A Bad Reciprocal Link — And Reciprocal Link Request

We’ve been having quite a discussion about reciprocal links over at the
Search Engine Watch Forums in our

Reciprocal Linking – Dead or Alive?
thread. I

in to stress that whether a reciprocal link is bad or good can also
depend on what exactly you mean by "reciprocal link." From one page to another
and back? From one site to another but between different pages? And what about
the underlying reason for the link? For search ranking purposes or for your
visitors? Today, a gift (ahem) from the email deity arrived in my inbox. An
example of a bad reciprocal link plus a bad link request. Yum, double badness to
blog. Let’s look.

Here’s the email. URLs have been broken so as not to benefit the guilty, but
you can always cut-and-paste and piece together, if you’re really curious.

Dear Webmaster,

We would like to add
to our online directory, by placing a
link to it in our site http:// www. bradandjennifer. com/  In return; we
would like you to link back to http:// www. myweddingfavors. com our site.

This exchange will create one way links to both our sites, which is
beneficial from SEO point of view. This link will remain active as long as the
requested link back is active on your site.

Please mail us your link Title, URL & Description & we will immediately
place a link to
on http:// www. bradandjennifer. com/
your link shall appear at: http:// www. bradandjennifer.com/ links.htm

Please place a link back to http:// www. myweddingfavors. com using the
information below:

Link Text: Wedding Favors Description: Elegant
wedding favors and unique wedding favor ideas
from My Wedding Favors.
URL: http:// www. myweddingfavors. com

Thank you for helping both our sites achieve higher rankings, and for
becoming part of the http://www. bradandjennifer. com/ family!


Want to get 10,000 unique visitors per day from organic search engine
traffic, like our Yahoo Store? 

"DISCLAIMER: If you prefer I not send you future emails, please reply with
the word ‘REMOVE’ in the subject line."

Oh, where to begin? Let’s go with the biggest reason why I think this is a
bad reciprocal link. That’s because there’s no benefit to my visitors in adding
it. Do they care about this Brad & Jennifer site (and no, it’s not that Brad &
Jennifer). They do not! They care about search stuff. If I link to this site and
they link to me, sure, we’ve scratched each others’ backs. But that’s to benefit
each other, to reciprocate, not to help our visitors.

Hey — what’s the deal with those blogrolls you see in a lot of places, even
on our blog.
Isn’t that reciprocation? Sure is! Move along, you joker. You’re messing up my

Seriously — yes, it’s reciprocation, but reciprocation that also helps your
visitors. There’s some good reason beyond "I wanna top search ranking" for doing
those links.

Now what if we go with this old school reciprocal link request, defying all
better judgment. Is that enough to get us banned? Yes. Yes, you will be banned
for life. Using mental telepathy, I just beamed that question to all my search
engine contacts and received back that unified answer, despite the tinfoil on my

Nah. What’s one link among many? Honestly, even if I end up doing a fair
number of these, I’m still not likely to get banned. But neither are they likely
to be doing much good for me.

This is because the links coming at me are likely on pages with a lot of
other links — and links that clearly aren’t related to each other — and thus
making it easier to identify that page as one that perhaps shouldn’t be able to
transmit much importance to other sites. (Want the science bit? Go read the
paper about detecting link spam that Gary
posted about
yesterday. That’s full of just one method of knowing good links from bad. Jim

it here, from Aaron’s longer
summary. Both are
better reads for most people).

Specifically to this example, while they want me to link to their home page,
they’re going to place my link on their links page, not their home page. If you
look at that links page, you’ll see it’s just a jumble of links. A link to a
Bahama vacations site next to one for a satellite TV site which is near a Utah
homes for sale site.

The Google Toolbar PageRank meter gives the page a big ole whopping 0. That’s
zero, with a capital Zed. (That’s Zed, in what my kids think Z is called. It’s
because of their mom/mum, who’s British. And I ask you, if Z is Zed, then why
don’t Brits call a zebra a zedbra? But I digress badly, madly). Think you’re
going to benefit much being linked from that page? Then you’d better go claim
that $400 Google’s
giving away
(They’re not! It’s a scam!).

By the way, notice how the email is a bit confused, even more confused than
my critique of it. It starts out about the Brad & Jen site (remember, not THAT
Brad & Jen and not even an incredible simulation), but then it starts talking
about a wedding favors site. Just a guess, but me thinks someone didn’t do the
cut and paste right before sending out this bulk email. Another sign of a
quality request.

What have we learned from all this?

  • Exchange links your visitors care about, and you’ll probably be doing the
    "good" reciprocal linking and needn’t fear people like Google’s
    Matt Cutts, who can fell your
    site with one swoop of his
    mighty sword:

    Matt Cutts (right) with mighty sword (left).
    Photo Copyright 2005 Matt Cutts, all rights reserved.
    No swords were harmed in the taking of this photo.


  • Avoid links request that bury you in Siberia in exchange for some nice
    beachfront real estate on your home page.
  • Brad & Jen look better than that, in their better days when they were
    still a couple.
  • Send me bad link requests at your peril.

You might also take a look at my post from last year,
Thanks For Your
Horrible Link Request
. In that, I examine not the technical quality of the
link request but the style and substance of the request itself — or lack

Want to commiserate? Visit our forum thread,

Reciprocal Linking ? Dead or Alive?

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