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Is there any value in reciprocal links any more?
LineOfSight




msg:3057387
 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]

 

ken_b




msg:3057508
 5:04 pm on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

When a company or person starts giving you "one size fits all" advice you might want to walk away, quickly.

That's what I'd do given the advice you recieved.

Removing on target reciprocals is probably not a good idea. For one thing they are "reciprocal", which means the sites they lead to might very well follow your lead and remove their links to your site. I doubt if that's really what you want.

It's probably true that some reciprocal linking is being devalued, but that's most likely non-relevant linking that follows aggressive patterns which can be easily spotted by the search engines.

I wouldn't be surprized if even some links developed through "apparently relevant" but VERY aggressive linking schemes were being devalued. That might be the kind where, for example, maybe 6 out of 10 widget sites all have identical sets of link partners.

On the other hand, if you have used those really aggressive linking schemes, welllll..... :)

In general the kind of advice you recieved is often based on the misintpretation or over generalzation of frequently isolated comments that are taken out of context.

I don't do much reciprocal linking, but I wouldn't refuse a good related reciprocal link deal based on anything I've read here or that I've seen the SE reps post or say anywhere I'm aware of.

You can always find a valid reason to turn down a link deal without twisting someones words so much they can't even be recognized by the original speaker.

While I don't do much planned intentional reciprocal linking I certainly have a number of reciprocals that simply resulted from natural linking. Bobs bait shop gives me a one way link because he likes my fish stories site, later I see the referer from Bobs bait shop in my log files, check out his site, think it's cool, and link to it.

Now we've both got a reciprocal link from each others site. Does anyone really believe the SEs frown on links like that?

[edited by: ken_b at 5:13 pm (utc) on Aug. 23, 2006]

DomainDrivers




msg:3057510
 5:05 pm on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

LineOfSight

For what it's worth, I have managed reciprocal link campaigns for hundreds of sites, going back as far as 1997.

I have seen all kinds of myths perpetrated by the SEO industry.

We use subject relevance as the primary criteria. We won't link automotive sites with viagra sites, etc.

Our clients have held up remarkably well, through all the various Google updates. Many have gained psotiions during updates.

cnvi




msg:3057534
 5:24 pm on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

All depends on how you conduct reciprocal linking. There is value in obtaining links if they are relevant and beneficial to the end user. There is also value in reciprocal linking if you don't do it too quickly.

If you keep your linking relevant and low volume, reciprocal linking is acceptable and will produce quality traffic to your site for a long time. Also don't ask for links from junk sites.. only try to obtain links from quality sites that publish significant original content that benefits your end user. That means dont obtain links from or link to scraper/thin affiliate sites.

Avoid services that promise high volume numbers of links overnight. Thats what the search engines are having trouble with right now.

If you keep your linking relevant for the end user, its a perfectly acceptable practice. If you aren't sure if a link is beneficial for your end user, simply ask yourself "does this site I am about to link to benefit my end user?" If the answer is no, do not link to the site. If the answer is yes, link regardless of reciprocation. If you get a reciprocated link, great. If you don't, don't sweat it.

sugarrae




msg:3057654
 6:41 pm on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

[webmasterworld.com...]

This has been discussed heavily in the above thread, though the intended topic was not supposed to be reciprocal values. ;-)

LineOfSight




msg:3057713
 7:36 pm on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the info guys. I think as a result of your comments I'll look out for those relevant link requests and reinstate my resource pages (minus irrelevant links).

Thanks again.

[edited by: LineOfSight at 7:36 pm (utc) on Aug. 23, 2006]

DomainDrivers




msg:3057723
 7:40 pm on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

LineOfSight

To reiterate CNVI a differnt way, link as if Google did not exist. That is, ask yourself if the the link right for your site? If so, take it, pursue it, etc. That is yor guiding thought. Forget PR and the rest of it.

Jane_Doe




msg:3058340
 7:01 am on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

Reciprocal links from one links directory page to another links directory page are probabably not going to do a lot for you in Google these days, and too many recips can put your site in danger of getting your site some kind of penalty.

cnvi




msg:3058669
 1:55 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

Jane, you said:

"Reciprocal links from one links directory page to another links directory page are probabably not going to do a lot for you in Google these days"

Linking should never be considered an SEO function. Thats part of the problem.. too many webmasters do not understand that basic concept.

Linking should only be conducted as a branding function. Never as an SEO function.

You said "too many recips can put your site in danger of getting your site some kind of penalty."

