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Google Discounting Reciprocal Link Exchanges?
Time to Reconsider Recips as a Promotional Strategy?
martinibuster

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 11:55 pm on Dec 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

This is the most upfront statement from Google about their efforts to counter reciprocal link exchanges. The importance of this blog post to those who consider reciprocal linking as a viable strategy cannot be understated.

It's been a matter of debate whether or not Google discounted reciprocal links. Today it is safe to say that Google is not fond of reciprocal link exchange schemes. It doesn't get more explicit than this.

Within a recent Google Blog post [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com] about bad linking practices, the author lumps reciprocal link exchange tactics alongside paid links. The author does not qualify the statement against recips by singling out non-relevant or aggressive exchanges. Neither does it make a distinction between relevant link exchange or free for all link exchange. The blog simply references the exchange of links.

To sum up, even though improved algorithms have promoted a transition away from paid or exchanged links towards earned organic links, there still seems to be some confusion within the market about what the most effective link strategy is.

It's fairly clear that Google's algorithms are targeting reciprocal link exchanges.

Has the day finally arrived when we can toss off Reciprocal Link Exchange tactics the way we ditched Netscape 4.7 and the "Web Safe" color palette?

 

Adam_Lasnik

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 7:53 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

I haven't had a chance to look at the link dev library, but let me throw out a few other ideas:

- Participate in online communities; be helpful, be entertaining, be informative... and include a link to your site in your profile (and/or, when appropriate, in your sig).
- Participate in OFFLINE communities; be helpful, be entertaining, be informative... and give your business card out with a link to your Web site.
- Ask friends to check out your site. Surely ONE of your friends has a site and will honestly like and link to yours.
- Start a blog. Publish a feed. It's likely to show up on Google Blog Search, Technorati, Sphere, etc. People searching there will find what you've written.

Even just the first method above should be enough to get your site jump-started in Google and the other engines. Whether you're selling widgets, gushing about a hobby, or pontificating about politics... there are undoubtedly other communities that are interested what you have to say, and people in those communities who will value those who thoughtfully contribute.

The fallacy that getting love from Google and the other engines is a catch-22 has been disproven an enormous number of times, and frankly needs to a die a well-deserved death :).

leadegroot

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 7:56 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thank you, Adam.
Opening the blind for a little daylight makes things much clearer :)

Crush

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 7:57 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

"Discounting reciprocal links isn't the same as penalizing such links, and it's only reasonable that a search engine should discount obvious I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you'll-scratch-mine linking schemes."

Yes, I think in the old days people would get penalised for linking "to a bad neighbourhood" and there was too much fall out from that. It is far better just to give the site the benefit of doubt and discount the links, that way not too much damage is done.

[edited by: Crush at 7:57 am (utc) on Dec. 18, 2006]

atlrus

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 8:00 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

All those methods are just fine by me, Adam, but if you take some time and read the acctual post on Google blog, you will realize they are considered baiting...

Here is the exact quote:

A more recent method is link baiting, which typically takes advantage of Web 2.0 social content websites. One example of this new way of generating links is to submit a handcrafted article to a service such as [digg.com....] Another example is to earn a reputation in a certain field by building an authority through services such as [answers.yahoo.com....]

So, yeah, you will be link baiting this way...

Another thing - in all those cases - YOU will be the one posting link to your website, thus not organic in nature.

adfree

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 8:02 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

It's a tough deal for all who almost entirely rely on G traffic. But we all know about the (golden) eggs in just one basket, right?

I consider my site extremely serious, rather traditional for a specialized corporate business topic area. Nobody is linking to such site anyway (or would I expect Frost & Sullivan, CNNFn or Hoovers to link to me?) so my traffic will have to be generated some other way anyway.

Especially as it becomes clearer now that traffic generation through Google will shift in favor of the publically noisy topic areas.

While some measure of popularity to be detected automatically always seemed a good idea (a match winner for G for the longest time for sure) it needs to be clear that balance is being lost towards rather not so popular topics such as serious business advice NOT coming from huge sites but specialized experts.

Joe Blow writing about XBox games and gimicks however will always be in major advantage vs. Mrs. Studd providing her expertise on retail accounting practices with profound value to the reader, not to Google though.

Pass the Dutchie

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 9:08 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'll still do link exchanges as long as I believe the site I'm exchanging with is useful to my visitors.

Why do you have to reciprocate? If its about your users why not just link to to the site you feel would be of use to your visitors?

Web_speed



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 9:33 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

- Participate in online communities; be helpful, be entertaining, be informative... and include a link to your site in your profile (and/or, when appropriate, in your sig).
- Participate in OFFLINE communities; be helpful, be entertaining, be informative... and give your business card out with a link to your Web site.
- Ask friends to check out your site. Surely ONE of your friends has a site and will honestly like and link to yours.
- Start a blog. Publish a feed. It's likely to show up on Google Blog Search, Technorati, Sphere, etc. People searching there will find what you've written.

