Saturday, April 07, 2007

Reciprocal links aren't dead yet....

SEO Pond's first guest blogger, Kes Phelps, is the author of this guest article (Cheers Kes!). He is an experienced SEO Consultant and provides a link building service to clients who are seeking to outsource all, or part, of their off-page optimisation campaign. I'll let Kes get on with the article:

Reciprocal links aren’t dead – just don’t over do it.

Before the Google update in November 2003, dubbed Hurricane Florida, reciprocal links were an easy way to boost search engine rankings. Link exchange programs enabled webmasters to acquire high volumes of inbound links from largely off-topic sites in a bid to artificially inflate rankings.

After the update, the word ‘reciprocal’ became an obscenity in the search engine world, and anyone offering to swap links was seen as behind the times and given a wide berth.

However, this generalisation is partly unjustified. Of course we all know that reciprocal links carry less value these days and those that still participate in link exchange programs risk a complete ban. But reciprocal links do still play a part in search engine optimisation.

The original ethos was that if two sites had information relevant to each others visitors then they should swap links. The idea being that each site receives traffic from the other, and hopefully, a slight boost in rankings.

This philosophy is still true in today’s search engine climate. Why shouldn’t two sites form a strategic partnership? Why shouldn’t a golf club website swap links with a golfing holiday’s website?

The goal of SEO is not just to improve rankings, but to drive targeted traffic. If the information is relevant to the visitors of both sites then both sites will receive targeted traffic and, therefore, the link is justified.

In this case Google will not penalise the two sites for swapping links. Also, if the two sites are relevant then the link will still be classed as relevant and therefore, improve rankings.

It might not be as powerful a link as it might have been pre-Florida, in terms of rankings, but it will be just as powerful for driving targeted traffic - and even if it only creates a small boost in rankings, a boost is a boost.

When seeking strategic partners for link exchanges, find sites that offer complimentary, but non-competing services. These will be more willing to link to you. Check the back links of the site in question, and then the back links of the back links, to make sure the site is a trustworthy source. Also check their rankings for their target keywords and see how well they perform.

If the site meets all the above criteria then approach them for a link exchange but don’t over do it. One way Google identifies websites that rely on this tactic is by measuring the percentage of reciprocal links in the overall link count. If the percentage is above the threshold then these links may be devalued.


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