This is true which is why I have stated in other threads here to watch your volume.. keep it natural. That means don't obtain links or link out to other sites in high volume over a short period of time.

So many folks seem to think that linking is an SEO function. It should never be considered as such. Responsible reciprocal linking should be conducted as a branding function. To link for rankings makes no sense and is asking for trouble because that mindset can cause the wrong linking decisions to be made.

There is value in reciprocal linking if you consider the value of that traffic coming into your site. There is long term value in the traffic you receive from those links when you take into account that many webmasters will not remove a relevant reciprocal link if it is useful for their end users.

To quote a search engine engineer that you may all have heard of ;) [Jeremy Zawodny]

"Linking is part of what makes the web work. If you're actually concerned about every link you make being counted in some global database of site endorsements, you're probably over-thinking just a bit. Life's too short for that, ya know? Link and be linked to. Let the search engines sort it out."

[edited by: sugarrae at 2:10 pm (utc) on Aug. 24, 2006]
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DXL




msg:3060195
 1:52 pm on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

I honestly believe that most of the statements people make about reciprocal linking being dead are based mostly on speculation, but I don't think that people should be cautious with who they link to. As for my own company site, I have strict criteria about who I link back to, which is why I only add one or two sites a week.

At least 95% of the people linking to me and asking for a return link don't even bother to read my requirements list (no PR0 pages, no pages with more than twenty links, no sites that link to gambling or RX sites). I get no less than 5 link requests a day (probably all automated), with my link placed on PR0 pages of spammy or new sites. Not sure if the inbounds ever help, but they certainly can't hurt if I'm not returning a link their way.

martinibuster




msg:3060450
 5:12 pm on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Linking should only be conducted as a branding function. Never as an SEO function.

And Playboy Magazine should only be purchased for the articles, hehe :).

Seriously, though, cnvi has a good point about cultivating non-search traffic. There are many other reasons to cultivate non-search traffic through linking, such as branding and traffic itself. I own an expired domain that G turned a blind eye to after I purchased it. No matter, it had so many backlinks I received enough traffic for it to start converting.

However, I think it's fair to say that the majority of people doing reciprocal links are doing it to rank better. It's like Zig-Zag rolling papers. You can take pains to distance yourself from the fact people are using it to roll joints or rank better on Google, but the fact is, most people are not buying Zig-Zags for rolling tobacco, and most people aren't doing reciprocal linking for the traffic or branding.

If you don't care about ranking and are only out to develop branding and cultivate traffic from other sites, go ahead and do your link campaign. If it results in search traffic, it's cream, right? If it doesn't and your rankings still stink, then no big deal as ranking was not your objective.

As far as developing awareness of your site, I try to mix in website banner advertising plus low CPC campaigns on AdWords, YSM, and MS AdCenter. Even if nobody clicks on your ads, it's still shown and there's your brand impression.

DomainDrivers




msg:3063081
 2:45 pm on Aug 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>Reciprocal links from one links directory page to another links directory page are probably not going to do a lot for you in Google these days, and too many recips can put your site in danger of getting your site some kind of penalty.

Every time I see this statement, I ask for some proof. Over the last several years, I have neve seen any evidence to support the statement made above.

To the contrary, I am well aware of hundreds of examples that refute it, by the fact that the sites rely primarily on reciprocation for their link popularity, and they rank extrardinarly well in Google. Many sites have been there for years, and others are newer sites.

[edited by: DomainDrivers at 2:46 pm (utc) on Aug. 28, 2006]

DomainDrivers




msg:3063096
 2:59 pm on Aug 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>And Playboy Magazine should only be purchased for the articles, hehe :).

Martinibuster, that's good. :)

Most sites that pursue this are doing it for SEO purposes. That is undeniable. It is also a bit misguided. This leads many people to try to link inappropriately, to gain some kind of imagined advantage. That can include going after non-relevant links, or it can include going after only high PR links, and other games.

What CNVI and I are saying is that recip linking should be approached as a branding function, within a realm of interest. The linking decisions should be based upon that alone. Good SEO results derive from that. When done well and diligently, huge SEO resutls can derive from it.

That's how this worked before Google came along. We were both there at that time. And that''s how it still works.

But, yes, most people just want SEO results, and they don't see the whole scope of this. That causes them to get off track with their recip campaigns, and do things that are detrimental. Often, it's due to the horrible bad advice coming out of these kinds of forums.

