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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?
That blog post is the signal for the tabloidisation of the web.
It pretty much says if you are loud-mouthed, opinionated and controversial you'll do well in the Google algorithm.
A link is a link. I care that *real people* can stumble across my site. Even if they are coming from some scraper directory page.
If google wants to spider the site, fine. If a scraper wants to spider the site, that's fine too.
The more places that my material appears, the better it is for the site.
If you have a reciprocal directory link on your site that builds relevant links by itself and is actually somewhat useful to the visitors to your site I doubt that your rankings would drop because of it.
They may not get any higher because of it but I don't think I will rm* my reciprocal link directory just yet.
That's a very good point. I can't see how they could punish a site because it exchanges links with another related site. I'll still do link exchanges as long as I believe the site I'm exchanging with is useful to my visitors.
Another point is that link exchanges aren't just about Google search results, people not just bots click on links.
Seems more a swipe at links schemes in general, though things like recip directories would obviously fall into that category.
* Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!, as well as to other industry-specific expert sites. *
I'd probably be expected to link to these expert sites in my industry anyway so reciprocity "per se" doesn't seem to be the problem.
IIRC "bought or exchanged links" was appearing in some of those penalty notification e-mails of a while ago...
That's another interesting bit, if "trusted" your link to an off-topic site will count, if not "trusted" it may not.
So I'm assuming "trusted" here means not being seen as involved in selling or exchanging links...
It certainly is not official. I'm also surprised that anyone is taking any content published on Googlee's blog as gospel.
Reciprocal links are at the core of natural link structures. Reciprocal links are how relevant, topical clusters are identified. Citation-based systems are filled with incestuous linking patterns.
>>It's fairly clear that Google's algorithms are targeting reciprocal link exchanges.
Google may be targeting irrelevant reciprocal links, but on-topic exhanges between sites are still effective.
And once again, the percentage of reciprocals to one-way links has been ignored.Hat tip to the first person that can correctly explain why having many more reciprocals than one-way inbound links may not be as good as having more one-way links...
Let's see, what else was ignored? Oh yeah, the possible disparity of quality between reciprocal links. Just like all links aren't the same, all reciprocal links aren't the same.
[edited by: martinibuster at 7:09 pm (utc) on Dec. 17, 2006]
I said nothing about efficacy.
Let me restate why this is important: This is the most direct statement to date from Google that Reciprocal Links are being targeted and discounted. It's clear for many that this has been the case for awhile, although there were still some who disputed altogether that Google was focusing on recips at all.
A year and a half ago there was a debate as to whether or not recips were a Google-Friendly approach for link development. I thoroughly debunked the presiding notion that reciprocal link strategies were a Google-approved method of link development. Yet because there was no direct statement from Google that one could point to as to how they really felt, it couldn't be said unequivocally whether or not Google viewed recips as link manipulation.
Today there is no ambiguity: Reciprocal link strategies are viewed by Google as link manipulation on the same order of buying links. There is no ambiguity about how Google views reciprocal link strategies.
Citation-based systems are filled with incestuous linking patterns.
No argument there, I never made one on that point. Regarding efficacy, absolutely there are thresholds. For instance, although Google may focus on devaluing paid links, there are entire classes of paid links that are beyond their reach.
Moving thresholds are why you see innocent sites getting dinged on spam updates (spamdates?), then as the filters are refined they generally bounce back. Any algo attack is going to have limitations to avoid collateral damage and other unintended side-effects on quality. Finding those thresholds and squeezing through is the challenge to any algorithmic focus.
[edited by: martinibuster at 7:37 pm (utc) on Dec. 17, 2006]
Any link manipulation in and of itelf, regardless of the method, may be frowned upon by Google. That's not exactly new is it?
So Roger, are you saying all reciprocal links are being discounted, or that there are good and bad reciprocal links, or that Google doesn't like reciprocal link exhange programs like FFAs?
People are going to read your post and think that Google is going to penalize their site because they have a few reciprocal links. They are going to think that reciprocal links are some evil 'blackhat' method and should be avoided at all costs. We don't need any more FUD.
are you saying all reciprocal links are being discounted, or that there are good and bad reciprocal links, or that Google doesn't like reciprocal link exhange programs like FFAs?
I'm not saying any of the above. The important point I want to get across is that Google regards reciprocal link strategies on the same level as link buying: They view it as link manipulation.
Understanding inherent risks and having a clear understanding of whether something is Google-approved or not is highly important before undertaking any promotional effort.
Up to now there has been some dispute as to how Google regarded reciprocal link strategies. Today there is no ambiguity. Google regards link exchange strategies as an unapproved method. Evidence of this has been mounting for the past year.
Should you take down your reciprocal links?
Don't fix what isn't broken.
DG, good point about how it's applied. It's one thing for Google to say they're against something and another thing for how they actually react to it.
I link (in context even) from my HO model RR site from an article I've written about how hard it is to find N scale models, to an article on another site , an N scale site, that details the difficulties working with such a small scale.
The N scale site author links to my article about how hard it is to find N scale models, from his article on 'Dealing With The Lack of N Scale Models - Creating Your Own'.
Links benefit users of both sites and are totally relevant. Recips done properly. Next?
Not all reciprocal links are equal. I think a large part of the problem lies in that most people associate reciprocal linking with a huge zeus style directory. But, reciprocal linking takes on many forms.
A person might be featured in a news story which links to them, and they link back to it to gain trust from users. Technically, it's a reciprocal link.
A site selling cameras may link to a site selling film and vice versa in a trade of business. Both links are prominent on the site and meant to cross traffic users. Technically, it is a reciprocal link.
The chamber of commerce for your local city may link to you as a member. You display their seal to show your alliance with them. Technically, it's a reciprocal link.
You have a piece on taking pictures with low light film. A low light film site has a a piece on the best cameras to use for low light scenarios and they cross link. Technically, it's a reciprocal link.
But of course, this isn't what people typically think of when they think reciprocal linking. Paid links can take on different forms as well. Paying for a link on a niche, related, highly relevant site that brings you business is not the same as paying for links on radio stations, IMHO.
My general rule of thumb for a long time now, when trying to discern if you are reciprocal linking properly is if you are linking for traffic, and not for link popularity. Does that neccessarily mean older sites with recip directories aren't grandfathered in some way? Nope. Does it neccessarily mean that link exchanges don't work in certain sectors? Nope. Does it neccessarily mean all "non traffic" forms of reciprocal links are "found" and have dampening applied? Nope. Does that mean a site with a high level of trust can't get away with more than one with a lower level? Nope. But, as a general rule of thumb, for long term survival that doesn't affect a site in algo changes, linking with traffic in mind has been the safest course I've seen - especially if you don't have time to test and test and test what works "right now" and want to simply go for "should always be ok".
>>>the percentage of reciprocals to one-way links has been ignored
Definitely think that is an important thing to look at as well.
>>>and think that Google is going to penalize their site because they have a few reciprocal links
I hope anyone reading my post realizes that *I* definitely do not think that. Reciprocal links are a valid form of traffic. If you want to stay "safe" from the supposed implications Google will place on reciprocal links, only do them for that reason - traffic [webmasterworld.com]. There is also a big difference between a penalty and a lack of credit.
I wish I would have articulated that piece of wisdom as well as you have. Kudos.
keep in mind that nowadays search engines reward sweat-of-the-brow work on content that bait natural links given by choice.
There's the big flaw that remains.
They shouldn't reward "baiting", period.
Meaningful, relevant content isn't written to "bait" links.
It's written for it's utility to end users.
That's what Google should be rewarding.
I like your site, ooh I like your site too. Shall we swap?
No big brother says its bad.
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.