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Google Clarifies Link Exchange Guideline
Now it's "Excessive" Link Exchange that's Cautioned Against
cnvi




msg:3423073
 5:56 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

A few weeks ago, you all may recall I started a thread regarding Google's new guideline on "Link Schemes".

WebmasterWorld was first to report this new guideline. As many of you all know, other forums and discussion lists have picked up on this story creating some backlash against Google in the past few weeks.

[google.com...]

The guideline on Link Schemes (and specifically related to link exchange) was updated last night (I've been checking the guideline page twice daily hoping for a revision or clarification). The original guideline stated:

Examples of link schemes can include:
Link exchange and reciprocal links schemes ("Link to me and I'll link to you.")

Google updated the guideline either late last night or sometime today to read:

Examples of link schemes can include:
Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging ("Link to me and I'll link to you.")

They have added the words "excessive".

I am happy they made this revision. To state any link exchange is an example of a "link scheme" in violation of G's guidelines is overbearing in my opinion.

It seems now that link exchange may be acceptable as long as it's not "excessive".

Thank you to Google for adding some level of clarification. I just scanned other forums and don't see any mention of this update.

[edited by: cnvi at 6:29 pm (utc) on Aug. 15, 2007]

 

Reno




msg:3423098
 6:20 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanks cnvi for the update, and thanks to the folks at Google for providing a much needed clarification.

.........................

martinibuster




msg:3423102
 6:34 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Is it really so clear?

  • How do you define excessive?

  • What scenarios do you think Google defines as excessive?

[edited by: martinibuster at 9:06 pm (utc) on Aug. 15, 2007]

pageoneresults




msg:3423112
 6:43 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Is it really so clear?

That would've been my first reaction too.

If you have to set up a links directory, its probably on the excessive side. ;)

Note, they've still not added anything related to relevancy. So one could assume that excessive relative linking may cause issues too.

cnvi




msg:3423116
 6:49 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Well its certainly a bit more clearer than the original version of the guideline. Any clarification is welcomed. Agreed they could have said something about relevancy.

Reno




msg:3423130
 7:13 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

What do believe Google defines as excessive?

I don't think it's their nature to be that specific. But for myself and no doubt a gazillion other siteowners, we are pretty sure that our careful -- and limited -- linking is no where close to "excessive". And as cnvi said, at least they've moved away from the more sweeping generalization of the previous wording, which if taken literally, was a really huge tent.

......................

[edited by: Reno at 7:16 pm (utc) on Aug. 15, 2007]

Robert Charlton




msg:3423185
 8:07 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

How do you define excessive?

The same way you define over-optimization. ;)

pageoneresults




msg:3423202
 8:30 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Its amazing how that one word excessive just adds that much more confusion to the mix. Is there really a clarification?

If your link environment is from a "wholesale" perspective, you are more than likely in the excessive category. Got a mini dMoz links style directory attached to your site? That may be a bit on the excessive side. :)

blur




msg:3423213
 8:43 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

but...

does google really ever clarify anything?

jessejump




msg:3423215
 8:57 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Does everything have to be spelled out precisely for you?
How about 23? 17? If they said 42, then every webmaster would have 41 reciprocal links on their site.
Life rarely works like that.

Rugles




msg:3423216
 8:57 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Well its good that they acknowledge that a reciprical link is not necessarily an attepmt to rank high.

For years, whenever we got a link from a major media source I would immediately link back to the article. Always fearful that I could trigger a penalty.

martinibuster




msg:3423222
 9:04 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

What bugs me is when people condemn Google for having guidelines and point out that link pages have been around since before Google existed. That's a hollow argument. If you're afraid Google will penalize your site because you link exchange for traffic and not for search manipulation, then robots.txt your links page so Google doesn't know about it. End of story.

I discussed recips with a Googler at the New Orleans PubCon and excessive was the word of the day. No numbers mentioned but hey, let's throw some numbers around and see what the "wisdom of crowds" thinks about this.

  • Twenty Recips on a Links Page
    Would this pass a hand check?

  • Fifty Recips on a Links Page
    Are we approaching a gray line? Or is this normal and shouldn't raise eyebrows?

  • 100 Recips on a Links Page
    Ye olde standard for links on any page, including site maps has always been 100 links on a page. Is 100 recips on a page reaching a threshold for how many link partners is acceptable?

