Reciprocal Link-Building Practices Revisited
One of the most important considerations, commodities, if you will, of SEO is links.
The more links to your site, the better. This idea figures prominently in SEO because incoming links to a site determine a site’s PageRank. And that, boys and girls, is where it’s all at.
In the past, webmasters used to explicitly request other webmasters to link to their site, on the premise that they (the former) would link to their (the latter’s) site – a simple exchange of links. Usually this is done by webmasters who are interested in a particular website that is similar to theirs. And we all know that two related sites linked to each other help both sites’ relevance and ranking. This practice of exchange links is known as reciprocal linking.
When search engine optimization grew into the industry it is today, reciprocal linking became an important technique for webmasters to use when building links to their site. It’s very useful for leading a targeted audience from one site to another (related or similar) site and it sometimes gives web surfers additional content to browse that wouldn’t be easily found via search engines. Today, it is one of the oldest site promotion techniques; reciprocal linking led to the proliferation of the web ring.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous webmasters and link-building companies gradually began to abuse the practice of reciprocal linking, by building sites that were actually “link farms” — pages upon pages of links with no useful content. Also, a practice called “link begging” became widespread, where automated spambots would send bulk email messages to webmasters “begging” for links to a site, which was often a spam-related site. These email messages were also spam because they were unsolicited. Then there’s the practice of accepting or requesting links from sites that are totally unrelated to a site.
All these undesirable things have given reciprocal link a bad rep. Some webmasters ignore email requests for link exchanges. Nonetheless, many webmasters and website owners accept and reciprocate links from sites that are irrelevant to their sites (hey, it’s a free way to increase ranking!). There are speculations from SEO experts that reciprocal links are losing their value for search engines. Some even go further to theorize that search engines actively penalize sites with too many reciprocal links. Of course, these are simply rumors at this point with no real evidence to back them up.
Some good rules-of-thumb to follow to keep you prepared for the future (because we can never tell when that comes!) include:
1. Prioritize one-way links instead of reciprocal links.
2. If you do go down the reciprocal link path, make sure the sites you reciprocate to are relevant to your site.
3. Check up on your link partners to make sure their sites do not have negative effects on your own site’s ranking. Your link partner’s link page (with the link to your site) may be banned by search engines. These pages do not get indexed, so your site won’t benefit from having a link from them.
4. Have your link partners use the appropriate keywords in their anchor text to your site.
5. Ensure that incoming links from link partners point to relevant pages and not just your main page.
6. Refuse links to your site that are merely redirected links.
Reciprocal linking can be a good and free way to improve your site’s ranking. The key is to ensure that these links are from relevant sites and use relevant keywords.