According to Google, but my interpretation
According to Google, it is a fact that your ranking (where you are positioned on the search engine results page – SERP) is based partly on the analysis of the sites linked to you. (I would say it is a lot more than partly and probably one, if not the, most important aspect of SEO).
The analysis considers how many links you have, the quality of those links and the relevance of the links to the subject matter contained in your website or blog. What Google is looking for when they analyse the data is to try and decide how popular your site is in the world of the internet and the quality of the information it provides.
The links contribute in two ways, firstly they help Google assess these aspects of quality and popularity and secondly they can provide a positive contribution towards these aspects by expanding on the subject matter, increasing the quality of the information and consequently the popularity of the site, which is exactly what Google say they want to see happening.
However, where and if webmasters participate in building link pages, as part of a reciprocal links exchange scheme, which is solely for the purpose of creating cross linking and takes no regard of the quality of the links, the sources of the links and the long term impact it will have on their site, Google considers this to be in violation of their guidelines.
Of course what this means is that your ranking in the search results receives a negative impact and your website or blog will be placed further down the results pages. So if you were looking for a means to increase pagerank, this is a definite no no.
What to avoid:
- placing links on your site that are there purely to manipulate page rank
- placing links to spammers or sites considered to be bad neighborhoods
- using excessive reciprocal linking and link exchanging e.g. sites that link directly to you and you link directly to them
- buying or selling links for page rank
In Googles opinion the best way to get the right sort of links of sufficient quality and quantity is by providing unique and valuable information that has a relevancy to other sites so that you become a resource to those other sites and they link to you. This whole premise is based around the question of whether a link is going to provide any value to the visitors coming to your website.
So what they are in fact looking for is what they consider to be a natural and organic development of links from sites that have a synergistic relationship to your site. In other words for it to have any value there must be a reason that the linking is both useful and relevant from Google’s perspective .
As an aside, there is a little clue as to how much Google likes the blogging environment as a means of diverting traffic to your site contained in the statement ‘the buzzing blogger community can be an excellent place to generate interest ’.
My Take of the Google advice on reciprocal links exchange
As usual what seems fairly straight forward advice is open to interpretation, you can easily become paranoid about what you should and should not do and reading the ‘what to avoid’ options above you may for instance decide not to have a links page.
Don’t get me wrong on this, the page rank on this page has gone up and down like a yo-yo and was wiped out completely at one stage. This leads me to take a different perspective on the whole links page issue and to lean towards the other alternative methods of including links i.e. whenever you see an opportunity in your text to point at another useful resource, take that opportunity, you can still follow the rules of thumb below because they are still relevant to your other pages, in fact my 4th point was to follow this strategy if possible anyway so from that perspective nothing has changed.
But what is significant is that Google have moved from a position of valuing my links page (PR3) to not valuing it (no page rank). So does this mean I should remove it from my site, well my answer is no and these are the reasons: –
- The page still has value for me and serves a purpose for me i.e. it can send visitors to other sites I value and want to list.
- The page is still indexed by Google, it is just less likely to be presented high up in search results. I am not too concerned by that as long as my other pages that still have a good rank are.
- many of the links on the page are difficult to include on my other pages in a natural way, this is because I am providing several options in many cases for effectively the same type of resource e.g. alternative holiday destinations
- I may change the name of the page to something else, resources perhaps, I say may because at this point I am not convinced it is necessary, but I have read a train of opinion that suggests that using the term ‘links’ on your page as an identifier may not be good, but I do not believe that Google would not be able to recognise a links page for what it is, no matter what it’s called. So as long as I do not see evidence that my other pages are suffering as a result of its presence then I am prepared to continue using it. Book mark for further updates in case I need to change this viewpoint.
Guess what, my PR for my links page has now miraculously reappeared, I have not changed my strategy and actually have only added a few more links to the page since losing the rank. As far as I am concerned this reinforces my approach to linking; but why Google removed the PR for a period of time only they would be able to explain.
Update as of the 24 Dec 2012
The page rank on my links page is now set at PR1, so even after Panda, Penguin et al (Google algorithm changes), the page still retains some authority, albeit not enough to set the world on fire and I am still keeping the page for the reasons already discussed above. I have amended my rules of thumb a little based on the most recent information, nothing stays the same forever in the world of SEO so updates are required from time to time.
So as far as I am concerned, my rules of thumb are now:
- I always make sure that any pages I am linking to are Google indexed √
- The 100 links rule to external sites on one page no longer applies, but be sensible thousands of links would raise search engine eyebrows, but in the hundreds is now deemed acceptable.
- I never add more than 18 links a day to a website or blog, unless you can do that regularly over an extended period of time √
- If I can add the links into the context of my pages and make them keywords I will do that rather than put them on a links page √
- If it is possible to get a 3 way link I will always use that in preference to a direct link, but I will still use a direct link if it is a good quality site that is relevant and there are no other options, remembering that Google say ‘do not use excessive linking of this type’. A three way link is about equivalent to a reciprocal link these days as Google will recognise the relationship anyway. But a few links of either type shouldn’t be of concern as very often this might happen naturally anyway
- Links from other sites need to have relevancy, linking a baker’s site to a car mechanic’s site doesn’t make any sense. But linking a baker’s site to a flour supplier’s site does
- Don’t overdo exact match anchor text, it’s not natural and unlikely to occur organically. Use some exact match, some synonyms and some plain URL links.
What the rules of thumb above amount to are the natural looking addition of links to your sites and more often than not taking this approach, it is genuinely natural. Where people who are looking around the web find a site and think ‘ that’s a good fit with my information’ and visa versa, why wouldn’t you request a link.
For example on my travel advice pages I point at hire car sites in our region and the hire car sites have in some instances pointed at my holiday residence as a good place to stay, that I would say is a natural relationship and I can see absolutely no problem with a direct link under these circumstances.
Lets look at the other things to avoid, Point 1 was placing links purely to manipulate page rank and to me that is clearly just the indiscriminate placing of as many links as you can, irrespective of whether they bring anything to the party, pretty much as we have already said is bad practice.
Linking to spammer or bad neighbourhoods, bad neighborhoods are generally accepted as being sites that produce malware, illegal material, scraper sites or are considered link farms, there are probably more but these capture the main ones. Spamming I think is self explanatory but just in case here is a really good explanation of spam.
These sites will try to link to you and they often do it by adding comments to your blogs or subscribing to your site with their dodgy URL. It is good practice to moderate all your comments and subscriptions to make sure this doesn’t happen or you can just adopt a ‘no follow’ policy on all comments and subscriptions, this can usually be set up automatically by various means which I won’t go into here. You can also look for sites that provide scanning software to check for bad neighborhood sites so that you can remove them.
Buying links – you can buy text links, or you can buy one way links which are generally considered to be valuable because you are not reciprocating all of your inbound links i.e. an external site places value in your site with a one way link arrangement.
This is more difficult for Google to detect but if they do find that sites you are regularly linking to or from are paid for links then you should expect repercussions unless of course they fit under the bracket of paid advertising and are clearly shown to be so, i.e. have a no follow attribute or are blocked from the search engines by using a robots.txt file.
Personally I don’t buy backlinks of any sort and prefer to find free ways of doing this. There are plenty of legitimate ways available that fits the ‘natural evolution of linking’ premise.
Might as well get things from the horses mouth first, you can always form your own interpretation if you don’t agree with my take on things. This article was built on the information supplied by Google in a help answer which you are more than welcome to visit.
This blog is actually about how to work at home but has somehow turned into an SEO blog. The reason is pretty clear, if you want to work at home by blogging, then understanding SEO is a mandatory requirement.