Reciprocal Linking is Dead;Long Live Link Popularity!

    March 23, 2004

If you’re struggling to get more reciprocal links for your website, I have some good news. Reciprocal linking as a search engine optimization tactic is dead. It’s a huge waste of time and it doesn’t work.

But don’t confuse reciprocal linking with link popularity.

Link popularity continues to be one of the most important aspects of any successful search engine optimization campaign. But the way it’s done is changing dramatically.

Up until now, webmasters have been scouring the web trying to find sites that are willing to swap links in order to help boost their rankings. But as soon as they find a link swapping partner, what do they do? They bury their partner’s link while expecting the partner to place their link front and center on a highly ranked page, thank you very much.

It seems like a hopeless situation; both parties want to deep six the other’s link, rendering it virtually invisible to search engine spiders and human traffic. I think I can safely say that this is NOT what Google had in mind when it included link popularity in its algorithm.

But I have found a solution to this fruitless effort we call reciprocal linking.

My search for the solution began right at Google’s doorstep. Let’s take a quick peak at what Google says about link popularity and how it works:

Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote by page A for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote.

Hmm… and all this time webmasters were focusing on high numbers of incoming links, period.

(Google) analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.”

So, how do you know if Google considers a page “important” enough for you to pursue a link on it? The answer is PageRank Score. (Downloading the Google toolbar will allow you to see any site’s PageRank Score.) If the page in question has a Google PageRank Score of six or higher, it’s a real good candidate.

Does that mean you place your link on any web site that has a PageRank Score of 6 or higher? No, and here is why according to Google:

Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don’t match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. Google goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and examines all aspects of the page’s content (and the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if it’s a good match for your query.

Getting a link from an important site that’s relevant is the key. And the payoff for you will be more than just higher rankings.

Many site owners and marketers have forgotten that a well-placed quality link can actually bring them business. I mean, generating leads and sales is the reason you want to rank highly in the search engines in the first place, right?

So I have a fairly radical proposal for you.

In my opinion, its time to stop trying to get a free ride in the reciprocal linking game. It’s time to start looking for quality sites that will post your linking ad… and be prepared to pay for it.

Yes, I said pay for it.

Because at the end of the day, it’s far better for your business to have a few links on important, relevant web pages than it is to have hundreds of irrelevant, low traffic, low PageRank sites linking to you.

Why? Because having your ad appear on a site that Google considers important and relevant can not only improve your rankings but can also attract targeted traffic that converts into leads and sales. (This assumes that all other search engine optimization strategies are in place and working, i.e.: spider-friendly HTML code, strong content, and proper registration with the right search engines and directories.)

Another bonus: With this linking strategy, you don’t have to give anyone a reciprocal link or maintain a link farm or “resources” page on your site. All links flow one way – your way.

I have found many potential linking sites that charge anywhere from nothing to $25 a year to hundreds per month. Yes, the rates vary wildly but your choice of link partner should not be based solely on cost. You need to consider all these factors:

1) Is the linking site important according to Google’s criteria?

2) Is it relevant to your site?

3) Does it have the quantity and quality of traffic you need?

4) Is it affordable to you?

5) Does it accept linking ads?

Do some research and make a list of sites that meet the above criteria. Then review the list and start working with the ones that fit your budget. Don’t be too shy to negotiate with sellers; there’s lots of ad space competition out there and you may be able to cut yourself a better deal.

Once you’ve found the right linking ad partners at the right price, any fees they charge will likely be repaid to you in more targeted traffic, higher PageRank Score, and higher search engine placement. This all leads to more sales.

But possibly the greatest benefit of using this strategy is the dramatic reduction in headaches caused by trying to find hundreds of link partners that only end up burying your reciprocal link.

Michael Pedone is the President / CEO of, a search engine optimization and website marketing company <> located in Clearwater, Florida that specializes in getting targeted, eager-to-buy traffic to your site. You can catch him blogging at: <>.