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Google, time to define "RELEVANT" or "RELATED" linking and reciprocal linking

what's the idea of MC and GG about what it is relevant & related in linking



10:37 am on May 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi guys,

I'm a bit worried about the semplicistic concept of "relevant" or "related" content used by MC when he talks about linking and reciprocal linking.

I explain what I mean with an example: we are a hotel reservation website and we deal with hotels in various
destinations of the world.

Our "related resources" are the ones that would be _USEFUL_ for a traveller.

As the traveller will book the hotel with us, the rest of the resources are "complementary" resources and not
comtetitive resources.

Example of what we link and what our travellers want us to link (as these are useful things to know if you have already booked or about to book an hotel):

- Car rentals
- Airport transfer services
- Bicycle Rentals
- Art Galleries
- Cinemas
- Museums
- Theaters
- Bars
- Food Festivals
- Restaurants
- Casinos (Yes, if you book an hotel in Las Vegas, you want to know the best casinos if you don't have one inside your hotel)
- Clubs and Discos
- Festivals & events
- Nightclubs

I also have another 195 categories of resources that we regularly link in order to build a good service for our

As you see, these are all hotel and travel related resources, that makes our websites very visited and one-way-linked just because these are useful info for a traveller than wants to book an hotel and know more about the area.

NOW: I'm worried about what MC says in his blog and about the use and definition that all the SEO world has done about "relevant/related" content.

It should be natural that a website will link COMPLEMENTARY resources, not COMPETITORS. Therefore, the keywords to be inspected on our outgoing links are 100% different from what we sell.

Therefore, I'm deeply worried about the concept of "related" that Google will or is applying in evaluating what type of links you have on your pages.

MC says:

"another real estate site......I checked out the site. Aha, Poor quality links...mortgages sites...."

Now: is MC aware that mortgages sites are natural and relevant and pertinent to be linked if you are a real estate agent, as you might want to give related services to your visitors telling them how to find the money to buy his services?

Or does MC search for the related content in terms of a semplicistic "real estate words are good, anythign else is bad"? I mean: is Google even thinking about the fact that a real estate site cannot link a competitor but will be more likely to link complementary services?

In short: does Google and MC want us (a hotel reservation service) link Hotels.com as it will be relevant (and a complete nonsense as they are our competitors) or is googe "mapping" the related (complementary) services for every industry?

I doubt that Google will have a map of every complementary service for any given industry: therefore, I'm afraid that "related" for MC means "same topic, same industry... competitors, essentially".

Will MC want Expedia to link Orbits, in order to evaluate Expedia's lik as relevant?

Or will MC and Google better evaluating (or not "worse evaluating" at least) Hotels.com linking Avis or Budget?



[edited by: engine at 2:20 pm (utc) on May 22, 2006]
[edit reason] formatting [/edit]


8:28 pm on May 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I am very new to all this but if a website has truthful, reliable and up to date original content, a clear and clean structure, should it not at least appear 'somewhere' in the results?

Depending on how clever the spammers are (and the SE unable to detect the spam), the website might appear sufficiently low in the results that most people won't see it. Most people don't go past the second or third results page. So they either give up or use whatever looks like the best results on the pages they see.


8:45 pm on May 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

*glen .. triangular links are very popular..*

We may well know that, what's interesting is that apparently so does G ;-)


8:53 pm on May 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

>>Not everyone who complains about Google does so solely because their sites don't rank well....

Very true whiteknight. We are discussing relevant and recip linking; their application to getting our site listed and listed well, are we not?

The point is, much of the recip game is up. Whether we think so or not. In fathoms earlier post, suggesting the making of your link page into your home page as the lithmus test - this is supposed to make us think about who these links really are intended for and gives, I think, a great deal of insight as to our motivations and thus the fodder for Googles algo to knock down the importance of these links. In most cases the way recip links are deployed (another hint from Matt) just aren't that important to the user.


10:16 pm on May 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

Before Google
...It was true that if a man called himself a pacifist, the SE's would rank him as a pacifist.

...After a while, the man learned that if he often referred to himself as a pacifist, the SE's would rank him more highly for that term.

After Google
...One day, a new search engine named G came along, and decided that if he referred to himself as a pacifist, and others pointed to him as he walked by, then G would rank him as a pacifist.

...It did not take long before the criminal figured out that if the people who pointed to him as he walked by called him pacifist while they pointed, rather than just calling him by his name, his rankings went up for the term "pacifist." So he wore a sign - "pacifist" - and people called him that as they pointed, and his rankings rose.

