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Say ‘No’ to Reciprocal Links and ‘Yes’ to Building Relationships

Posted on July 04, 2007 by Steven Bradley

Guest Post by Steven Bradley of TheVanBlog

Ever received one of these emails?

Dear Webmaster,

I am the owner of {fill in site name} and found your site {fill in your site name} and found it very good. As you know links are important to search engines and it is in your best interest to get more. I would like to exchange links with your site from my PR{fill in number} site. Please add a link to my site with the following details

Title: {Obvious keyword filled phrase}
URL: {URL to site}
Description: {Keyword filled paragraph}

Once you have added my link let me know and I will link to your site within 24 hours.

I’m sure you’ve seen at least one variation of the above email. It’s not the best way to ask for a link.

Once upon a time reciprocal links were the golden egg of seo. If you wanted to do well in Google’s results you needed links and what better way to get them than by asking other websites for them. The practice led to the rise of free for all (FFA) links pages that offered no value to anyone and led to the spam requests you get in your inbox.

Say No to Reciprocal Links

A funny thing happened, though. Google realizing that the practice of reciprocal links existed mostly to manipulate rankings took action to discount those links. About a year ago Matt Cutts published his Indexing Timeline post about an update, nicknamed Big Daddy, to the way Google crawls and indexes the web. In that post Matt mentioned how sites who’s links were predominantly the reciprocal kind were finding more of their pages in the supplemental index or not being indexed at all effectively killing the tactic of reciprocal links exchanges for many sites.

More recently many sites in the real estate industry were penalized for reciprocal linking and other manipulative link building practices to find most if not all of their traffic from Google disappearing overnight.

Let me make clear that it’s ok to exchange links with other sites. If you refer work to a partner site and they refer work back to you it’s natural that you would each link to the other. A web designer might naturally link to the web hosting company they use and the hosting company might naturally link back to the web designer assuming neither offered the others services. It wouldn’t make much sense though for either of those companies to exchange links with a site selling hair care products. That exchange would offer little of value to visitors and would likely be seen as an attempt to manipulate rankings

If you are going to exchange links with other sites make sure both sites are on a related topic and make sure the reciprocal links do not make up the majority of your overall links. Otherwise you risk losing the benefit of those links and perhaps even find your site in a worse position than before you traded links.

Say Yes to Building Relationships

Again there’s nothing wrong with two sites linking to each other. Sites do that all the time and it makes sense. But the better way to develop those links is through relationship building. Like most people you’re probably more likely to help a friend than a total stranger. We all tend to do more for friends, family, and associates than we do for people we’ve never met.

A large part of business has always been about networking and it’s no different online. You can benefit in many ways through social networks and one of those ways is in the amount of links you gain into your site.

As I’ve mentioned the last few days you want to think about the quality of your links before quantity. The mass reciprocal linking strategy was all about seeking quantity in links. Relationship building looks towards link quality. Just as you would identify quality sites to publish your articles you can identify quality sites to build relationships with.

When you find a site you would like to link to you take the time to get to know the site and the owner of that site. Look for ways you can help that person without asking for anything in return. Maybe you notice there’s a typo on their home page or something isn’t working right in their contact form. Email them and let them know. Just send them a friendly email letting them know you enjoy their site and you noticed the typo and wanted to let them know. Chances are they’ll fix the error and reply with a thank you.

Maybe while spending time on their site you notice you have something in common. Send another email sharing your common interest. Send them a link to a site you think they’d find interesting. Ask them a question about their interest. Just get a dialog going.

Even though you didn’t ask the other person will visit your site (You do have a link to your site in your email signature, right?) That person is going to be curious about you and want to know more. That person will also want to return the favor and many times they will do so in the form of a link to you. And since their site is a quality site you’ve just gained a quality link for yourself. Even better you’ve made a new friend.

What happens when you build relationships with people is they want to help you. You don’t have to ask them to link to you, because they already want to do it. As you get to know them more you’ll also get to know their friends who expand your network and also provide more links to your site. And of course you’ve been linking to them as well where it makes sense to mention them.

Remember though, that the way to build a relationship with someone is by being genuine. This isn’t about faking anything because that will inevitably lead to more harm than good. But as you get to know people in your industry they’ll be much more willing to help you out. And even if they don’t, in time you’ll be able to ask them to help. You can ask them for a link to a particular piece of content or ask them to help spread the word about a new service you’re offering. Because you’ve built a prior friendship it’s more likely they will give you that link and help spread your message.

When you seek out reciprocal links at best you get a link that you have to return in kind. A link that is now carrying less weight in the eyes of search engines than it once did and may carry no weight with them in the future. When you build relationships with people you grow an ever expanding network of influence. A network that will help you to succeed in a variety of ways, with one of those ways being links into our site.

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5 Responses to “Say ‘No’ to Reciprocal Links and ‘Yes’ to Building Relationships”

  1. Carl Pei

    - 5th Jul, 07 11:07am

  2. Adam Senour

    - 5th Jul, 07 03:07pm

    Steven’s been working on this post since last week, Carl. That’s just coincidental. (I can vouch for him because he picked my brain a bit on the subject).

    Besides, it’s not like no one else has mentioned the death of reciprocal linking for reciprocal linking’s sake before. There are a few people who have been delivering this message for quite some time now. Steven and Kumiko (whoever Kumiko is) just came up with an alternative, that’s all.

  3. Steven Bradley (author comment)

    - 5th Jul, 07 03:07pm

    Thanks for the link Carl. I’m not familiar with Kumiko, but I see the post is sharing similar advice.

    I’ve been talking about relationship building as a way to generate links for awhile now, mostly in response to forum questions, but also mixed into some the posts I write on my blog. As I sat down to plan out my guest posts for Tim this week it seemed like a natural topic that fit in well with the common theme I’ve been writing about all week, that of seeking quality over quantity when building links.

    I hope you enjoyed this post. Kumiko’s is pretty good too.

  4. Community Building Blog

    - 20th Jul, 07 04:07pm

    I couldn’t agree more with this article. Back in May I wrote an article detailing why I avoid blog link exchanges, all for reasons similar to those mentioned in your post.

    – Martin Reed

  5. real estate building

    - 11th Feb, 10 09:02am

    I’ve been talking about relationship building as a way to generate links for awhile now, mostly in response to forum questions, but also mixed into some the posts I write on my blog.

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