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Q. When is a reciprocal link exchange not a reciprocal link exchange?
A. When the original link exchange site goes out selling the exact same links pages to other sites!
I received an email 2 days ago at a domain that does not operate a link exchange.
"Buy our link exchange pages and special software. Send an email to the people we exchanged links with, saying you have linked to them too now. The email tells them to link back within 10 days or your link to them will be deleted! This way, you get the thousands of other web sites we have linking to us, linking to you. And you know how well that does for sites in Google right?!"
Oh man, and within 48 hours it has started. Emails from the original link exchange site going out to all of their link partners. Lovely, html encoded with all the new link partners' URL, titles and descriptions all laid out for you (OK, OK, I know because on one of my sites, I put up a link exchange page, sorry - at least it is for relevant only sites). All you have to do is add these new sites to your link pages, enter the corresponding link back URL's to them in the boxes provided, and whamo! Yet more links for Google!
GoogleGuy, when are you going to ignore pages with "link" in the directory path, page name or title?
Face it, there is simply no way google can counter these actions. Any little change google makes the webmasters will make. The fact is that it is extremely easy to cheat your way into the top of the search results now.
I think what we may see eventually is tracking of visitors searches and the clicks they make and how long they stay on a site to determine its importance for that search term.
One look at the site making the request usually tells the story. Zeus sites, PR0 sites, robot excluded links pages, thousands of links sites, etc, etc.
Also, it's kind of an unwritten rule that you'll probably remove links from sites that don't reciprocate when an exchange is requested but anyone who says in their exchange request that I'll be removed if I don't reciprocate doesn't stand a chance of being listed on my site.
About 80 - 90% of the link exchange requests I get these days, and I usually get several a day, are not ones you'd want to deal with.
Are you kidding? isnt that a major part of the google algo? I would think that a site would not be able to obtain many quality link exchanges if it is a "tin can" site... If they can get quality sites to link to them, then the site must be of some quality..
When I analyze the backlinks of 'tin can' sites that have made it to the top I've found there are several possible reasons. Once of which is hundreds of backlinks from OTHER tin can websites. The other reasons come from things like paying for PR and spammy guestbook links...
There are plenty of high PR links for a spammer to find, but that does not mean the links are quality. PR does not equal quality.
"GoogleGuy, when are you going to ignore pages with "link" in the directory path, page name or title?"
The non-profit organization I work for is several years older than Google (not as high profile!) and has "Link" as part of its title:-)
This is common in the non-profit sector;
Environment Link etc.
Have to be careful here.
I take your point though that these reciprocal link exchanges devalue Google search results.
Also, if google does encourage link swapping / reciprocal links then why should they be banned? I think if the algorithm concentrated more on the theme of the links (referrer site theme and refered site theme perhaps containing common keywords e.g. auto insurance/ auto loans) then this would be a fair way to do it. Complementary themes,etc.
Am i right GG in that this is a safe way to promote sites i.e. by swapping links with other related but not necessarily identical-content sites? E.g. widget insurance and widget rental?
On the other hand, having related links available to your visitors is a great service. Just because you don't sell Blue Widgets in your widget line doesn't mean your visitors wouldn't benefit from a link to someone who does.
On the other hand, if you link to every Tom, Dick, and Hairy non-Widget site, you're not helping your visitors and not spreading PR. No problem.
We have a Widget News page that our visitors frequent. We don't have time to publish all the current news in the industry so we just link to the best Widget News sites -- and most of them link back to us. If we were to link to every possible Widget News site, the link page would be worthless to our visitors and worthless for spreading PR.
Basically, I don't see what's broken.
Link spammers can trade link with other link spammers all they want.
By exhcanging links with a limited number of high quality, relevant sites, my efforts will pay off with a source of highly targeted traffic even if the search engines decide to ignore the links.
If you've got a quality site other quality sites will accept your exchange request, even higher page rank sites that feel a link to your site can offer something useful to their visitors, and especially if they feel your visitors will be interested in what they have to offer. It appears to me than one or two links from high quality, high page rank sites pay off better than dozens of shady links.
