So you’ve got yourself a website, and all excited about it you tell your friends, colleagues and business contacts all about it; and the first thing they say is “ Oooh.. that’s great, you can link to mine and I’ll link to yours”.. and everybody involves thinks this is a great idea exchanging links in this way because hey, the more links you have makes your site popular with Google.
Now this is all very well if you are talking about a few links between ‘networking businesses’, but in the bigger picture, exchanging reciprocal links is not a good way to ingratiate your site with Google. Be wary of joining Link Exchange Schemes or you could catch a nasty cold!
If it were that easy all we’d have to do is put a couple of hundred (or a thousand ) links from our web pages to other pages and ask them to do the same. Websites would immediately become ‘huge link banks’ rather than sources of information which is essentially what they should be in every case, even commercial sites.
Google views 1 to 1 reciprocal linking very very low in importance, for just that reason.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t do your friends a favour and they not do you the same, but just think about what Google thinks is important or you might just have a long term negative impact.
Google LIKES inbound links to your site where there is no reciprocal link back. Why ? Because that scenario is a neutral (and therefore more valuable), editorial vote for your site’s content.
Google ABSOLUTELY LOVES the inbound (and not reciprocated) link where the link is from a site that is relevant and complementary to your own, ESPECIALLY if that site is regarded highly by Google already. So if you do arrange that reciprocal link with a business friend, just consider that your visitors may find their site irrelevant to what they are looking for. e.g. don’t link to your friend’s Doggie Washing Service if your site is about Commercial Property Investment for example. Keep it relevant.
So how do you go about getting quality links ?
What about Link Exchanges then ? You know, those people who drop an e-mail into your inbox offering a campaign where your site offers other sites (with similar relevant content to yours) a link ,and in exchange adds a links to yours from theirs. Well, we’ve just blown reciprocal links out of the water; but schemes like that that promise hundreds of links are not a good idea to get involved with.
Here’s why you shouldn’t take my word for it, this is what Google has to say about this.
“..Excessive link exchanges, could “negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results.”
“ Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or Page Rank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.”
“some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact your site's ranking in search results”.
“The best way to get other sites to create relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can quickly gain popularity in the Internet community. The more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”
So ok. If you can’t use Link Exchanges, how do you go about getting quality ‘votes’ for your site ?
Link exchanges used to be a popular but old way of getting links, and although links of any type to your site are still counted there is always the risk that you could catch a very bad cold if you actively participate in link exchanges.
Start to look at the social networking sites and get your site out there. Social networking sites such as Digg, Twitter, Delicious, facebook and Stumbleupon are well capable of driving traffic in their thousands to your site; but only if you have unique and interesting content on the site. The more interesting your content, the greater the chances someone else will find that content useful to their visitors and link to you.
Always consider that your outward links are part of your content. If you link to sites stuffed with irrelevant adverts or to a site that tells you how to Wash a Dog (and your site is about Property Investment), then the visitor is going to question your motives and will not link his own site to yours.
So focus on good quality content and then look at using social networking to drive visitors to your site. If you have good content, then other sites will start to link to yours.
If you ARE involved in Link Exchanges, visit the reciprocal links as often as you can and make sure you don’t have an unhealthy neighbour, and that you still have a link back.
Always remember that the risks of a Link Exchange system far outweigh the benefits.