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Matt Cutts on Reciprocal Links

   
11:09 pm on May 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Bit of a bombshell from Matt..

*As these indexing changes have rolled out, we’ve improving how we handle reciprocal link exchanges and link buying/selling.*

*If you were getting crawled more before and you’re trading a bunch of reciprocal links, don’t be surprised if the new crawler has different crawl priorities and doesn’t crawl as much*.

[mattcutts.com...]

11:55 pm on May 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

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In attempting to punish 'unnatural' linking google are simply encouraging it in other forms.

This is going to stop many webmasters being so generous with their outbound linking and will surely lead to an increase in paid links.

12:12 am on May 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Wow, Matt wrote a novel. Very interesting. Goes beyond saying don't link to bad neighborhoods to don't link to multiple spammy subjects.
3:06 am on May 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Let's always remember the context of the discussion, it's in matt's best interests to "scare" people, especially the less experienced ones, away from tactics google may have problems with. A nice public execution every now and then goes a long way to further that goal. So read what he says and use it to verify what you are seeing already, not the other way around.
10:02 am on May 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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graywolf I agree. Pinch of salt. How About the irrelevant links in the bottom, that was utter scaremongering. Google cannot theme at all, so this is bull and is an attempt to stop link networks and irrelvant linking.

What I did deduce from it is that if you have the word "resources" on your pages, these links may not get crawled.

10:18 am on May 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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There's post over at SEW about a failed re-inclusion request for a number of sites pinged for irrelevant links, I basically dismissed the suggestion they'd have caused a penalty ;-)
Turns out the poster had been so told by MC, had posted about it about a month ago but nobody took it seriously.

The irrelevancy factor may just highlight the fact that they are reciprocal links, if not we're all in trouble ;-)

3:22 pm on May 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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quite often G will only return 1 site to the serps. G the punisher want to teach you a lesson.
3:15 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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at the risk of sounding like a cuttlet, i say good.

reciprocal linking encourages webmasters to get lazy, and ultimately the end user suffers. your user could care less about your "partners page", primarily because the links on there were obtained from webmasters looking to game the engines. typically they are presented in a haphazard fashion, with little or no relevancy to what the user is looking for.

reciprocal linking makes the web messy and less relevant.

site owners should focus on providing their users with relevant resources. link to additional related resources, irregardless of the PR of the link, or whether or not they give you a return link. your users will appreciate it, and in time, the engines will reward you accordingly.

pay attention to providing your user with a valuable resource, and stop playing the reciprocal linking game. the web has moved on - you should too.

3:23 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Google cannot theme at all, so this is bull and is an attempt to stop link networks and irrelvant linking.

Perhaps Google (the technology) can't, but Googlers (the people) certainly can.

No, real humans can not look at every single site indexed by Google. But they can certainly review sites reported to the SPAM department. (Such as the case with Matt's examples.) And it certainly wouldn't be too much of a stretch for the current technology to flag some suspect sites for manual review later.

3:42 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jane_doe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Having a lot of reciprocal links has not been a great strategy for getting links for quite some time now. Google has made it clear for a long time they are focusing on natural link patterns.
3:47 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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



Jane_Doe is right, the efficacy of some reciprocal linking strategies has been on the wane for some time now. I've been advising clients to remove extensive link pages from their sites for awhile now.
3:55 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Perhaps Google (the technology) can't.

I'd tend to think that Google's technology can detect this type of stuff. In reading the various patents Google has filed for over the years, this stuff should be easy for them to filter for.

There is much more to what Matt wrote and just focusing on this one bit would be an injustice just as it is claimed that Google is penalizing sites for this. There are going to be many other factors involved. If a site is using the strategies that Matt gives examples of, there are surely other signals throughout the site that would be filtered for.

What's happening here is those who have been heavily involved in irrelevant and relevant reciprocal link exchanges are feeling the pain right now. I mean, come on, one look at some of the site examples given and there are visible signs (footprints) all over the place. Look behind the scenes and it smacks you in the face.