Great…. now i know what to tell my client when she asks how to get her new site listed in Google. She hardly knows how to type a url into her browser address bar. I can't wait to see her face when i tell her she needs to start a blog or Participate in online communities because she stand no chance otherwise. LOL.

Adam_Lasnik

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 9:43 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Web_speed... if she's your client, doesn't that present an awesome opportunity for you to help her understand the value of online communities AND give her some tips on productive and thoughtful ways to interact with them? ;)

And, if that's neither your bag nor your training preference, I know for certain that there are plenty of other good folks out there who'll gladly help online newbies leverage the power of communities online.

Joe Blow writing about XBox games and gimicks however will always be in major advantage vs. Mrs. Studd providing her expertise on retail accounting practices with profound value to the reader, not to Google though.

I have to disagree. Sites about XBox games and gimmicks and such, as you put it, are surely going to garner MORE natural links by nature of those topics being rather popular and trendy now.

BUT... those sites are also in a VERY crowded space, fighting for visibility amongst a ton of other sites.

In contrast, one of the fabulous things about niches... the long tail...(whether professional or social or whatnot) is that there's typically significantly less noise within those spaces. Sure, you're likely to get fewer links to a site and less bloggy excitement about retail accounting practices, but there are also likely fewer folks making both good and crappy retail accounting info sites to compete with ;).

[edited by: Adam_Lasnik at 9:43 am (utc) on Dec. 18, 2006]

IanTurner

WebmasterWorld Administrator ianturner us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 9:51 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Why do you have to reciprocate? If its about your users why not just link to to the site you feel would be of use to your visitors?

It is not a case of not linking to sites because they don't link to you. I am happy to link to sites that are useful because they are there. However if someone with a site gets in touch saying I've seen your site - it is relevant to my visitors and i've placed a link here, would you be happy to do the same for me, I'm certainly not going to say 'No Google doesn't like it' - that isn't even going to enter myh head, my thoughts will be:

1. Is this site a quality site?
2. Is it in a related industry?
3. Does it have some other value to my visitors?

Web_speed



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 10:04 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Web_speed... if she's your client, doesn't that present an awesome opportunity for you to help her understand the value of online communities AND give her some tips on productive and thoughtful ways to interact with them? ;)

And, if that's neither your bag nor your training preference, I know for certain that there are plenty of other good folks out there who'll gladly help online newbie leverage the power of communities online.

Adam, like most of my clients. She has no time for this. All she wanted was to get a web site online detailing her business and contact numbers + get a decent listing for "widget services cityname". Her clients are looking for her and can't find her. They look for her in yahoo and MSN and she is right there 1st position just like any other NORMAL search engine would list her (very niche topic. She is the only one in city name).

No i am not going to tell her to start a blog or participate in online comunities. I am not going to tell her about Adwords (Naaaa!) either. I am just going to tell her that once upon a time there was a search engine named Google and they used to index the web freaking fast and well. AND then they went public and it is all history since. I am going to tell her to forget about Google and to concentrate on yahoo and MSN instead. You see, I am in the business of designing web sites and getting them published online.....i am not in the business of trying to figure out what is the next weird trend on the plex. If you guys can’t properly index web sites and properly rank them for thier keywords then this is YOUR very own problem. If you dont get your act togther (and darn fast) somone else will eventualy step in, fill the gap and take over.

[edited by: Web_speed at 10:18 am (utc) on Dec. 18, 2006]

Adam_Lasnik

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 10:17 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ouch Web_speed!

At minimum, though, I hope you'll tell her about how she can get a completely free listing in Google's local listings:
[google.com ] if she hasn't done so already. That's be a super option, IMHO, especially for folks wanting to be seen for widget city-name.

I'm sorry Google's lost your faith. I hope and optimistically expect we'll win it back over time.

oddsod

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 11:01 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

If a Webmaster is engaging in reciprocal linking in a way that clearly indicates to us that he or she is doing so to garner PageRank, not out of a genuine interest for that other site... well, that's the sort of linking scheme we don't see as very user-friendly. Are we apt to ban that Webmaster's site? I highly doubt it. Are we likely to value those links less?

The subjective issue of whether the webmaster gained a link to increase PageRank is something the algo is going to slowly get better at. Till then do I stop linking to DMOZ and Wikipedia ('cause they've got loads of links to me and I don't want you to ban either of them)? ;)

buckworks

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 11:53 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

a lot of speculation about reciprocal linking in response to an official blog entry, when there's not even one mention of "reciprocal" on the entire page

Adam, could you please clarify the difference between "reciprocal" and "exchanged", then?

