1:29 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

As far as natural and unnatural links, any link that a person goes out to get via some form of prompting/paying/cajoling/submitting, is an "unnatural" link.

It would not have occured had someone not forced the issue.

The only natural links in this world are the ones that are placed by a third party, with no prompting whatsoever. Everyhting else is done for some effect, be it SEO, branding, marketing, or whatever.

Virtually all "link development" is some shade of gray....


 2:15 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Look, I can see why you guys may have to refocus somewhat, but to say it's all about traffic and branding will come as a bit of a surprise to your clients, I suspect.

And DD, that "all SEO is Spam" argument won't wash either ;-)


 2:16 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Virtually all "link development" is some shade of gray...

Only when the phrase "search engines" comes into play. If links were developed based purely on merit and the value to the visitor, there really wouldn't be any gray involved.

But, that is not the case in many instances.

Yes, there is value in reciprocal links. There always has been and there always will be. The issue now is determining which ones are of value. What you see "visually" is no longer a viable option for determining the value of the link. One must do some serious "digging" to effectively determine the value.


 3:39 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

It probably comes down to profiling. Do X% of the sites or pages that have Y% of their links being reciprocol fail the spam test in some other way? If so, then Y% or Y+% of links being reciprocol is likely to be a negative "signal of quality," and maybe those inbound and/or outbound links should be devalued.


 3:57 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)


Reciprocal linking is really very simple. You do it with sites that are in some way related to your own, and that offer to do it. If you are determined to get the most benefit from it, you do it diligently, with as many sites as possible. Even then, the number of links earned is moderate and quite controlled. Natural, if you want to use that term.

Are there search engine benefits, if it is done right? Of course. Are ther non-SE benefits? Yes. Smart people take both sides of it, to the bank. DUH!

I really fail to see why this subject raises so much hair in the SE community, and why there is so much confused speculation about it. It's ridiculous.

Then again, I have been doing it correctly, in one form or another since 1997.

[edited by: martinibuster at 4:37 pm (utc) on Aug. 30, 2006]
[edit reason]
[1][edit reason] TOS [webmasterworld.com] 4 & 19. [/edit]


 4:06 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

How perverted the motivations for linking have become!

Outbound links should be for the convenience and education of your users.

Inbound links should be to build traffic - from the links.


Links should not be made to influence search-engine rankings.

Do anything else, and you will eventually be caught for "gaming the system".

Maybe this is why so many people are complaining today about search-engine updates. Damn near EVERYBODY is gaming the system.

Being selective about link partners - in any way other than considering if it is good for your users and reflects well upon your site - is nonsense. Don't worry about whether a site is PR0, for example. Does it benefit your users, does it bring you traffic? It's madness to ignore a PR0 site that might have excellent content that complements yours.

If webmasters would follow these simple rules, they'd be less concerned about search engines - because they'd be getting more traffic from their links.

FWIW, until I sold it a couple of years ago, I ran a site that was ranked #3-5 on the first SERP for "San Diego" . Every site above it was a government or institutional site. I never did ANY SEO. By it's nature, the site had lots of outbound links. Inbound links grew primarily organically - i.e. others linked to it, which I had no control over (nor did I worry about...) Many of the links were recriprocal, but not by agreement or design - it just happened that way.

So I know a bit about this. You CAN have a top-ranked site without ever doing SEO.


 4:22 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

any link that a person goes out to get via some form of prompting/paying/cajoling/submitting, is an "unnatural" link.

moderate and quite controlled. Natural, if you want to use that term

Suggestion: get your own vocabulary straight before you come here and preach at everyone else as if you think we know nothing.


 4:34 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Just a little FYI...

We know which sites have links pages, which of those accept public submissions, and how they want that data submitted to them.

There is little to no value in the above type of proposition. Links pages are an easy target. Got a directory attached to your site with a bunch of links pages? Are many of those pages full of hyphenated URIs?

I have first hand experience of watching a site that was in purgatory come out of that status after the removal of their links directory. They wanted to keep some of what was in there and I told them to just trash the whole project for now. That was the only change made and sure enough, their purgatory ended. They're not going to participate in that type of linking scenario any more.


 4:46 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

We only know that volume should be kept low, ie don't link out to 2000 links overnight. Do obtain relevant links as it benefits the end user. If you obtain 25 links this week and then only 5 next week, that is good.

This is all relative. Obtaining 25 links in one week for a site is a clear sign of being of a supernatural nature. Again, the term relative is a major factor here. Certain sites will naturally attract those numbers of links. Many sites will not. Certain activities will attract links in numbers, most will not.

If you link out to and obtain links from thousands of links in a short time period, we know this is bad because we have seen sites get downgraded for it.

All of this is spelled out in Google's various patents. They specifically tell you that obtaining links in large quantity in a short period of time is something that is filtered for. And again, it is all relative to the site. John's local gift shop is not going to obtain 25 links naturally in one week, not in most instances anyway.


 5:13 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

I too have first hand experience of sites rankings returning after removing link directories. So I am afraid I am one of the SEO's who would tell you remove your link directory. Why because its a red flag to the SE's that unnatural linking is happening. The link directories are created to make link swapping easier. They have been created to organize the links away from the main site and keep the visitors on the site they have landed on. The site swapping the link is not placing it on a stategic internal page to help the visitor find what they want on another site because they did not find it on theirs. Will the people linking to you get traffic from this deal like hell they will who clicks on a link directory and wades through lists of reciprocal links nobody does they hit the back button.

