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    Are Reciprocal Links Dead?


    I'm not sure if any of you receive Entireweb Newsletters in your email box each week, so if you don't, here's the article that landed in my box today:

    ---------------- ENTIREWEB NEWLETTER START ---------------

    Are Reciprocal Links Dead?


    If the current indications are correct we may be looking at the end of reciprocal linking as a method of building rank and link popularity, at least as far as Google is concerned.

    The latest 'Google Dance', nicknamed 'Jagger', has caused major concern by those suffering loss of position on the top ranks of the search engine's listings. So we decided to take a close look at what is happening and see what we could learn.

    We have a few small websites that have a limited number of links. These sites are used mostly for research and testing of our primary business in Web Analytics. By analyzing these sites, we were able to quickly get an idea of what is happening in Google's Jagger Update, which is still in progress at the time of this writing.

    By using our web analytics tools, we were able to look at the history of visits by the bots and the links to these small sites. We had to go back as far as January in order to build a picture of Google's actions. Our software also allows us to look at all links from the SEs, not just those shown by using the browser's 'link:' command. G only reports some of the links to your site, not all

    Here is what we have seen:

    Like many other sites, we noticed a sharp drop in rank in our test sites around the first of July. They lost about 40% of their previous link popularity and moved down sharply in rank. Also, duplicate links on a single site disappeared. We now only showed one link from each linking site.

    As Jagger started, unlike many others we have seen complain about G's actions and timing, our sites stayed rather stable. Evidently they had already suffered their major losses. However, there was a small increase in the number of links. This caught our attention. We had expected that, like many others, we would experience further disruptions to our link structure.

    But when we examined these links, we were surprised to see that not one of them had been listed with Google a few weeks earlier. Not one. Our research showed that these links had been live in G's archive, but none had shown up publicly before now. It appeared that there was some sort of 'aging' process taking place, but this may just be coincidental. It is more likely that older links disappeared because the host site was lost in the shuffle and our links no longer appeared 'relevant'.

    The other thing we noticed was that not one of these new links was listed on our reciprocal links pages. In other words, all reciprocal links had vanished. We think that this is because G is down-grading or eliminating reciprocal links as a measure of popularity. This does make sense, actually. Reciprocal links are a method of falsifying popularity. Sort of a cheap method of buying a link, if you want to think of it that way.

    If your web sites have suffered from the latest 'dance', you may want to take a look at the type and source of your links. If they are mostly from link exchanges, you are probably looking at the reason for your move down the list on the search engines.

    During the second week of the Jagger Update, a few of our reciprocal links did come back up. However, we also noticed that these were from places where we had highly relevant content. They came from articles where we discussed our area of expertise: Web Analytics, or from forums where we had relevant threads. So we feel that these links came back because of content, not linking.

    The other group that came back up was one-way inbound text links, regardless of the originating web site. These links also had strong relevance to our web analytics business. In other words, they contained keywords and/or phrases related to our site and its business.

    This research has us now re-evaluating our linking strategy. We urge others to do the same.

    We are now concentrating only on building strong one-way inbound links. We are focusing on publicity, articles, directories, and other direct methods of building our image and consumer awareness.

    In addition, we are also looking for associated but non competing firms like web developers, Search Engine Marketers, SEOs, web site owners and designers to partner with us to build direct business relationships and the resulting inbound links. This strategy may not be the fastest method of building links, but we feel it is rock solid and within the spirit of good business practices. The best thing is that it is search engine independent.

    We will no longer worry about chasing (or beating) the search engines and their ever changing algorithms. That is a fool's game we are sure to lose.

    Instead, we will focus on building rock solid links and popularity with the group that counts: our customers. By focusing on beating our competition and providing a top quality product, plenty of educational information and relevant content, we are sure to move up and stay at the top of the search engine rankings.

    It's something to think about.


    About the Author: Will Moore is a web analytics specialist with over 20 years of hardware, software and web development experience. He has sat on the ANSII and ISO standards committees, been a speaker at major technical conferences in the US, Europe, China and Singapore and has written numerous articles on various technical subjects. Visit Web Stats Gold at http://www.webstatsgold.com for more articles and information.

    ---------------- ENTIREWEB NEWLETTER END ---------------

    Hexed

    Comments on this post

    • faremax agrees : I also tend to agree that recips are dead
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    G has explained many times that they only show a sample of the links that go to a site. The reason they do that is so that web developers can't speculate on what links mean what. Like the author of this article did.

    I think there is no science in it and it is hogwash. That doen't mean the conclusions are right or wrong, just that the path to get there is serriously flawwed.
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    This is true. But it is food for thought as always.
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    IMO if google doesnt show all the links that a website has is to avoid competitors to get the same links to reach their competitor ranking.
    I gained a lot of links for a bunch of websites that I manage, they were either from directories or relevant links with 90 to 100 % related sites.
    After 4 ot 5 months in average for my sites, my sites are now on the top pages for our keywords, a lot of them are number 1, even if they were nowhere even 2 months ago.