  • So many link partners you need multiple pages
    Are two pages too many?

    Are there scenarios where multiple link pages will stand up to a hand check?


glengara




msg:3423226
 9:08 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's quite simple, "excessive" means anything "intended to manipulate PageRank" :-)

blur




msg:3423227
 9:16 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I never said that not clarifying anything was bad.

This is how google keeps it's 'mystery' and our attention.

dazz




msg:3423229
 9:18 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Getting emails now and again with a site in a similar area to yours and asking if they can possibly link to their site and in exchange add your site on one of their pages = not excessive

Spamming emails everyday with 3 way link offers and having hundreds of links in a link directory to manipulate PR = excessive

Obviously google will never actually say where the "Excessive" line is......but jeez, use abit of common sense and if you think you perhaps might be anywhere near the "Excessive" mark...you probably are.

Tastatura




msg:3423235
 9:25 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

yeah, it's clear as mud :)

'excessive' number is (most likely) parameter knob in algo - they can crank it up or down... And also, 'the threshold' most likely will not be same for every site either...

adfree




msg:3423249
 9:44 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Topic related, like-natural linking between a group of own or friendly sites is now possible without a bad taste left in the mouth I believe.

Anything beyond, meaning LIBERATE efforts to inflate link count, any detectible action to obtain links artificially should concern you. So: don't!

We get closer to that reading.

buckworks




msg:3423261
 9:57 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I expect that "excessive" is not so much about absolute numbers as about proportions within your overall link profile.

If 99% of your links were reciprocals from little sites and only two sites in the whole world had ever given you one-way links, that wouldn't say anything very impressive about your site.

"What else ya got, kid?"

If you had the same reciprocals and also had a comparable number of one-way links from a variety of trusted sources, the overall link profile would be much more credible to Google.

Every new site needs to get started somehow, and reciprocals can be a useful part of the mix. Make good and sure that's not all you've got, though.

econman




msg:3423265
 10:11 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

let's throw some numbers around and see what the "wisdom of crowds" thinks about this.

Good idea. Here's my reaction:


* Twenty Recips on a Links Page
Would this pass a hand check?

No way this would be classified as excessive -- at least not for an algorithmic test.


* Fifty Recips on a Links Page
Are we approaching a gray line? Or is this normal and shouldn't raise eyebrows?

Definitely borderline. Better make sure every one of the links is relevant and goes to a high quality site.


* 100 Recips on a Links Page

Excessive/well into the danger zone. Perhaps OK for very solid, established sites, but it would be foolish to tempt fate.


* So many link partners you need multiple pages
Are two pages too many?

Two is probably fine, provided the links seem sufficiently relevant.


Are there scenarios where multiple link pages will stand up to a hand check?

Yes. But as the number of pages increases, so does the danger -- at a minimum you would need to be very vigilant in scrutinizing quality and relevancy.

Reno




msg:3423269
 10:18 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

What bugs me is when people condemn Google for having guidelines and point out that link pages have been around since before Google existed.

As far as I can see, no one here is raising any issues about guidelines -- there are however problems with guidelines that are so murky and/or contradictory that they serve no purpose except to make things worse. The only thing people are asking for is some thoughtful clarification.

Adding the word "excessive" does not eliminate the murkiness, but at least they are attempting to make it clear that it is not link exchange in and of itself that is subject to potential penalty, which is how the previous wording could be interpreted, if read literally.

Personally, I wish they'd also come up with a better word than "scheme", which as I've said in numerous posts, is loaded with double meaning. Precision in language is not asking too much from the market leader.

So what is excessive? Perhaps it's the way Justice Potter Stewart explained pornography in 1964 -- they "know it when they see it".

...................................

Trisha




msg:3423277
 10:39 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

they "know it when they see it".

Would this pass a hand check?

Do these really matter? What does the algorithm think? Of course if we knew that ...

I would guess ratios of number of links on a page vs other text on page and number of total pages vs pages with lots of links would be involved somehow.

ken_b




msg:3423282
 10:42 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I wonder if the time spread between recips appearing is taken into account in this.

europeforvisitors




msg:3423284
 10:53 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

If most or all of your links exist for the benefit of your users, you won't have to worry about the meaning of "excessive."

To put it another way, this isn't a problem unless you choose to make it a possible problem.

Want to be healthier? Eat organic food at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and create organic links in between. :-)

Lorel




msg:3423285
 10:54 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

What does excessive mean?