...After a time, the man realized that if he got all of those he knew to call him pacifist, his rankings would rise further still, and that is what happened.

...So he thought, why not get strangers to call him pacifist, and in return he would refer to them as they wished to be referenced, and all those in his newly expanded network could rank even better for their respective terms. And so it was.

...Sometimes the man even tried putting dummies up on the street and pointing the dummies back to himself, and calling him "pacifist," and some SE's were fooled by this, but some less so.

...Unfortunately for the man, G eventually saw that almost everyone referred to him only as "pacifist." They never called him by any other similar name (for example, "peace lover"). So G decided that this was suspicious, and that if too many people called a man "pacifist," and never called him anything else, that he could no longer rank for that term. This was a sad day for some who were only ever called, for example, "Brian," because they found that they no longer ranked for "Brian" or whatever was their true name, and so they could no longer be found.

...Of course, the man noted that he stopped ranking for "pacifist" even though he and all of the others whom he knew called him that. So the man read up on LSI and theming, and, while not fully understanding these concepts, decided that his friends should call him by many names that all meant "pacifist" - names like "peace lover" and "friend to all". And after a while, the man once more began to rank for "pacifist." Not only rank, but rank well indeed, and for other terms too. Times were good.

...After seeing the man rank so well, an enemy of the man ratted the man out to G, and told G that the man not a pacifist, and that he was a criminal, and carried a weapon. Well, G did not know if the man was a pacifist or not, but wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt, decided that the only way they would know for sure was if many other trusted pacifists also called him "pacifist." G called these trusted pacifists, "pacifist authorities" and "pacifist hubs", depending up how popular or talkative each was.

...This worked for a while, but eventually, G began to suspect that the faux-pacifists were getting better and better at creating the illusion that they were true pacifists, by begging, borrowing and buying the necessary accolades. It even became known that some faux-pacifists were bribing true pacifists to say nice things about the faux pacifists, so that G would be fooled.

...So, G decided to take drastic measures. They became a registrar so that that could look at each man's historical records. They learned to keep track of what each man said about himself and when, and what others said about each man, and when. And G learned to not trust those who suddenly one day out of the blue proclaimed themselves as pacifists, though their records bore no hint of that previously. And while some pacifists were not able to gain ranking under this new system even though they were truly pacifists (typically they failed to rank because they did not have many friends), overall, G saw that some level of acceptable collateral damage was necessary, and that overall, things were good, because the faux-pacifists could barely get any recognition at all.

...One day, a man whom no one knew came to town, and proclaimed that he was a great pacifist. He said that he had come to share his learnings with those in G-land. But G did not listen and did not care, because the man had no friends, and no reputation, and no history. The faux-pacifists explained the situation to the man, who took the learnings to heart and began furiously networking so as to gain recognition. But for years, he could not rank.

...One day, much later, another man came to town and also proclaimed himself a great pacifist. Though this new man, like the one before, had no history, there was something different about him. Soon the community was beating a path to the new man's door, because the new man walked the walk, and though he spoke softly, he had unique and interesting things to say. The new man became very well loved by other pacifists, by the community, and by G too.

Moral of the Story
If you know you're coming to town, call ahead.


3:12 am on May 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

"collateral damage" - that's what concerns me. You never know when you might get caught in an anti spam net as Google tries this and that to stop the spammers.


3:25 am on May 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

Hey, where is our original poster at? giuliorapetti, have we helped with your original questions? What do you think? ;)


5:26 am on May 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Great analogy caveman.

So, I review a demo CD by a band. Obviously I link to the band's website so that my users can follow up their interest. The band read my review and put a link to it on their "Press" page because they want their users to see the review.

Just because their was no negotiation of 'I'll link to you if you link to me' doesn't mean that it isn't a reciprocal link. But both links are to help the readers of each site

1. To give or take mutually; interchange.
2. To show, feel, or give in response or return.

v. intr.

1. To move back and forth alternately.
2. To give and take something mutually.
3. To make a return for something given or done.
4. To be complementary or equivalent.

A reciprocal link is a quid pro quo scenario. Iguana, what you described is not the same. The intent is different. The link to the review would have been there even if the review didnt link to the band.

MC isnt stupid, and Im sure he and most of the stock holding Googlers appreciate the relationship that exists between real estate and mortgage. Matt's critique was based on his opinion of intent as determined by the context (placement as well as quality of sites that were linked to in the vicinity) in which that mortgage link appeared on the real estate site.

As caveman illustrated, google is vetting who links to who.


1:16 pm on May 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Excellent, caveman. I'm stealing it to teach others.


