Reciprocal Links: What’s Excessive Anyway?

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It’s widely known in SEO that gaming links is dangerous, and too many questionable references can cause Google to give you the boot. Still, the power of the link is there, and this leads many SEOs into a reciprocal link network (link to me and I’ll link to you). The question remains though: how many is too many?

Reciprocal Links: What's Excessive Anyway?
Reciprocal Links: What’s Excessive Anyway?

Many assume that reciprocal links are black hat, but that’s not necessarily the case because often they are legitimate and can bolster relevance. But nobody’s been exactly sure of Google’s policy regarding them, and the topic has caused much debate.

Recently, as noted at the WebmasterWorld forum, Google updated the language at the Webmaster Help Center, under the "Link schemes" topic. One word was enough to fire up the debate again: excessive.

The very phrase "link scheme" connotes something not quite on the level, and as an example, Google files reciprocal links this way:

Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging ("Link to me and I’ll link to you.")

But the word "excessive" doesn’t exactly carry an exact number and for good reason. It seems to be judged on a case by case basis.

Bob Masa, whose been in SEO for a decade (making him one of the veterans) says it doesn’t matter if you have a million or ten reciprocal links as long as they add value and relevance to your business (he addresses business only, not non-profit):

It is not about reciprocal links or how many is too many. It is about making more money from less visitors with less expense and more profit.

Don’t let your self get sucked into wasting your time judging linking opportunities with a yardstick of whether Google will think it is excessive or not. Approach each reciprocal  link deal with a single thought. Will this link exchange bring me enough paying customers that I can justify recommending to my visitors to go to his site instead of staying at mine?

So there you have it, from a certified expert: use some common sense when judging reciprocal links.

Reciprocal Links: What’s Excessive Anyway?
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  • http://linksmanager.com Joel Lesser

    We’ve been preaching to our own users for the past seven years to make link exchange decisions based on what benefits the end user and not for search engines.

    The trouble with link exchange is full duplex link exchange softwares and services that force linking without any editorial discretion taking place. Such services are easy to spot.. they guarantee links and they make offers such as “$50 for 500 links overnight!”. Avoid these softwares and services like they are the plague.

    If you use a software to manage link exchange, make sure it is EDITOR BASED. That is key in insuring your actions won’t get you into trouble with search engines. You don’t want some software or service forcing you to link in a manner that affects volume or causes you to be linked to sites irrelevant to yours. Maintain editorial discretion, always.

    The second key is to watch volume. That means don’t excessively link exchange with just any site.. keep your criteria focused on what benefits your own site and your own end user’s experience.

    Ask yourself.. does this site I am about to link with benefit my end user’s experience? If you aren’t sure, don’t do it. If you are sure, GET THE LINK regardless of pagerank or other metrics.

    Link exchange has been a very useful method for branding websites (especially for small business) since the dawn of the WWW. Google is rightfully doing what it can to quell the flow of webmasters who resort to full duplex linking schemes. Avoid full duplex and maintain editorial discretion on making links. Keep volume low/natural and you will enjoy long term success.

    Finally.. remember, you are who you link to! So don’t worry if junk sites link to yours.. maintain control over your own links on your own site.

  • http://www.ditii.com DG

    Well, all I can say people is getting bigger with these techinques. I know many sites, who’re indulge in these kind of activites and have got more than 1000 links in no time.

    I was also aksed to participate, but I opted out, as I liked to get geniune links and till date, I couldn’t manage much.

    In other words, it’s really beneficial.


  • http://www.downunderonline.com Richard

    I totally agree with Jason’s article. So many “wanna-be” Web designers that claim to be Web Masters will go on and on about the quantity of links per page or the page rank of a link being accepted or rejected. Since Google isn’t giving a “guide-line” or “Reciprocal Info Book” on the matter it seems that reciprocal linking comes down to common sense.

    Jason put is clearly into perspective when he quoted Bob Masa

    “Approach each reciprocal link deal with a single thought. Will this link exchange bring me enough paying customers that I can justify recommending to my visitors to go to his site instead of staying at mine?”

    Well done Jason!

    Richard Lavender
    DOWN UNDER on-line

  • http://www.balicare.org rama

    i’m newbie on seo, what i did before, only find and find reciprocal link for my web, thx for your article jason


  • http://www.semguru.com SemGuru

    Google says keep links below 100 so excessive might well be +100 also if all links is reciprocal again this might be excessive but linking for 100 GREAT sites with lots of unique content mixed with lets say 10 reciprocal links I don’t think this is any problem.

    I found after removed some links that was reciprocal. I would found my sites #1 in google in very competitive market!!

    So less reciprocal links might not be a bad thing afterall.

  • http://www.77hg.com Best live and work

    Thank you, your says is very important for me.

  • neonex

    How about the credits links to the webdesign company at the bottom of the sites… are they considered reciprocal?

    Usually they span for the entire site… getting dozens or undreds of new links to the webdesign company site.

    Is this a bad strategy for any webdesign studio?
    Should they use nofollow?


    • http://www.europepua.com James

      This area is so cloudy at the moment that I’m becoming annoyed. Say I run 5 websites, all of similar themes.

      Is having reciprocal link rings in such a scenario GOOD or BAD? It seems to me such a simple question, and the only thing I’ve gotten out of the above posts is the 100 +/- comment, which I’m skeptical about, given google’s complex algorithm – seems too easy. lol


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