Nov 10 2006

Are reciprocal links dead?

This is another question that is seen and often debated in forums. On the one hand you have those who think reciprocal links are dead and on the other side those who think they have never changed.
Which side is correct and does this have an impact on how a site ranks in the new Google? Will link exchanges hurt my rankings? I will answer these and other questions in this article.

When Google started their search engine they began with a new approach to search. This approach involved ‘votes’ a site has. These ‘votes’ are links placed on other sites pointing to your site. The Google guys decided that a webmaster would only like to a site they thought was resourceful. So Google began to count these votes or back links as link popularity to a site and today still plays a major part in the ranking algorithm. The big question however is are all votes equal? Are one-way links more valuable than reciprocal? Should I only look for higher PageRank sites for links?




Are all votes/links equal?
You realize by now the importance of back-links for sure but how do you determine a sites importance and is one site more important than the next? Also is a one-way from Site C better than a recip with Site C?

I know some of you will hate me for this but it is your decision to make. Reciprocal links are overall worth less than a one-way link. Link exchange backlinks have been greatly discredited in the somewhat recent updates. Back when Google started a reciprocal link from nearly any site considering all other factors where the same would have equal weight. That is no longer true. Reciprocal links are not dead and still have value however in every new update they get discredited.

There are two forms of link exchanging and I recommend the last one if you plan to use one.
1. A WebMaster sets up a links page or directory and accepts nearly anyone who is willing to reciprocate whether relevant or not.

2. A WebMaster links to a site on a resource or content page and the site returns the same whether knowingly or not.

The last one is the best and gives a much much higher value. Google now tracks content around the link and if there is none the value is very low. That is one reason the great decrease in value of traditional reciprocal linking.

You also must be careful that you are never linking to a bad neighborhood. Sometimes this is easy to tell and other times nearly impossible. A site may appear to be thriving and have good standing in Google when in reality it could be on the verge of being banned and when it does your link to that site is going to hurt you. That is one reason to shy away from reciprocal linking.

The days of exchanging links with anybody are gone. In the long run it can kill a site. Now unless your exchanging with relevant quality sites you will get little or no value and risk far more than you’ll ever gain.

How can I determine the value of a site?
There are many factors Google uses to identify a sites importance. Whether it be reciprocal or one-way links a big part of how much value is passed to your site is found in the content surrounding the link. If your link is placed on a sidebar with a couple of gambling and related sites the value is discredited especially if the site is unrelated to gambling.

Many people chase after sites with high PageRank whether or not they get a content link or a links page link. I would recommend against using PageRank as a motive for gaining a link. Leave it totally out of the equation. There are many PageRank 1-2 sites that have better value than PageRank6,7 or even higher. PR can be artificially inflated to look like a thriving site while in reality the site is worthless and Google sees it as valueless.

I hear some webmasters argue that if you can get a bunch of reciprocal links over a couple one-ways you should. I totally disagree. First of all reciprocal links will continue to go down in value so a ranking that was held by 100 recip links might start to break when they are discredited however those one-ways don’t get discredited unless the sites value is lowered which doesn’t happen that often.

After updates you can hear many webmasters crying because they lost a lot of their main rankings. Why did this happen? Either they failed to stay ahead of the competition or the competition was ahead of them the whole time. What I mean is their ranking structure was being held by a crumbling support which soon gives way and you lose the ranking.

Will certain types of links hurt my site?
Yes you can be hurt greatly if you accidentally link to a bad site as I already mentioned. Again these sites do not necessarily have to be banned(grey-barred) in Google. They can just be penalized and before you know it that link pointing to their site will kill you. However I would know like to dispel a myth that is passed around. You will NEVER get banned, penalized or otherwise effected by any backlinks to your site. This means that if every spam site in the world links to you it will not hurt you. If you link back that is another story. Google would never use a factor that would allow evil competitors or malicious spammers to destroy your site with.

Will I hurt my site/s if I share links from one to the other.
The answer is no unless of course one of your sites is penalized or banned. If you have a site and feel that linking to another of your sites is beneficial to your visitors than by all means you should do it. If you own a site that would only be suitable for certain age groups(18/21+) I would not recommend linking to it from a site that is totally unrelated. It is best to keep these sites away from each other IMHO.

Like always we welcome any and all questions, comments and emails. Don’t forget to tell us what you think as well as suggesting new material to write on.

Copyright © 2006, 1st-rankings Co.
This article may NOT be redistributed in any way, shape or form. If you would like to link to the article we would appreciate it.

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