3:26 pm on May 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

The intent is different

I agree absolutely Kirby. And in a manual review of the page/site this would be obvious. But will something automated like Googlebot/Google Algo spot the fact?

My latest review links to the bands index page. They liked the review so much that they linked straight back to my page - a direct reciprocal link to any non-human assessment.

(brilliant post, Caveman!)


4:58 pm on May 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

MC isnt stupid, and Im sure he and most of the stock holding Googlers appreciate the relationship that exists between real estate and mortgage. Matt's critique was based on his opinion of intent as determined by the context (placement as well as quality of sites that were linked to in the vicinity) in which that mortgage link appeared on the real estate site.

This isn't about MC being stupid nor all the PHD's.

But about BOTS...little computers that run on 0's and 1's knowing "intent".

In the grand scheme of things, gambling, "blue pills", pxrn, and loans(money) are ALWAYS relevant to the searcher. Why?

Because most people think about easy money, or s-e-x more than they think of ANY OTHER SINGLE issue.

But how does a computer program determine relevancy unless a page/site is flagged and then looked at with HUMAN eyes?

Which is why his "examples" are faulty to begin with. How did a general algorithm determine those links were "irrelevant" BEFORE MC actually looked at the site?

Amazing how their bots are able to "read minds" but can't do basic duties like spot hidden text, eh?


5:16 pm on May 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Lets talk some pure theory here.

In a "web", no single strand(topic) is further than 2-3 strands(relevancy) away from any other topic.

And in truth I can relate ANY topic to money which relates to any other topic.

Chaos theory? Here's some money to study Chaos Theory for free. Or pay $x,xx to learn Chaos theory

Butterflies? Here's some money to study butterflies. Or pay $x,xx for this butterfly college/course.

Need I go on?

My point: I don't buy the 'relevancy' argument AFTER the fact.(ie. penalized first, then MC explains "possible" reasons why)

There's something else going on.


5:26 pm on May 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Its all about links; always has been with G, always will be. They are raising the game with them well beyond just taking anchor text at face value. In fact itís gone from links being the foundation of where you rank to now using them to determine if they want to even crawl your site. Relevancy is a core issue, but probably more sophisticated than just sites of a similar nature, or sites that sell complimentary products. Thatís a little like saying people who wear similar clothes are of the same ilk. You need to look at things like ancestry, culture and age.

It does make some sense that they would look to put your links under a nice bright light and really take a look at who you are. You need to do a lot of proving to Google these days, even to get your site indexed, and G will always put a lot more stock in your links than your content. In their eyes, the links prove the merit of the content, so now they want to prove the merit of the links.


5:43 pm on May 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Referring to the hotel and related sercives example,
Is it so bad that Google wants links that are specifically about hotels and not other (albeit related) services? I mean if someone is searching for hotel reservations, chances are that they may see all the related services as annoying cross-marketing and not contributing to their search for reservations. Isn't a major use of the internet to find very specific information?
I realize that cross-marketing has its place in the economy and that, at times, it is convenient for the consumer, but it brings up the (unoriginal) debate of whether Google & SE's value hubs over narrowly targeted sites. I guess the ideal site is one that is a hub of activity but also where highly specific and useful information is just a few clicks away.
OK so maybe your hotel site that links to related services is very useful to users and Google recognizes this, but G recognizes it as a useful travel site, not as a hotel reservation site. What are you trying to be?


6:20 pm on May 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

So what's relevant/topical to a search for Florence hotels?

Florence, not hotels in Bali/Cancun/London...


6:35 pm on May 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

If you want an understanding into how Google thinks about relevancy you should watch this video:


Google: A Behind-the-Scenes Look
Search is one of the most important applications used on the internet and poses some of the most interesting challenges in computer science. Providing high-quality search requires understanding across a wide range of computer science disciplines. In this program, Jeff Dean of Google describes some of these challenges, discusses applications Google has developed, and highlights systems they've built, including GFS, a large-scale distributed file system, and MapReduce, a library for automatic parallelization and distribution of large-scale computation. He also shares some interesting observations derived from Google's web data.

As for relevant linking, there are a lot of businesses within my clientsí industries that are not their competitors. There are complimentary product retailers, suppliers, specialists and others.

Here is an exercise that some may find helpful:

    Create a mind map [peterussell.com] of the words associated with your business of industry. Then create a second mind map of the different types of businesses that touch your own and the types of businesses that touch those. Rank all the types of businesses you have listed in descending order according to the number of terms on your words mind map that are associated with each type of business and you will have a very good idea of what is relevant.
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