If you are going to swap links swap them on pages relevant to the subject and ask that the link back to you is placed the same way. Then you could argue it is done for traffic place the link in a "link directory' and expect to get hammered.


 5:35 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

I was recently advised by a company doing my SEO that Google and the other big search engines no longer see value in reciprocal linking

This is what started this thread and it’s a basic question that a lot of people think about these days when it comes to linking. I’ll skip over the whole ethical debate in all of this because I admit I spend a fair amount of time optimizing my sites with the goal of rising in the rankings. I am extremely conservative but do think about links from an optimizing perspective. (if you have ever seen someone post a link to your site, and thought “boy I wish they used this key word I’m optimizing for in that anchor text”, your closer to this side of the tracks than you might admit).

Any way, the problem with this discussion, other than the ethical debate, is that no one has defined “reciprocal linking”. If for example businessweek.com/ called you up one day and agreed to put a link on their home page to your site in return for a link back, that would be reciprocal linking. Raise your hand if you would agree to do that (don’t worry I won’t tell). Would this “reciprocal link” be beneficial to your site? You better believe it.

However, if you have on your site a tab that says “links” or “resources” and that takes you to a page with a listing of the alphabet and when you click a letter it takes you to a page with 100 links all starting with that letter; is that beneficial?

There has been a shift in the valuation of links, certainly over the past 18 months. This type of mass “reciprocal linking” is not as powerful as it once was, from a ranking perspective, and “reciprocal linking” like the busisnessweek.com example is more powerful than it once was. So, really if your going to spend your days looking for links, and that means having to “reciprocate”, quality has gained over quantity. Does this mean get rid of all your “reciprocal links”? Who knows until you really try, it might even help your ranking.

In going forward, you’re better off finding quality linking partners, and placing these links respectively within the actual text of relevant content. This is better from a ranking perspective and guess what; turns out its better for your visitors too.


 5:39 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

"Don't throw the baby out with the bath water" comes to mind when I read threads like this.


A: Are SOME links pages/directories bad, most likely.

B: Are ALL links pages/directories bad, of course not.


A: Are SOME reciptocal links bad, most likely.

B: Are ALL reciprocal links bad, of course not.


A: Is SOME possible combination of the above bad, most likely.

B: Is EVERY possible combination of the above bad: of course not.


Citing examples where a given change takes place which is followed by an observation of another change is not proof that the first change led to the second.

It may have, but may is not the same as did.


 7:09 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

This is fear of reciprocals is probably related to what Matt Cutts (Google's Spam Engineer) said back in May 06 regarding why some sites came up missing from Google's Index:

- On March 13th, GoogleGuy gave a way for WebmasterWorld folks to give example sites.
- After looking at the example sites, I could tell the issue in a few minutes. The sites that fit “no pages in Bigdaddy” criteria were sites where our algorithms had very low trust in the inlinks or the outlinks of that site. Examples that might cause that include excessive reciprocal links, linking to spammy neighborhoods on the web, or link buying/selling.

The keyword here is "excessive" reciprocal links.

In other words make sure you have enough one-way, non-purchased links so reciprocals cannot be considered excessive.


 7:55 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Those unrelated footer links he chose to highlight may just as easily have been bought as exchanged.

If he didn't bother to check, it strikes me it's the irrelevancy rather than the exchange that is the salient point.....


 10:20 pm on Aug 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>randle: This type of mass “reciprocal linking” is not as powerful as it once was, from a ranking perspective, and “reciprocal linking” like the busisnessweek.com example is more powerful than it once was.

While I haven't seen any real evidence of reciproation being devalued (it still works here, just as it always has), there is also no doubt that links from high PR high trust sites are very valuable.

The trouble is, all commercial link building takes place within a business context. That is, a return on investment is expected.

All links have at least the following attributes (there are more):

Accessbility - how accessible is the link? busisnessweek.com links, while certianly valuable, (and for more that just SE pruposes), are not very accessible to most businesses.

Cost - What money was spent getting that link?

Stability - How long will the link stay in place?

Relevance - Is it from a relevant site/page?

Time to placement - how long does it take to get that link?

Every link campaign (reciprocal or not), must be viewed against these attributes, and the expected return.

When that is done, reciprocation holds up quite well as an option for a site owner.

[edited by: martinibuster at 3:50 am (utc) on Aug. 31, 2006]
[edit reason]
[1][edit reason] TOS #20 [/edit]


 11:31 am on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

Recips, where they are to a similar quality site add stability to the site.
I doubt if there is any advantage to doing this with dozens of sites as we all used to, more the merrier.
It really seems to help my PR when I link out to quality related sites.
I know it shouldn't but it really seems to.


 4:42 am on Sep 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

First I want to state I didn't read all of the previous posts.

But here is my opinion.

If someone wants to exchange links with you,

1. See if Google has their linking page in the index.
Simply paste the url in the google search.

2. Check to see how many inbounds links the link page has using yahoo's site explorer.

3. Never outbound or accept inbounds links from a page that has low ratio of inbounds to outbounds unless they are in direct proximity to page that has a significant amount of quality inbounds.


 6:47 am on Sep 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

I will take ny link personally as long as it is cached in G.

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