Reciprocal Linking is Dead!
by Mike Banks Valentine

It was bound to reach this point, and now I've firmly put
my foot down as of this past week and have begun to tell
all potential future link partners I won't "swap links."

I will link, but I will not "swap links" with anyone now.
I require content in the form of articles, press releases
and news, quotes, testimonials or some form of content.

I link from the resource box of articles or contact info
from the press releases, URL's of the honest testimonials
I receive and contributed tutorials. Now the really bad
news is that I must like the articles or content which
are contributed - and I must play the role of editor to
wannabe contributors and discard pieces that don't meet
standards I set.

What was it that ruined strict reciprocal links for me?

It happened when I received a polite link request from
an apparently well-meaning reciprocal link partner and,
as always, clicked through to his requested linking URL.
I was forwarded immediately to an affiliate program page
which this scammer hoped to slip by without my noticing.

If I had merrily added that link to my links page, he
would have another linking partner and would increase
his link popularity for his cloaked forwarding URL.

My heart sank as I realized that yet another worthwhile
and accepted, valuable web protocol has been subverted,
perverted and is now being abused.

Reciprocal linking is dead! 

Now just because one scammer has abused reciprocal links
and distorted the true purpose of this practice, does it
have to mean that everyone else will do this? No. But it
does mean that others will adopt the scam technique and
the value of links pages will drop dramatically because
webmasters will no longer trust the process. We can't.

Scammers are a tight knit group that love to share their
scams and schemes with each other. Reciprocal linking is
definitely dead and this scam will inevitably go viral,
just as every other abuse and scheme before it have done.
Reciprocal links pages are as dead as FFA links pages.

Google has already seen the writing on the wall and only
shows backlinks with a PageRank 4 or better. Webmasters
seeking reciprocal links have consequently adopted a new
strategy when seeking link partners. They breathlessly
announce that the page your link will go on is ranked at
PR4 at Google. 

What's next? PageRank creep! Now that linking has been
perverted, Google will begin showing backlinks with PR5
and then PR6, etc. Reciprocal link partners will claim
that your link will be placed on a PR7 page and so on.
Google essentially negated PR1, PR2 and PR3 by showing
no backlinks with those ranks from their own index!

So after a bit of agonizing over the state of the web,
thinking about how I can't even troll through the 2500
messages that are quarantined by my SpamFilter program
because I don't have time, I decided to end link swaps.

Email used to work. FFA pages used to work. Reciprocal
links pages used to work. Free classified ads used to

What still works? Content works and I am reluctantly
going to insist on content from anyone who wants links
from my sites or client sites. I've got to like what
the contributor has to say and I've got to agree with
their article before I'll publish it and link back to
them from that article, press release or news.

I've even drafted an email note to use as a template for
response to those requesting reciprocal links:

 I'd be happy to link to you, but my current method of
 linking is through articles, not links pages. If you'd
 like to contribute an article for publication, I'd be
 glad to link to you through the resource box. 

 Take a look at those articles I currently use and
 send your own articles for linking consideration.
 Be sure to include a resource box with the linking
 text included within it. 

 The articles are the only way I link to anyone now.
 If you don't have any, consider writing a couple
 specifically for this purpose. I'm sure you also
 know the value of distributing well written articles
 for use by other web sites and ezines. 

The above link leads to a contributed tutorial article
which discusses the value of contributing articles to
other sites and lists article distribution sites and 
free content email lists.

The first few recipients of this email response to their
reciprocal link request have responded with polite but
obvious surprise. 

A couple have said simply, "Oh, I see."

I don't usually hear back from them if article distribu-
tion is not something they already do. But a few smart
webmasters have set about writing content to distribute
with their link requests.

I now do this routinely for search engine optimization
clients that retain me for linking campaigns. If that
client doesn't write articles of their own, I will then
ghost write articles for them and distribute them as a
part of link requests to increase client link popularity.

Success on the web is becoming increasingly complex and
that means that specialists are becoming more valuable 
to web site owners seeking visibility and avoiding scams.

The latest scam is cloaked reciprocal links URL's that
redirect to affiliate program sales pages. 

Reciprocal linking is dead!

Mike Banks Valentine is a Search Engine Optimization
Specialist practicing ethical SEO for Online businesses

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