That is unfortunate, but the voices of people who know how to do this work properly are drowned out in these forums by the gamers and/or the chicken littles who claim that the sky is falling on reciprocation.

When they encounter people who actually know how this is done properly, they tend to ridicule and disparage them, and get their buddies to gang up as well.

Am I persecuted? No. That's ridiculous. But I have a limited amount of time. To continually come into these forums and battle people who actually don't know much about this, becasue they don't do it, but yet they make all kinds of whacky claims about it, gets very, very old and tiresome.

martinibuster




msg:3063725
 11:17 pm on Aug 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

But, yes, most people just want SEO results, and they don't see the whole scope of this. That causes them to get off track with their recip campaigns, and do things that are detrimental. Often, it's due to the horrible bad advice coming out of these kinds of forums.

1: Most people in this particular forum are interested in driving links to their site for SEO Results.

2: Most of the discussion here is about advancing search engine rankings, not branding.

3: Taking into account your various qualifying statements about recips not being for SEO purposes, your advice is not the right advice for most of our members because SEO results are the explicit and implicit reason for most of our link development discussions.

No one is condemning reciprocal link campaigns, yet for some reason you keep defending it here as if someone is attacking it. No. You got the wrong forum. Get the chip off your shoulder, there's no one here to attack.

[edited by: martinibuster at 12:01 am (utc) on Aug. 29, 2006]

martinibuster




msg:3063735
 11:30 pm on Aug 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

link as if Google did not exist. That is, ask yourself if the the link right for your site? If so, take it, pursue it, etc. That is yor guiding thought. Forget PR and the rest of it.

One has to keep in mind that Google is watching. So it's important that when one links it's done in a way that it won't hurt your rankings.

Most link requests that come in the email are bad. I would say about 999 out of a 1,000.

Jane_Doe




msg:3063751
 12:09 am on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

To continually come into these forums and battle people who actually don't know much about this, becasue they don't do it, but yet they make all kinds of whacky claims about it, gets very, very old and tiresome.

This is your third post at webmasterworld. I guess you tire pretty easy!

cnvi




msg:3064503
 4:21 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

this is a tough room! ;)

I think the point domaindrivers was trying to make is that reciprocal linking existed before terms such as "link popularity" existed.

Back in the late 90's, I also realized a great way to produce traffic was through linking with like minded sites.

Then Google came along and used link popularity (in part) to determine how sites appeared in their index. So webmasters went berzerk and linked up with anyone who would link back to them.. NOT the right way to do it. We are here to help educate users the proper way to do it so you dont have trouble with the SEs.

Both Yahoo! and Google state in their webmaster guidelines "have other relevant sites link to yours". We know from discussing with their engineers that they realize many sites won't link to a site without a link back, ie, reciprocal linking.

So when done correctly, it can be a fair way to create quality traffic completely aside from SE returns.

There is alot of misinformation on the web about reciprocal linking.. too many webmasters doing it for the sole purpose of trying to manipulate or affect their rankings. Which causes problems for SE engineers - and so the SEs take steps to try to devalue irrelevant links - not easy. When backlinks aren't counted, webmasters get paranoid and thus the retreat from linking.

Domain Driver's point is that if you will link for the end user and dispense with linking strategies that do not benefit the end user, reciprocal linking is a great way to obtain traffic as long as it's done correctly. Because those links are seen as relevant by the SEs and therefore, the relevant backlinks that were obtained with safe volume are still counted.

Reciprocal linking is alive and well when done correctly for the purpose of obtaining relevant traffic from like minded sites. It not only is a decent way to increase site traffic long term but yes, it will help your rankings long term when done correctly. That means keep linking slow and extremely relevant. Obtain deep links (not just links to your home page). Find informational sites that are relevant to your own and link to help your site's visitors maintain a "knowledge gateway" .. to help your end users continue to find relevant information related to your own site. When you do this with high relevancy and low volume, it works.

MartiniBuster, you are very right that alot of folks are here to learn about how linking affects SEO and thats a valid reason for discussion. I encourage it since that is something that must be considered when linking.

However, it's also important for webmasters to know that when two relevant sites link to each other, its not going to hurt their rankings as so many SEOs like to state unless it's being done in a manner that trips the search engines speed limits (dont ask me what the speed limits are, we dont know we just know they exist). Best way to avoid hitting the linking thresholds in place by Yahoo and Google is to avoid services that promise X number of links in a short period of time. Better to make each linking decision based on if the link benefits your end user and then keep the volume low (don't obtain or link out to more than about 50 new sites a month).