    However, Google, for Some reason, does not show the new links that I had: from the last backlink updates, there is maybe 2 or 3 new links, even if we do keep and check our links frequently....

    Focus on the quality of links and not the number is the best way to get a good ranking, because It is natural and google likes it.
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    How can anyone claim to know what is going on before the update is even completed? Much less send out a newsletter about it.

    .
    Last edited by christophera; Nov 1st, 2005 at 02:28 PM.
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    I think many of us still cannot see the forest through the trees. Bottomline of the article is that there is a major indication (through the data presented) that recip's are becoming an endangered species as far as building page rank in the eyes of Google. We have all said that this will likely come. There are thread after thread discussing that this is likely to happen with relevance becoming more and more the guide (whatever the hell relevance is defined to be).

    Just an observation: Our site experienced no downward movement in the SERPs (not even one postion) during this last update. Maybe coincidence, but we also have almost all one-way links with basically zero recip's.

    Comments on this post

    • faremax agrees : Yeap, same story here. No movement for my main key phrase and some improvements for secondary phrases. 0 recips
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    Originally Posted by SEO_AM

    Just an observation: Our site experienced no downward movement in the SERPs (not even one postion) during this last update. Maybe coincidence, but we also have almost all one-way links with basically zero recip's.
    Yeah, but if you had relevant reciprocal links, maybe your site would have had more traffic and maybe ranked higher , why would Google penalize me if I'm a fisher and I link to my friend who manufactures fishing boats and vice-versa?
    On both of our sites, that will be relevant information for both of our visitors.
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    Originally Posted by SEO_AM
    I think many of us still cannot see the forest through the trees. Bottomline of the article is that there is a major indication (through the data presented) that recip's are becoming an endangered species as far as building page rank in the eyes of Google. We have all said that this will likely come. There are thread after thread discussing that this is likely to happen with relevance becoming more and more the guide (whatever the hell relevance is defined to be).
    I agree, I was just pointing out the authors "data" is groundless. However I am inclined to think reciprocal links are nearing termination as well, based mostly on the threads I read here. It is such a common technique for artificially inflating a sites position in the SERPs I can't see how G would let it continue.

    Just an observation: Our site experienced no downward movement in the SERPs (not even one postion) during this last update. Maybe coincidence, but we also have almost all one-way links with basically zero recip's.
    Same here.
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    I agree with relevant recip's being a plus. I think the sites that got bashed are the ones that have non-themed recip's. Easy for G to discount non-themed or garbage links.
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    Originally Posted by SEO_AM
    I agree with relevant recip's being a plus. I think the sites that got bashed are the ones that have non-themed recip's. Easy for G to discount non-themed or garbage links.
    Exactly, that's why all the spammy industries (real estate, casino, mortgage, drugs etc) are all sinking on Google, they had 1000s of recip links with 80 % of non relevant
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    You would hope that a site as sharp as entireweb generally can be that they would look these articles they publish over before sending them out and making themselves look bad.
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    Originally Posted by WilliamC
    You would hope that a site as sharp as entireweb generally can be that they would look these articles they publish over before sending them out and making themselves look bad.
    Could be pressure from their viewers. Nobody wants silence when something is up. And they also don't want to hear "I don't know". The article doesn't really claim to have the answer. Just some observations they've made.
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    I doubt sincerely if they can figure out at this stage where Jagger1,2, and 3 are going. Jagger 3 may or may not be out already.

    (come to think about it some say Jagger3 is coming out tomorrow. Their prediction is like telling everyone that Ripple 2006 is going to be a banner high end wine!!!!)

    I have relevant reciprocals that are industry related. I have seen no drops in rankings...in fact I'm seeing some slight improvement in rankings that are already 1st page.

    Frankly, those industry reciprocals deliver the best most convertable traffic.

    But unless any of this Jagger data propogates throughout all the dc's it won't make a bit of difference.

    Going back through the Feb/March update there was also sorts of data center craziness before the rankings fell out.

    Once everything sorted out...in many cases the rankings info had no bearing on where a site ended up.

    Non-relevant recips may be downgraded...they are a sort of artificial method of creating more links.

    Relevant reciprocals have lots of substitive value. They could have complementary information about the same topic with one site covering some of the topic from one angle and the second site discussing the topic from a different angle/perspective.

    Anyways since Jagger3 is supposedly coming out tomorrow I'm glad these guys have it all figured out.

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    Originally Posted by SEO_AM
    I agree with relevant recip's being a plus. I think the sites that got bashed are the ones that have non-themed recip's. Easy for G to discount non-themed or garbage links.
    I think pages full of garbage reciprocal links would be bashed and should be bashed. If you have page with quality content and exchange link with relevant pages you can only gain after such exchange. But I still prefer one-way themed links
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    "should" or "are"?
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