This is what happens when you base your online campaigns solely on links, it's a risky strategy these days. Sure, it works, but for how long? For some, they may go undetected for years. For others, they will get caught up in the mass filtering that search engines will and are using. Google just happens to be leading the pack in this area and it probably won't be long before the others follow suit. That seems to be the natural progression, Google does something, then the others follow in some instances. Follow the leader.

P.S. If this is a scare tactic from Google, it's a pretty good one. Much of what Matt wrote aligns with documentation available out there supporting the claims.

3:59 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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"This is what happens when you base your online campaigns solely on links, it's a risky strategy these days."

Our site has not participated in any link exchange programs, we have no spammy stuff on our site..

Yet we where hit very hard..

5:03 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jane_doe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Our site has not participated in any link exchange programs, we have no spammy stuff on our site..

Yet we where hit very hard..

I have a feeling the odds are you are not looking hard enough or being objective enough about your own sites. The only pages I lost with this last update were ones that were either low quality or lacked high quality signals. Not having spammy stuff and not doing link exhanges isn't enough to get pages to be indexed in Google right now. To paraphrase a quote from Seinfeld show, you also have to have signals of quality to show your site is index-worthy. :)

Losing pages is a learning experience and often provides valuable clues to what Google thinks is or isn't a good page. Analyze the pages you lost compared to the pages that remained and look for patterns in the data. With my sites it is very clear and very reasonable criteria from Google's perspective as to what they think it worthy of keeping in their index.

5:17 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The thread title focuses on "reciprocal" links, but in reading the blog entry I get the strong impression that he primarily concerned about the fact that the example links lack sufficient relevance to users of the site containing the outbound links.

It's hard to imagine why users of an eastern european real estate site would especially benefit from links to a site selling camcorders. Thus, I can easily see why Google might interpret those links as being part of a "scheme" contrary to their guidelines, or at least conclude that the links might have been placed there strictly for SEO purposes, and thus it might not want to treat those links as valid "votes".

Matt basically assumes that anyone looking at his examples will instantly see why these might be classified as "bad" links from Google's perspective.

How effective Google is at finding these types of "bad" links, and what it does about them when it finds them is left to our imagination.

In his blog entry, Matt is only talking about Big Daddy's more sophisticated crawl priorities, but it is easy to imagine that the same technology Google is using to detect "bad" links for crawl priorities can also be used to ignore the "bad" links for ranking purposes or -- worst case -- impose some sort of penalty or "negative trustrank" factor.

5:44 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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<<Our site has not participated in any link exchange programs, we have no spammy stuff on our site.>>

For site owners to get an accurate picture of the the root cause of their ranking drop due to Google's latest change, they would have to examine the IBLs of sites 3 or 4 link-jumps away from the ones directly linking in to their site.

If you're floating on an inner tube in the middle of the ocean and barely keeping your head above water, it makes no difference what section of the tube begins to leak. The only thing that matters is that Google has begun to deflate (re-distribute PR) the system.

( Que the arguement on PR distribution<G> )

7:53 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



F_Rose, you said...

Our site has not participated in any link exchange programs, we have no spammy stuff on our site.

Are you absolutely, positively sure? No link exchanges whatsoever?

8:06 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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OK..

Here is the thing, someone (martinbuster) just made me aware of a major issue.. I have never put any attention to it and will get working on it asap..

We show over 700 links to our site, that seems to be reciprocal links however as to my knowledge we have never participated in reciprocal linking, unless someone has done it for us.

So our site is linked from other sites, but we are not linking back to them..

How do I get rid of this?

[edited by: martinibuster at 8:20 pm (utc) on May 18, 2006]
[edit reason] TOS. [/edit]

8:14 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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What struck me was the multiple repetition of "reciprocal" while the linkage examples shown could easily be from non-reciprocal sources...
8:32 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



So our site is linked from other sites, but we are not linking back to them. How do I get rid of this?

If you are not linking back to them, a reciprocal link, then there should be nothing to worry about in that area. If you hired someone and they performed this type of service for you, did you allow them access to your site? If so, have you looked for anything that might not be in order?

And no, there isn't much you can do with inbound links and that is why I believe that is a non-issue. Unless of course something changed in this latest crawl priority. Google has always stated that there is almost nothing that a competitor could do to harm your site. I would surely hate to think that inbound links alone would cause harm.

