Current State of Reciprocal Links

Because Google focuses more heavily on links then any other search engine, people monitoring link popularity typically pay close attention to how Google views and treats links. Yesterday Google’s Matt Cutts dropped a bomb on some when he wrote up a lengthy post on the indexing timeline of Bigdaddy.

Here are some of the things he said regarding links:

“In March, some people on WebmasterWorld started complaining that they saw none of their pages indexed in Bigdaddy data centers, and were more likely to see supplemental results. After looking at the example sites, I could tell the issue in a few minutes. The sites that fit “no pages in Bigdaddy” criteria were sites where our algorithms had very low trust in the inlinks or the outlinks of that site. Examples that might cause that include excessive reciprocal links, linking to spammy neighborhoods on the web, or link buying/selling. The Bigdaddy update is independent of our supplemental results, so when Bigdaddy didn’t select pages from a site, that would expose more supplemental results for a site.”

“if you were getting crawled more before and you’re trading a bunch of reciprocal links, don’t be surprised if the new crawler has different crawl priorities and doesn’t crawl as much.”

“Some folks that were doing a lot of reciprocal links might see less crawling. If your site has very few links where you’d be on the fringe of the crawl, then it’s relatively normal that changes in the crawl may change how much of your site we crawl. And if you’ve got an affiliate site, it makes sense to think about the amount of value-add that your site provides; you want to provide a reason why users would prefer your site.”

So it appears that those who are participating in reciprocal link exchanges will be getting crawled less and will most likely see their page counts drop from the index. It also appears that Google is continuing to improve their ability to spot links of low quality, whether that be inbound or outbound. Finally from Matt’s statement regarding affiliate sites, Google may be taking the same position as Yahoo has for some time now and questioning why an affiliate site that contains the same content as many other sites should be in the index at all.

This revelation of Google’s current position on links is not surprising to me. In fact I am glad to see them taking more of a stand against those who participate in reciprocal linking schemes as well as affiliate sites which in most cases add no real value to the Internet as a whole. I have never participated in reciprocal linking, neither for our sites or our clients’. I have always suggested to only link to another site if it provides a benefit to your users. Furthermore, we do not market affiliate sites. So Matt did not drop a bomb on me. But to many others, it will affect how they do business on the web now and in the future.

David Wallace

David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of SearchRank, is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Since 1997, David has been involved in developing successful search engine and social media marketing campaigns for large and small businesses. Follow +David Wallace on Google + as well as Twitter.

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