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No Reciprocal Links, Please

If you are familiar with the basic concepts of search engine optimization, then the term “backlinks” won’t be a new thing for you. Your website’s position in the search engine results depends on the number of QUALITY backlinks you build for your site (notice that I am stressing the word quality because I mean it). One quality backlink can outweigh hundreds of irrelevant backlinks as far as the benefits that it can give you.

There are various sources from which a webmaster can gain backlinks for their sites. One of the most important sources are web directories.

Backlinks from web directories like AMRAY, Aviva Directory, Directory Journal and Jasmine Directory can play a vital role in your blog’s off-page SEO efforts. The following are the advantages of a directory listing:

  • Reputable directories usually rank well in search engines for many important keywords. If your site is listed in a web directory, you can expect that you will be getting good exposure from a varied audience.
  • Well organized and trafficked web directories can provide targeted traffic to sites that are listed in them.
  • Search engine bots regularly crawl directories, so if your site is listed in a directory, then you can expect your pages to be indexed quickly, which in turn results in good rankings.
  • Google and other search engines give importance to authority web directories and the sites which are linked from good web directories also receive a share of the love.

How to get your site listed in web directories?

That part is pretty simple, at least as long as your site is of such quality that it will meet the standards of the directory you are submitting it to. Good web directories are looking for good sites to refer their readers to. If your site qualifies, you just need to submit your URL to the appropriate category of the directory, with its title and a brief site description. Some directories accept free submissions, while others require the payment of a submission fee.

But there is sometimes another alternative — reciprocal links.

What are reciprocal links?

Traditionally, a reciprocal link was a sort of mutual linking strategy in which two web developers receive a link and give back a link to one another’s blog or website. For example, Leon links to Claire’s blog and Claire reciprocates by linking back to Leon’s blog.

Reciprocal linking was a popular SEO strategy in earlier days because two blogs with similar content could link to each other, thereby referring readers to relevant content on one another’s sites and getting some link love as well. However, Google and other search engines began to oppose the use of reciprocal links, as this strategy was misused by webmasters who created or participated in linkingNo Reciprocal Links networks, not for the purpose of referring human visitors, but to improve their ranking in the search engines.

Some web directories do offer free submissions with no strings attached but, in other web directories, they are not actually free, because they require the placement of a reciprocal link pointing back to the directory.

Some of these directories require webmasters to link back to the homepage of their site even before submitted sites are considered for inclusion in the directory. Of course, a homepage link is of higher value than a category page link in the directory. Even if trading were not something that you need to be concerned about, it wouldn’t be a fair trade for the webmaster, whose site will placed on a specific category page of the directory while a link to the directory is placed on the homepage of the webmaster’s site.

Then, of course, there is the fact that link trades are frowned upon by the search engines, so this is something that you should be careful about being involved with.

Usually, there are options. Normally, you can opt out of reciprocal links by paying a submission fee. Most of the directories do offer paid submission options that don’t require you to provide a reciprocal link. That would be a better choice as long as the fee is affordable, since two-way links are not as valuable as a one-way link, and engaging in reciprocal link trading may even result in link-trading penalties.

A penalty is unlikely since two-way links are often produced during natural linking processes, but we do know that, as a link-building strategy, it is one that Google disapproves of. Given the relatively low value of a two-way link, you might not want to take a chance.

A better choice might be to say, “No reciprocal links, please,” and to take a pass on any directory that engages in link-trading through reciprocal link options. Within the web directory industry, reciprocal linking is considered tacky, and in the event that the web directory is penalized for engaging in link-trading, it might be best not to have your link associated with it.

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Ken Anderson was an early meta editor for the Open Directory Project (DMOZ), as well as an editor with the Go.com and Zeal directories, and several other web directories, both short- and long-term.

'No Reciprocal Links, Please' have 2 comments

  1. December 30, 2014 @ 3:05 am Jenna

    Good grief! It boggles the mind that there is still a need to tell people that reciprocal links are a bad idea. I suppose someone living under a rock may not be aware of the changes in SEO, but I always thought common sense would cover it.


    • December 30, 2014 @ 3:10 am WDD-Admin

      They are still widely requested.


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