The blog entry specifically mentions "a transition away from paid or exchanged links towards earned organic links".

(emphasis mine)

leadegroot

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 11:56 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

she can get a completely free listing in Google's local listings

Ummm..... only in certain countries.... :(

Web_speed



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 12:01 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

she can get a completely free listing in Google's local listings


Ummm..... only in certain countries.... :(

Her country is not on the list.

glengara

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 12:28 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

*..the difference between "reciprocal" and "exchanged"..*

A reciprocal link can just be coincidental, an exchanged one denotes some deliberation, and it's the deliberate targeting of the PR algo through linkage that the blogpost is all about.

contentwithcontent

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 12:34 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google has had a stated opinion of this for years.

"Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings."

"Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links."

Quotes from the Google webmasters guidelines.

The guidelines are what Google wants. In the past some of them could be ignored, fewer and fewer of the guidelines can be so ignored now.

Read the Google webmaster guidelines.

rytis

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 3:35 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Of course, reciprocals done for improving SE ranks only, are bad and shoud be discounted. But at least they are done openly, we humans could easily recognize linkexchange from genuine links-for-users, thus ignore.

New evolving SE gaming methods seem to me more deceptive and likely to produce much more garbage on the Net. Examples:

1. Articles "written" by software or 3rd world cheap content producers, made for sole purpose of putting a "legitimate" "natural" link in the middle of it.
2. Cheap sensational articles about nothing, written for "linkbait", Press Releases etc. I have tried, it works. Nothing wrong in entertainment maybe, but 99% of time I search Google for other things.
3. Buying links. Not gonna be detected if done with knowledge.

Probably there are more, or will be thought of as soon as old ones addressed by algo...

I would be happy if someone proved I'm over pessimistic ;)

R

digitalghost

WebmasterWorld Senior Member digitalghost us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 4:10 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hello Adam, what didn't resonate was 'It's Official: Google Discounting Reciprocal Link Exchanges' That particular statement leaves little room for any 'nuance'.

And given that
Patterns are what matter.
I'm quite sure that there are some reciprocal linking patterns that happily live without fear of Google's algo. In fact, reciprocal linking is one of the most prominent patterns among link structures, often the most natural too. Or at least, a pattern that appears to be most natural. ; )

(Too) Rapidly acquired one-way inbounds seem the easiest to detect. Especially if they are off-topic. And reciprocal linking between blogs is easily detected, yet seems to be quite effective.

So yeah, I had a problem with the headline. Been having that problem a lot lately. Something about linkbait... ; )

[edited by: digitalghost at 4:27 pm (utc) on Dec. 18, 2006]

textex

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 4:12 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

It does make sense based on what does well in Google these days. All we see are major company sites and sites that buy tons of links as well as monster sites with thousands of pages.

photopassjapan

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 4:24 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

I think everyone at Google knows that those who are doing link schemes, and not just try to build a good-will network to exchange visitors while staying on topic...

...have been cloaking their links for about two years now.

They put the redirects in the links folder and then disallow it from robots.txt. Correct me if i'm wrong, but there's no way one can tell whether a site has been involved in an unbalanced link scheme... other than manual evaluation or disregard for the robots.txt directives. For some sites, linking patterns just won't tell you anything. Invisible linking patters will tell even less.

I'm with the decision on the index not in need yet another FFA directory made for adsense. But those were cloaked links. And people keep saying here that those seem to be manual penalties.

This is my read on what could/should be communicated to webmasters.

"Don't bribe people to link to you in masses, and fake a overly broad directory for each of your sites, titled as links pages."

...

Master Reader

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 4:24 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

It seems clearly to me, sites which look for link exchange to improve their site will be the ones who recieve discounted links.

In the other side, sites with good content, with links to other sites with good content too or related to the site, instead of being reciprocal, sites that look for users needs... those ones will be the ones who don't get links discounted.

DamonHD

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 4:27 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

textex: FUD!

G has treated my sites well since G came into being and I have *never* *ever* tried to game the SEs. Some of my sites would have had to game AltaVista at the time! (I've done things like "make sure the words you want to be found for are on the page", but that's as white as SEO hattery gets, surely?)

I've just (in the last few months) started a new mini-site with less than 10 pages so far, of information that I hope will be useful to a constantly-refreshing slice of the population worldwide.

It's already showing up at the top of the first page for a couple of simple two-word search phrases that I pulled out of the air while reading this thread.

I'm NOT agreeing with everything that G does on SE (they seem to have dumped the new .mobi PDA/phone version of my main site into oblivion and won't even give me more than a handful of AdWords impressions either even though the AW rep says everything looks fine, so the SE and AW algos seem to think my quality sucks!), but your blanket statement is simply NOT true.