According to wordreference.com:

1 excessive, inordinate, undue, unreasonable
beyond normal limits....
2 excessive, extravagant, exuberant, overweening
unrestrained ......

So excessive would be anything beyond what (Google) considers abnormal and because of what they have stated elsewhere you can probably conclude that any time you have an "excessive" amount of traded links (compared to one-way or paid links) then you raise a red flag to Google.

The key is to not over-do any of them: get some one way links, get some reciprical links and pay for some of them but NONE in excess of the others.

Re having a directory the key to not having "excessive" traded links would be to offer free links, but not only "offer" them but actually accept them.

However, Google is going to have a big problem trying to figure out how to tell when you submit to a directory if you paid for the link or if it was free so it's a very gray area. Just don't do only one or the other or the boundary may look a little more refined to Google.

voices




msg:3423292
 11:03 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

They must be doing something right, I no longer get tons of emails asking for link exchanges. Maybe soon all link exchange threads will die out.

Reno




msg:3423321
 11:31 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I wonder if the time spread between recips appearing is taken into account in this.

I bet it is. If we could review the Google algo, we might find that there are dozens of criteria just related to reciprocal linking, such as:

- the age of the site adding the link;
- the age of the site being linked to;
- the number of 2 way links on each site;
- the number of 1 way links on each site;
- the number of 2 way links on that specific page;
- the number of 1 way links on that specific page;
- whether the link is text or graphic;
- the relevancy of the text in the immediate vicinity of the link;
- is the text in the immediate vicinity in keeping with the theme of the page;
- is the text in the immediate vicinity in keeping with the theme of the overall site;
- the day/week/month frequency by which each site adds new external links;
- the average number of links added per day/week/month
- the total number of links on a specific page;
- the total number of links on that page vs other pages;
- number of internal links vs number of external
- the position of the link on the page (top/middle/bottom);
- whether the link sits by itself in a "natural" sentence structure, or is clustered with other links;
(and obviously the PageRank values relating to each page/site would also come into play)
... etc etc

Not that we're going to get an algo glimpse any time soon ;-)

.................................................

pageoneresults




msg:3423337
 11:57 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I expect that "excessive" is not so much about absolute numbers as about proportions within your overall link profile.

There's a whole Google Patent that covers all of this. After reading that patent, you may come away with a better understanding of how Google may determine excessive from an algorithmic standpoint.

Overall Link Profile

That's a good way to summarize it all.

Marcia




msg:3423435
 3:36 am on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think the above "beyond normal limits" as a definition is a good starting place. How about what's "normal" for particular niches?

There are some types of sites that have traditionally done a TON of reciprocal linking among themselves, with other sites in the same niche that are related because of the similarity in the industry (even though product types might be different); while for others it's unusual to do recips at all. Yet even in a space where it's common, a "link directory" that includes sites that are so off topic that they're not even remotely connected is excessive even with a total of 100 links spread over 10 pages.

Maybe it's proportional to what's "normal" for the demographic that the site falls into, and Google certainly has enough statistics to program topical probabilities into the algo.

A quick hand check can easily spot varied-topic linking that's done just for link love, but who's to say that co-occurrence data can't be used in link analysis to automatically filter out and discount off-topic link pages?

In reality, there actually are and always have been, since linking became a factor in scoring, systems that can truthfully be called schemes. They know it and we know it. Personally, I think it should have been changed to read "excessive reciprocal linking and link exchange schemes." If it barks, call it a dog.

matrix_neo




msg:3423439
 3:44 am on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Catagorise the link types, receips, oneway, threeway, paid, blog forums and more... then strike the balance between all of them to have possibly the best link profile.

Rosalind




msg:3423486
 5:19 am on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think the above "beyond normal limits" as a definition is a good starting place. How about what's "normal" for particular niches?

I think the narrower the niche, the more likely it is you will come across reciprocal linking, simply because there will be a limited number of authoritative websites for that topic and it would be natural for them all to link to each other. Whereas it would look odd to have a large proportion of recips on a general interest site.

The trouble is, if Google is to take this into account, they would have to devise an algo that can figure out the theme of an entire website, and know the difference between a themed page on a general-interest website and a links page on a website about a very specific topic, and treat them accordingly. I don't see that happening any time soon.

This 43 message thread spans 2 pages: 43 ( [1] 2 > >
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