I have not talked much about our new link program here in this blog, however I posted what we are doing over at Search Engine Watch Forums and have gotten some good feedback, which has also raised some good points we have not considered. SEO Book also picked up on the thread which generated some additional comments.
In the course of our efforts we’ve also have been getting feedback from those we are trying to “convert” from the old “link page” format to the new article format. While mostly positive, some of the negative responses range from, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, link pages have always worked just fine,” to “You don’t know what you’re talking about, ALL reciprocal links are useless.” (I’m paraphrasing the responses.)
In a link building post yesterday, Seth noted a response he received from a potential partner that forwarded our request to Bruce Clay for feedback. That potential partner forwarded that response to us, which looked like it was written by Gary Luke.
While I appreciate the noted “Authority” status Bruce Clay and his office has, it is certainly true that no authority has the monopoly on search engine truth. So let’s play True or False from Gary’s response.
Google is really looking at the quality of your links.
They want only one way and quality rather than junk.
FALSE and TRUE.
Search engines definitely are working hard to determine quality links from junk links. But quality is not simply defined as a one-way link. Reciprocal links can also be quality. Danny Sullivan talks briefly about that in this post.
All reciprocal links will not be worth anything.
The web is built on links and many of those are naturally reciprocated. If I find a site that says kind things about me it will only be natural for me to link back to them pointing out the kind things they have said. There is nothing false or “link spammy” about that. If Google is truly determined to find natural link patterns then a blanket devaluing of reciprocal links is flat out wrong and with the power that Google holds, such move can seriously destroy the Internet as we know it. I may be going a bit over-the-top here, but it’s just a bad move. On the other hand, Google and search results are better served by using their algorithm to determine the value of a link. I can see reciprocal links not holding the same value as a one-way, but there are many legitimate reciprocating links that do and should be valuable to each site.
Directory links will not be worth anything.
If you add the word “most” to the beginning of the sentence then the statement would be true. Most directories are junk and therefore most links from these directories will also be junk. But there are still some valuable directories, which Google even states that it’s a good idea to get links from, namely Yahoo and DMOZ (read the last point under “When your site is ready.”)
Of course, Google can change this at any time, but I don’t believe they will discourage people from submitting to these high-end directories, or devaluing the links from such.
Press releases will not count.
Press releases have become another form of link spam with many having very little real value other than the links they generate. On a side note, don’t stop submitting press releases if you have a legitimate reason or announcement for doing so.
Google wants only high quality complimentary ‘one way’ links
Not sure what a ‘complimentary’ one-way link are. Does this mean links that only have nice things to say to the linking site will count? Is my link to SEO Book above complimentary? Not sure if the search engines have a way to determine if a link is complimentary or not. Many links are simply benign in and of themselves, even though the fact that the link is there to begin with is complimentary.
…and links from ‘testimonial’ sites.
These links are, like any on-topic links, are good. However, unless these sites prevent people from adding false testimonials for themselves, these links will go the way of the guestbook link. Doesn’t sound like seeking out these links is a good long-term strategy, but I wouldn’t reject a legitimate one.
Yes, Google is adjusting their linking algorithm and how links are analyzed for quality. My personal believe is that Google does not care so much if a link is reciprocated or not but it is more interested in the context of the link. Typical link pages will be/are easy to spot and the links on those pages will be devalued and/or completely useless. Links within quality and unique content, whether reciprocated or not, will continue to be valuable to the search engines because of the context that the link is in.
But one thing has been and remains true, nothing beats a one-way link from an authoritative site.