Rgds

Damon

[edited by: DamonHD at 4:28 pm (utc) on Dec. 18, 2006]

rogerd

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 4:41 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>You see, I am in the business of designing web sites and getting them published online.

Web_speed, perhaps you are defining your business too narrowly, or need to partner with other firms that can deliver a complete web marketing package for your client. At a minimum, establishing and managing local and other directory listings, as well as analyzing PPC opportunities are important to your client's business health. And if you determine that a blog is a good idea, or participating in online communities is important, you need to facilitate that. (Or, find someone who will.)

I think clients are often living in yesterday's reality, and it's up to us to help them adapt to today's reality. A client who would "have no time" for a blog might be happy to write a weekly article for a small-circulation local newspaper, never realizing that the ROI of the blog time might be far greater. Similarly, a business owner might attend local business group meetings that rarely generate a client, and attend costly and equally unproductive out-of-town symposia, but would hesitate to "waste time" getting involved in an online community. A business owner may pump hundreds or thousands of dollars a month into Yellow Pages ads that don't pay for themselves, and not realize that they could pay only for actual clicks, calls, orders, or leads on the Web. As professionals who live with these issues daily, we have to help our clients understand them.

And, for organic search rankings, new content creation and an inbound link strategy are more important than coding the initial site. The point of this thread is that traditional link building strategies simply aren't as effective as they used to be, with possible Google "discounting" being just one of the reasons.

There's nothing wrong with being a website builder, and only a website builder - but if that's what you want to be, I'd suggest that you ensure your client isn't relying on you for her/his web-related business development activity.

Murdoch

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 5:34 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

After this they'll be trying to lock down the triangle linking schemes.

It's a good thing I am already one step ahead with my trapezoidal linking schemes.

lfgoal

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 5:56 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Adam, your participation in this thread is extraordinarily helpful and those who can read between the lines should benefit greatly.

Personally, I don't think reciprocals should be penalized (and it doesn't sound like google does unless we're talking about huge link-mutual-appreciation schemes). But it wouldn't bother me to see them devalued or nullified either.

I hate it when I see sites go to the top of their serps on the power of mainly reciprocals and little else. Ideally, the content at the top should be there because "users" found it useful and voted for it by linking to it NOT because X number of webmasters cooperated (by reciprocals) in boosting their own respective sites.

Think you can cruise over to the thread about multiple site ownership?

System
redhat


 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 6:15 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

The following message was cut out to new thread by martinibuster. New thread at: link_development/3192261.htm [webmasterworld.com]
10:23 am on Dec. 18, 2006 (utc -8)

atlrus

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 6:43 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

You guys are missing the point, which is - all those methods STILL WORK just fine.

Link exchanges - they work, as long as you dont get carried away.

Buying links - still works, we do it, as long as it's on topic. There is no way of telling if I paid to get a link on a website related to mine, or if it's "organic", assuming it's done smart.

Link baiting - that has been a great tool for many of us - digg, prweb, forums with sigs, wiki etc.

I think that link exchange has been a good way to self-regulate our own industries. It has always been the only way for the little guy to be seen, and "organic" links are whats helping the people with deep pockets.

I am getting tired of G trying to regulate the web, and tell me what I should do with my website. Of course I can choose not to optimise for Google, but with all the hype they have created - it's like choosing Linux over Windows - it would make no sence; I really dont see my friends (regular people, Level 1 PC knowledge) switching to Linux just because it's more stable or what not. Hell, most of them still turn off their PCs from the power button.

And they need the hype, because it's the only way to keep them in business - and that's why they are buying all the good indies - you have to keep telling people that you wont be cool unless you "google it".

Tell me this - if Google results were as good as you say - when was the last time you hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button? I know I havent done it in years, I am just too afraid I will end up on a spam site. Perfect name for that button though - you really have to be lucky to get a good result.

atlrus

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 6:48 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ideally, the content at the top should be there because "users" found it useful and voted for it by linking to it NOT because X number of webmasters cooperated (by reciprocals) in boosting their own respective sites.

Who would those "users" be? I dont see any of my relatives rushing to learn HTML, after finding a good website, just so they can build a site to place a link to it. Webmasters are the only people who can link.

jimbeetle

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 7:17 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Webmasters are the only people who can link.

Folks don't need to know much at all to drop a link at a forum, on their myspace page, on a blogger or wordpress hosted blog, or to digg it, or /. it, and on and on.

atlrus

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3190790 posted 7:43 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Most of those links have long been discounted. Blogs and myspace mean nothing - kudos to G for that.

And there is no difference between you posting on digg/forum and someone else doing it. The only way google can get real feedback from regular users is through the toolbar. And I will leave that one alone, for another discussion.

An average person - they have a blog and/or myspace - they cannot influence google in any way better than I can.

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