If you use software to manage your linking, use one that is EDITOR BASED and allows you to fully control who you will and will not link to. Use a software that allows your links to be hosted on your own server. Avoid services that promise guarantees.

[edited by: martinibuster at 4:48 pm (utc) on Aug. 29, 2006]
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ken_b




msg:3064533
 4:35 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

... with safe volume ...

And that volume is...? A fixed number per site? A fixed number per month? A ratio of some sort, maybe reciprocal vs non-reciprocal, per site, per month? What?

glengara




msg:3064666
 6:07 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Despite all your qualifiers you guys are still just touting reciprocal link directories, a methodology that is well past its best before date.....

IMO.

Jane_Doe




msg:3064710
 6:28 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've never heard of a site losing its rankings because it didn't have enough reciprocal links. :)

martinibuster




msg:3064770
 7:08 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

According to cnvi:
Both Yahoo! and Google state in their webmaster guidelines "have other relevant sites link to yours".

That's about true. Here is what Google's site actually says:
Make sure all the sites that should know about your pages are aware your site is online.

And here [google.com]:
Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank.

And over here [google.com]:

Make sure that other sites link to yours... Keep in mind that our algorithms can distinguish natural links from unnatural links. Natural links to your site develop as part of the dynamic nature of the web when other sites find your content valuable and think it would be helpful for their visitors.

So what that means is that unnatural links are pretty much everything else (outside of expert directories):
Unnatural links to your site are placed there specifically to make your site look more popular to search engines.

I am being honest: We are here to discuss the creation of both natural and unnatural links (and to get away with the unnatural links). I don't claim that reciprocal linking is ethical or unethical. I'm only pointing out that Google's own guidelines do not endorse reciprocal linking, and that Google's own guidelines are explicit that anything that is not naturally occurring* because of your great content is outside of their guidelines.

Now I ask you, how reasonable is it to refer to reciprocal links as a branding and traffic project? That's like telling the judge you were marketing marijuana for the pleasure of it's taste, and not for getting high (because that would be unethical, right?), so therefore your marijuana sales are not illegal. That claim would hold more water IF they removed the THC from the marijuana (or added a no-follow tag to the links).

If you as a webmaster were doing reciprocal links as a non-SEO, NON-pagerank influencing activity for branding and traffic trading purposes only, then you should have no qualms with asking for a NO-FOLLOW tag to your incoming links, and adding them to your outgoing links.

But I think most webmasters prefer to get high... in the serps. ;)

*Expert directories like DMOZ are the exception, as the guidelines explicitly endorse them. Likely because they are hand edited for quality.

Is there value in reciprocal links? If it's a high quality site, there's probably value in that. How do you judge quality? Ask yourself, if you were a DMOZ editor, would you add that site to the directory?

stever




msg:3064849
 7:44 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

martinibuster, you are talking to and about two different audiences here.

There are those (many) who are average and many of that group who are additionally lazy. And if you are average and lazy you use reciprocal link directories, or you say that reciprocal links are dead, or you use text link brokers, or you use link management software, or you repeat the religious mantra that the user experience will lead to success in the search engines (unless you are Matt Cutts, in which case you are hardworking and clever and you are only saying those things to appeal to your lazy and average audience).

The second audience would be looking at how to make a reciprocal link greater than the sum of its parts, or how to attract a link from the authority two levels up from your site, or searching for "advertising" opportunities on sites that have never heard of search engines.

But, because that often involves some hard thinking or hard work, a lot of people would rather settle for the easy recip along with 100 others from the Elbonia Hotel Directory or $25-a-month paid link from the not-very-well-disguised country resource filled with stolen gifs and copied wikipedia content and then go down the pub.

The reason why your 100 mails are 99% filled with equine manure is that too many of the senders have spent their time listening to third-hand information from second-rate SEOs.

IMO

cnvi




msg:3065040
 10:21 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

"I'm only pointing out that Google's own guidelines do not endorse reciprocal linking"

There is no proof of this.. show us the proof. It doesnt exist according to our contacts at Google.

cnvi




msg:3065049
 10:26 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

ken_b, Noone knows what the limits are. We only know the limits exist both from discussing with SE engineers and reading their published patents.

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.

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.

