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Not only Are they creating links to their shopping site but also their shopping sites have site wide links to the other sites. I thought reciprocal linking devalued links. So not only are the other on topic websites linking only to their shopping sites and it is obvioous they reciprocate to add Value on the newer sites and it is working and has been for years.
Is reciprocal linking not that valuable unless you do it with other sites that you create for the sole purpose of link popularity? I think not but could be wrong.
If you design a site for a lawyer, and you have a one-way inbound link from a site about dog training, odds are that link won't be as valuable as a reciprocal link from another law firm or a legal blog. Reciprocal links themselves aren't a problem, its mostly when you get into the issue of triangular, or "three way" linking, that problems can arise. I've seen site ranks plummet once Yahoo or Google's algorithms were able to determine what some may consider irregular linking.
I personally don't believe reciprocal linking is dead, I think it's useful, just try to keep the linking relevant. One way links are great, if they are also from relevant sites.