Are you certain that there are no technical issues with your site? Have you changed anything with hosting, the way your site is set up, etc. in the past 6-12 months? For a site that has been around for more than a couple of years, it would take something pretty severe for it to get wiped out in an update like that.

8:35 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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



I don't want to get too specific about the type of links those are, but those are more than just inbound links. From my conversations with Googlers, I know that they are capable of finding the type of pattern that those links might be exhibiting.

I don't see it as a third party doing harm potential, either. It's more about a campaign boosting the site, then getting caught and being brought back down to square one, where they started.

Certainly there are other things going on with that site, but my hunch is that it is related to the type of links the site is mixed up with.

8:51 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Nicely put martinibuster, your writing is like why reading the book is so much better than seeing the movie:

It leaves so much to the imagination.....

9:23 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Our site does not have any outstanding issues except this issue that martinbuster has spotted which I am not yet convinced that our inbound links are reciprocal.

We have other site linking to ours, some are open directories others are links from sites relative to our site.

Martinbuster, claims that these links are reciprocal links or thier is a third party linking, which I am not aware of.

Now I would need to clarify this although I don't know how..

I would want to get rid of these links only if they are reciprocal, if it's just inbound links I would like them to stay..

Anyone with the same scenario or with experience on this issue to help me out here?

9:50 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I'd assume MB knows his linkage onions...
11:04 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member ogletree is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



If you ever rank for any half way decent term your site will be scraped to death and you will get a lot of weird links. Google knows what these are and does not penlize you for them. What Matt is talking about is an obvious joining of a link exchange scheme. It is ok to trade links with people if the links make since. Just don't create a directory on your site only linking to sites that do the same thing. And for sure don't use some out of the box program to do that. They can detect those like blinking red light.
11:14 pm on May 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Yeah, far be it from reality that people would ever link to a site on their own without some ulterior motive! People, let's not let the recipricol linking/conspiracy theories get too far fetched around here.

If you have a widget site and you did a recipricol link with a site that has absolutely nothing to do with widgets and has outbound links to every topic imaginable, then yes, feel free to worry and even remove the link if you feel so inclined.

But if you have a site about widgets and recipricol links with a site about blue widgets, if all the other outbound links on the blue widget sites go to widget-related sites, don't lose any sleep over it.

According to Yahoo, we have over 2,000 inbound links for our main site, maybe a dozen of which were a result of recipricol links (and only because the other sites were related). I'm certainly not going to lose any sleep about it.

7:42 am on May 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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LifeinAsia, spot on. MC is using scare tatics. I know for sure once once your domain has trust, the links do not matter as long as links point at your site.
10:51 am on May 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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LifeinAsia, spot on. MC is using scare tatics. I know for sure once once your domain has trust, the links do not matter as long as links point at your site.

Amen, brother. I have 10 number on rankings on pretty competitive terms where the only tactic I ever used was recips. Plus, I will not take down the recips no matter what.

If Google ever knocks me out of the SERPS (which the do occassionally), at least I'll still have SOME traffic from the people who were kind enough to exchange links with me.

5:24 am on Jun 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Amen, brother. I have 10 number on rankings on pretty competitive terms where the only tactic I ever used was recips. Plus, I will not take down the recips no matter what.

Same here...i have many clients who still have their recips in place and yet are maintaining their PRs and SERP's despite the updates.

but everyone around seems to be going "No recips" whatsoever. wonder whats the final release on this.

[edited by: martinibuster at 5:35 am (utc) on June 2, 2006]
[edit reason] Added quote tags. ;) [/edit]

3:00 pm on Jun 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jane_doe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Older sites usually have a lot of scraper, DMOZ clones, unsolicited links and other assorted links acquired over time. So even if you only intentionally did reciprocal links on an older site, they probably are not the only types of links you currently actually have.

I don't see any new sites popping up in the serps in competitive areas with only reciprocal links these days. Sure recips only will still probably work great if you have a site about the first ever "Crawdad Festival in Taylor County", but they simply are not going to get you very far for any terms where the existing sites in the first two pages of serps have 5,000+ backlinks, many of them one way.

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