Another question I get asked daily it seems so I thought a blog post I could point folks at was called for.
Clients send me unsolicited emails from companies that ask for “reciprocal links between their site and yours”, usually because it will “improve search engine rankings” for both websites.
I can tell you I usually ignore all reciprocal link exchange requests via unsolicited emails and recommend you do to.
I spend my time looking for quality links and believe me, I’ve not found ANY in any email.
It’s actually against Google TOS to do this type of reciprocal link building:
Your site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to you. The quantity, quality, and relevance of links count towards your rating. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity. However, some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results. Examples of link schemes can include……
- Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)
Now I suppose that’s rich advice coming from a seo (whose supposed to be manipulating search engines if you listen to some of the bollocks some big name web designers linkbait with these days), but reciprocal link exchanges like the one I mention above offer NO REAL SEO benefit to YOUR site (especially when they are on link partner pages) and Google says it might NEGATIVELY impact your rankings. So why manipulate in this amateur manner?
IF YOU TAKE A SECOND AND VISUALISE in your head the link scheme in place and the relationship between pages via links in the reciprocal links hub scenario, you can see how easy it is to do so. Google can probably compute and identify that one a lot faster than you can its so obvious.
99.9% of the time I IGNORE ALL SPAM EMAILS ASKING FOR RECIPROCAL LINKS especially if they are from some company who sells something totally unrelated to my site. I honestly can’t even remember the 0.1% I’ve responded to but I assume I did at least once back in the day – I know I asked for them when I started out 10 years ago but that’s when recip linking was of some use.
Note – Usually they will put your link on a “useful links” page. Now, Google hates these kinds of pages because they are just there to manipulate rankings. A useful links page out to unrelated sites on a low quality domain is just spam to Google and more often or not the pages your links are on will just be ignored by Google so there is no point getting a link from these pages.
- Should you reciprocate links with irrelevant unrelated websites? NO – It’s a waste of time and possibly damaging.
- Should you link out to other unrelated sites at any other time? OF COURSE YOU SHOULD BUT NOT JUST TO MANIPULATE SEARCH RANKINGS. If the page is relevant to an article on your site, then it’s a good link. These types of links are the currency of the web!
- Should you worry if unrelated sites link to you? Of course NOT.
Linking is the foundation of the web, without links, there would be no web as we know it, no Google even, so never be scared of linking to good sites or pages – in fact, Google WANTS or at least EXPECTS you to do this and will thank you for it at some level…. probably. Bear in mind reciprocal links with a website tell google your two sites are related. Do you want that?
- Should You Reciprocate Links Related Websites? Perhaps, but ideally not on “usful links” pages, unless the page itself only links out to useful related sites. Here’s a good example of a useful links page I don’t mind linking to. But then, a seo can tell this sort of thing I suppose.
But if your INTENT is to SCREW with Google, Google might very well SCREW with you, depending on the vary nature of your intent, or the intent of others you now associate yourself with because of their intent and that reciprocal link you did.
Should You Ask For Reciprocal Links?
Of course, you should ALWAYS be ASKING for links. just not reciprocal links. One-way links are better for search engines though as they indicate editorially approved links from other sites, to yours. And that’s the best kind of links you can get.
I am working with a client at the moment in a global market who makes something amazing a lot of blue chip companies pay a lot of money for. Their website has a very poor link profile. We are currently asking for them to contact all these big brand companies and ask them for a link on their websites to the client website because this COULD NEVER HURT ANY OF THE SITES INVOLVED and links from these big brand websites who have bought their products – ie testimonial links from REAL sites that dont just link to anybody, are good quality links.
We’ll probably reciprocate those links (if they ask us) but only AFTER Google sees the big brand sites linking to us first (thats a habit) – I use a few methods to ensure this is the case. The aim is to get the BRAND websites to VOTE for our site FIRST, so OUR search engine rankings improve, because Google now TRUSTS our site because of these new quality links on sites it already trusts. The brand websites don’t need our links for search enigne purposes – all we need to ensure is we are linking out to their sites in a more appropriate manner that is probably more useful to them….
I think all Brand managers would like another good-news-page in the SERPS, so creating a case study for their brand, on your website, is probably better than a link on a links page google will probably eventually ignore. So we’ll probably do that.
This post is a lot longer than I thought it would be.
PS I used the very cool http://www.wordle.net/create to create the cool text image on this page.