Welcome back to the sixth installment of my link building series. Last week I talked about blog commenting and forum linking. This week’s topic is on reciprocal and one way linking and how you can be successful with it.

Reciprocal Linking – I know what most of you are thinking, reciprocal linking is a waste of time and the search engines know all about it and it will only hurt you. Well yes that is correct IF you are exchanging links with a spam site or a site that has NOTHING to do with what your site is about. Aaron talked briefly on effective reciprocal linking campaigns a few weeks back so I’m going to try and just build off of what he has already said.

So the question is, is this site worth becoming a link partner with? Well like some of my previous posts have already stated you need to do a analysis of the site you are hoping to link to. Some questions you need to ask yourself are:

    How Link Juice is Passed

    How Link Juice is Passed **Image from SEOMoz**

  • Are there a lot links on the page? – Too many links is never good, you do not want to share the link juice of a page that has many links. As a rule of thumb I will normally pass up a page if it has more than 20 external links on it.
  • Based on the page’s existing links, does it appear they allow custom link text? – Having custom link text is a must in my book. You will not gain much benefit from a link that is just www.sitename.com. You can do this simply by looking at the other links on the page. If they appear to be customized, then the site may allow it.
  • Do they blatantly state they exchange links? – If the site says click here if you wish to become link partners it may be a site you want to avoid, not to say the site is bad or anything but the Search Engines have become very smart about finding sites that do link exchanges and may not pass as much weight to links coming from these sites. I don’t necessarily discount the site if they state it, it just throws up somewhat of a red flag for me..
  • Does the page have PR or more importantly is the page cached? – If the page has page rank it usuallysafe to say Google finds the page to be good or relevant to the overall topic of the domain (I.E. a soft drinks page on the Coca Cola website). Getting a link on a page that has PR means that some of that PR juice will flow to you, meaning that this might be a good page to exchange links with. If the page does not have a PR it is not necessarily a bad thing. Try checking to see if the page has been cached at all. If it is cached it may just not of received a PR update yet so keep that in mind when making your decision to exchange links.
  • Has the page been cached within the last month? – When you check to see if the page has been cached(even if a site has PR I still will check the cache date on it) this gives me a rough idea as to how often Google comes in to view the site. If it hasn’t been cached within the past month it can be a safe estimate that Google doesn’t come to visit the site very often. Why is this important? Well if you have to wait a two or three months to see a backlink from this site it might not really be worth your trouble.
  • Is the site related to you industry? – This is probably one of if not the most important factors you need to look at when visiting the site. Google, among others, have stated many times that you will gain more benefit from a site that is related to you in some way shape or form as opposed to a site that has nothing to do with you or your industry. Also linking to a site that has nothing to do with your industry is a nice little flag to the Search Engines that you might be practicing reciprocal linking and may keep the engines from passing any juice to you altogether. MAKE SURE you exchange links with only sites that are in your industry or at least in your town or region if you have a click and mortar company.
  • Does the site link to other spam sites? – While having a link on a site that links to a spam site won’t “hurt you” it won’t necessarily help you either. Google and others have stated that if a site links to a spam site, that site must also be spam therefore the weight that site passes to you is going to be minimal. So just be cautious of that when looking at their site.
  • Are they linking to affiliate sites? – Again while this won’t “hurt “ you in any way, it won’t benefit for you. Search Bots know what an affiliate link is and they tend to discount the site a bit more when they see them. Just keep that in mind.
  • Example of what a Affiliate Link Might Look Like

    Example of what a Affiliate Link Might Look Like

  • Does the site appear to be clean? –If you choose link partners based on image, this can be important to you. You may not want to be on a site that has a lot of stuff going on around it whether that is banners, advertisements, different size fonts, or different colors. This is completely up to you; however, as this has no direct effect on how much juice your link would receive.
  • Is the site easy to navigate? –While this again is more based off your opinion you could also think of it from a Search Bots point of view. If it is hard to find the page with your link on it, it could mean it is hard for the Search Bot to find your link as well.
  • Can you easily find a contact person? – Can you find someone to contact within a few clicks? Whether its filling out a form or someone putting their email address for you to contact them, this is important because if you can’t find a contact person then it may not be worth the time requesting a link with the site. You want to be able to have contact with a real person.
  • One Way Linking – Is there anything different about one way linking? Not really, you will judge the site pretty much the same way as you would when looking for link exchanges but the one thing I would suggest to do is when you contact the person for a link exchange instead of using link exchange in your email subject or even saying you are willing to do a link exchange, see if they would give you a link for free without having to link back. Just casually mention you have a site that you feel would be beneficial to their visitors and ask for a link. If they ask for a link back, well you already were willing to give them one, so you might as well link to them.

    One way links are a lot more valuable than link exchanges but that doesn’t mean link exchanges are terrible or worthless themselves. Just be cautious (like I haven’t said that before) when picking your partners. I use the mentality of if a site looks spammy IT PROBABLY IS SPAM.

    Stay tuned for next week’s talk on article distribution and press releases.