Noone knows what the limits are.. most likely there are all sorts of limits for different types of sites. Which is why its so important to conduct linking campaigns with editorial discretion for the end user.

cnvi




msg:3065062
 10:40 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

glengara, you said "you guys are still just touting reciprocal link directories"

Not sure how you define "reciprocal link directories" .. we are endoring linking to like minded sites for the benefit of the end user.

Reciprocal linking for the sole purpose of inflating serps is something we have never endorsed. If you own a site that promotes charter fishing in the orlando area and I own a site that promotes unique tours in the orlando areas, those two sites can link up because it benefits the end user, providing additional information to someone researching orlando vacations. No trickery there.. nothing there that is going to get you blacklisted in the search engines. That kind of linking has existed since the early 90s.

Reciprocal linking should never be done to affect serps .. it should be conducted in a manner that benefits the end user. Linking has existed way before major search engines were born.

Why is there so much anti-reciprocal linking rhetoric in this forum? Because it doesn't help your serps? it should not be conducted for serps in the very first place.

Linking decisions should only be made for the end user. Never for any other reason.

We know of thousands of websites that link for the end user with great success. The traffic that those links produce for their sites is a traffic supplement to SE returns. Why is is it so difficult for some of you to understand that basic premise?

Sure some folks do it wrong.. I can't be held responsible for that. I am here to help webmasters understand how to do it correctly.

martinibuster




msg:3065071
 10:41 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

There is no proof of this.. show us the proof. It doesnt exist according to our contacts at Google.

Google's guidelines do not endorse reciprocal linking. Google's guidelines have never endorsed, approved, or recommended reciprocal linking. Never.

If you feel the guidelines approve of reciprocal linking show us the link to where they do that. ;)

Reciprocal linking should never be done to affect serps .. it should be conducted in a manner that benefits the end user.

Statements like that would be easier to accept if it were also stated that a no-follow tag was being introduced in the same links. This would make the traffic trading links invisible to Google, while facilitating the stated goal of trading traffic and establishing brand.

Otherwise, it's like telling the judge you weren't smoking marijuana to get high, that it was simply for the taste. Until you remove the THC (or ad the no-follow tag to the links), it's just rhetoric.

[edited by: martinibuster at 10:51 pm (utc) on Aug. 29, 2006]

cnvi




msg:3065075
 10:51 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

The search engines realize some webmasters won't link without a reciprocated link. Thats the nature of marketing 101.. you promote my site and I'll promote yours.

All of the major search engines encourage relevant linking for the end user in one way or another. Google specifically states "have relevant sites link to yours". They realize many webmasters wont link if they dont get a link back, ie a reciprocal link.

What they do NOT want you to do is join a service or scheme that FORCES linking without editorial discretion. That is disclosed almost word for word in the Google 2005 patent.

Nowhere on Cutts blog will you find "don't reciprocal link". He has commented in the past to watch linking volume and linking relevancy but he has never stated not to do participate in reciprocal linking.

martinibuster




msg:3065079
 10:56 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well, the ball is still in your court to show us a link to where Google or a Googler approves and otherwise endorses reciprocal links. ;)

Mind you, I'm not saying Google penalizes reciprocal links. I'm only pointing out the FACT that Google does not and never has explicitly endorsed reciprocal linking.

In any case, what do you care what Google thinks about it? You're recommending it for non-Google SEO purposes anyway, right?

What they do NOT want you to do is join a service or scheme that FORCES linking without editorial discretion.

I would counter that a link partners service website that DOES give editorial discretion also falls afoul of Google's guidelines. I saw one this afternoon with almost 150,000 backlinks and a white bar on the home page.

cnvi




msg:3065093
 11:11 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

I never said any SE has endorsed reciprocal linking. What I am saying is that there is no proof that they are not endorsing it.

Major SE engineers realize that websites many times won't link to others without a link back. That type of cross promotion has been around since the web was born.

There is no documentation from Cutts or any other SE engineer stating to avoid reciprocal linking. Only comments stating to avoid poor linking relevancy and high linking volume.

ken_b




msg:3065103
 11:26 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

ken_b, Noone knows what the limits are.

Yeah, so defining a safe volume is pretty hard. Unfortunately people read forums like this and think "WOW... I bet 90 of 100 is a safe volume!" Then they pass that kind of thinking around as fact.

Pretty soon we're handing out referals to the "What to do when Google dumps ya" threads.

I don't think all arranged reciprocals are bad, but caution is advised.

This 49 message thread spans 2 pages: 49 ( [1] 2 > >
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