Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

August 14, 2007

Banned For Reciprocal Linking?

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 9:52 am

Update: Google added the word excessive in front of the passage I mentioned today (8-16-07). It clarifies a little bit, but still begs the question: what’s excessive?

Google recently updated it’s webmaster guidelines with some information that’s causing a big stir on the internet. If you look under the examples of “link schemes” you’ll see this little tidbit:

Link exchange and reciprocal links schemes (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)

Am I to understand that one can now be banned from Google for having reciprocal links? If so, there’s some serious implications that come to mind:

  1. What about all of the sites that pre-date Google? Reciprocal linking happened way before Google was around. You can’t expect all these websites to suddenly change.
  2. What about sister sites? Example: On Noslang.com I link to my drug translator, and on the drug translator I link to my slang translator. I don’t do this for pagerank, I do it because my visitors may be looking for a slang term that the other dictionary includes. It’s proven useful. Am I to get banned because both sites are relevant to each other and helpful to the user?
  3. What about press mentions? It’s very common for a website to link back to a news article that mentions them. You want your visitors to see your press accolades. Are these seen as reciprocal links and bad for my website?
  4. What about blogrolls or blog networks? Even Matt Cutts had a blogroll at one time, and many of these people linked back in their blogrolls. It’s helpful to users because they can read similiar content. Is this a penalty? Backlink Doctor has the best guides on fixing your site if a Google penalty has hit you.

There’s got to be a better method than “banning” that the guidelines mention. If Google can detect reciprocal links, they can just as easily not give them any weight in the algorithm. This way, users still benefit and the search engines aren’t “gamed.” Maybe it’s just a clarification issue on the webmaster guidelines page, or I’m reading it wrong.

Either way,I think we still need some clarification on this new update from Matt and Adam – because as it’s written I’d venture to say that about 90% of sites are in violation of the new guidelines. Of course, banning everybody who uses reciprocal links would certainly save on bandwith and allow Google to index the remaining web with near real-time updates. Isn’t that what we’ve all been pushing for?


  1. Ryan you are right Google needs to clarify this once and for all. They are not very smart in the way they have written this guideline. Alot of people are misinterpreting this new Google guideline.. Google should have stated “avoid full duplex reciprocal linking schemes” whereas software or services force you to link in high volume over long periods of time.

    We use Linksmanager to manage our link exchange campaigns which allows us to maintain editorial discretion making links. there is a huge difference between link exchange for the end user and where I control who I link to and fully automated reciprocal linking.. I will continue to link exchange and so should you.

    Comment by Karen Evans — August 15, 2007 @ 10:57 am

  2. Hey Ryan and others

    This is really nothing new to be honest. I doubt people will get banned but they may be filtered even more.

    I wrote about it over two years ago.

    my article

    No wonder all my clients are at the top!!


    Comment by Clint Dixon — August 17, 2007 @ 7:19 am

  3. Yes I know it’s nothing new, and those of us in the SEO world have been saying that reciprocal links aren’t as good as natural 1 way links… however the change to the guidelines was new.. and warranted reporting on.

    Also, I had to edit your comment.. that link was way too long it broke my wordpress layout.

    Comment by Ryan — August 17, 2007 @ 7:54 pm

  4. No where in Google’s updated webmaster guidelines does it state that reciprocal linking should be avoided. It does say to avoid “link schemes.”

    It also does mention – “Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)

    Google’s terms state “Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.”

    Quoting Google further “It is not only the number of links you have pointing to your site that matters, but also the quality and relevance of those links.”

    Linking is not against terms and having a blogroll is not against terms from what I understand, but you should pay close attention to how you link, why you link and who you link to.

    Comment by Rose — September 1, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

  5. Hey Rose.. I was more or less pointing out the vague wording in the guidelines. It’s since been removed…

    But good linking advice nonetheless. Thanks.

    Comment by Ryan — September 3, 2007 @ 5:43 pm

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