The Modern Link Exchange (aka Reciprocal Linking In 2009)
Jeremy Rivera recently brought David Harry’s article on reciprocal linking to my attention. David makes the case that reciprocal linking is pointless and points to patents by Yahoo! to help make his point.
The main goal of the patent is to automatically identify (over done) reciprocal links that may be orchestrated to inflate ones rankings (Viagra for PageRank). While they offer the standard machine learning tactics to accomplish the automation, it is still based on initial human input to establish a training set. To me this is often the Achilles heel as new tactics need to be identified to be fed into the system.
The key themes that I got from his article were excessive and scheme. For example, what these search engine patents hope to do is curtail excessive reciprocal linking and detect link schemes. Those manipulations often include massive linking between a domain and it’s sub-domains, three-way and multi-level linking, and suspicious website clusters.
If you still create or currently have a links page that you use in your Internet marketing efforts, stop it! Stop it now! You should have stopped it a long time ago, but regardless, stop it and remove that page. Old school link exchanging has been dead for quite some time and having a links page has been the equivalent of putting a target on your site for some time now.
Modern Link Exchange Techniques
Link exchanges still exist and can be effective, but they’ve changed form. And like all good search marketing, it takes time and effort to do it right. Modern link exchanging is simply an extension of foot-work link building. Foot-work link building is a way of describing the manual process of building one-way inbound links to a website. Effective foot-work link building involves getting in-bound links from relevant websites, located on relevant pages, and within relevant copy on those pages.
A modern link exchange may include making contact with a webmaster and suggesting that you each write blog entries about the other’s service. It should also focus on the same rules used in one-way link building, including:
- The websites should be relevant to each other (even loosely)
- The article or blog entry should contain original, relevant copy
- Anchor text for inbound links should vary across multiple websites
- Best practice should be used with copy, including unambiguous titles and headers
As with most Internet marketing communication, don’t let your technical intentions be so obvious. For example, don’t contact someone and try to spell out the SEO implications of linking to each other. Instead, consider briefly mentioning the obvious marketing benefits, but then focus on other aspects, like being a real person and trying to establish a relationship with the webmaster.
Finally, stay away from schemes, don’t over do it, and make sure you target a variety of websites. It won’t help to target websites that all link to each other, so make sure you define clusters of sites and stop trying to exchange links once you’ve achieved a 10-20% penetration (percentage will vary based on size, so use your best judgement.) This may be very limiting for those who are in a niche industry, but for people who market websites within a broad industry, this approach can be very effective and can help grow high quality link exchanges that should keep you off the radar of search engines.