What's broken is some people's belief that an automated e-mail campaign for link exchanges will get them a link from my site.
"The non-profit organization I work for is several years older than Google (not as high profile!) and has "Link" as part of its title:-)"
I am sure Google can determine what is a valid links page from established sites, and what is a lin exchange page.
"On the other hand, having related links available to your visitors is a great service. Just because you don't sell Blue Widgets in your widget line doesn't mean your visitors wouldn't benefit from a link to someone who does."
Related synergetic / value links are good, and should appear on the real pages. Links pages are there for SE reasons, not for users to browse. Some sites put valid (the first type) links on a links page. But, as I said. If Google can't work that one out, then I would be amazed.
The problem is that people with good and indifferent sites now just exchange links. It is like schoolboys collecting cards - you want them all. And this is not good.
That is your opinion!
We have links on sites that compliment ours that use links pages and get a lot of traffic from them. If they were just there for the SE, then we would get none.
Everybody is so affraid of linking.
After all, Google is nothing but a bunch of links!
Links are good as long as they don't go to bad places!
It is only a problem in certain competitive commercial areas.
For most of the web, links pages are just small personal web directories, and they still generate traffic. I get thousands of visitors a month from links pages, and thousands of visitors use my links pages. In fact, I am planning on revamping them in the coming week to make it more useful for the user (and hopefully for google too).
I think google might be interested in trying to put some effort into identifying "bad" links pages.
But I think Google needs to figure out who are the serious offenders here. The way I see it there are various "levels" of link popularity inflating techniques. Some very devious, some legit.
1. Reciprocating your own links, by multi domain site with keyword stuffing anchor link that have little to no content. They are only created to increase their own link popularities. This is the worst kind if you ask me.
2. Bulk Reciprocal link exchanges of off theme sites. Like my 50 PR7 travel sites exchange links with yor 20 PR8 gambling sites. This is also very bad in my books
3. Reciprocating of off theme sites. Small amounts of this is not a big deal, but I'm sure an algo can predict within a certain amount of probability if this is being done un-naturally or not. Like If I have a personal site, I may link to my favorite casino, credit card company, whatever. But if the site has a specific theme to it and it is sending out all kinds of junk recip links that is highly "unatural linkage" for that theme, then I think those links should be downgraded specifically.
4. Reciproting of themed sites by bulk, this isn't a big deal at all, and may even be very legit. Like hub/spoke, linking every page to every page within the company structure of the same theme. I think these links should be fine.
5. And of course just regular recip links of similar theme. These are the best kind and should never be penalized.
The problem is, google doesn't penalize recip links of the #1 and 2 variety as they should. They should concentrate on downgrading/eliminating those before worrying about other types of link exchanges.
Personally when I link exchange I only use #4 and 5 methods, I never do off theme site links and never do bulk link exchanges. Because I think one day Google will catch up with this spamming method.
One good example of hub/spoke is CNET
You can see their web properties listed in the URL above, and there is significant interlinking between all of them. There should not be anything wrong with this.
I myself have modelled my sites around CNET's format and created a corporation like "born2drv inc" and branched off into subsidiaries and divisions which all focus on unique products or services and have significantly different themes.
Anyone could really do this but there is a very grey line about what are subsidiaries/divisions or partner sites and what are just a collection of spammy domains with no content. So that's why Google has such a hard time differentiating between the two. But when a human lands on the site they can tell relatively quickly if it is spam or not. Most often, they were just on another site with the exact layout in a different color or something.
I think Google needs to impliment some sort of "customer satisfaction" factor in their algo based on how long the user stays on the site or something or how deep they surf into the site. They need to somehow differentiate the content sites from the fluff without manually checking every site which would be impossible.
Just give it a link or two from somewhere and be patient. After the next update when you have PR ask those webmasters again and tell them your site was never penalized to begin with.