Is Reciprocal Link Exchange Dead?

The sun seems to be setting on the world of reciprocal link exchange. Sites that major on that may have to switch to a new paradigm, or go down like the titanic.

The major search engines seem to frown at reciprocal link exchanges, and gradually it is becoming obvious that chasing reciprocal links for the purpose of enhancing search engine rankings is becoming a dying art.

It was pretty contrived while it lasted. You set up a link page, and dump links there. Some webmasters did not bother to categorize the links. On the same page, you will find viagra, mortgage finance, debt consolidation, travel agency, Chinese porcelain, psychics and all the work. Visitors hardly visit such link farms.

Reciprocal link exchanges, as practiced by most webmasters and link exchanges were attempts to artificially inflate link popularity. The interest of the visitor is hardly reckoned with in the transaction. What webmasters look for are Alexa rankings and Google Page Rank of the sites they want to exchange links with. They are ready to trade links with a non-English sites. They know nobody goes there, except search engine spiders. Some webmasters block out search engine spiders, so as to fool the engines to believe all they have are one way links.

Ultimately, human visitors determine the success or failure of a site and not search engine spiders. Humans deliver the most required response, be it placing an order, clicking through to your affiliate merchant site, subscribe to your newsletter or whatever. Search engine spiders don't do that. If you manage to trick yourself into top search engine rankings, your fifteen minutes of fame will not do much to your bottom line. You will get lots of visitors if you show up tops in Google (Coming out tops in MSN and Yahoo does not necessarily translate to a quantum leap in traffic). If your site does not hold visitors, more visitors makes not difference, the returns will be close to zero. Like a high street shop, if all your visitors are window shoppers, you will soon be out of business.

To make matters more interesting, search engines figure out how long visitors stay on your site. How do they figure this out? Simple: let's say you show up number two in Yahoo! for ezine marketing. A visitor clicks through to your site. Fifteen seconds later, the guy is back to the same Yahoo! results pages to check out number three site listed. Look at it this way; Yahoo! sends a visitor to your site, and the visitor is back in a jiffy. It means your site does not have the content he is looking for. Imagine the visitor comes back an hour later. It means the site was useful, but he still needs more. What if he does not come back? This means he has found what he is looking for. Effectively, your visitors are giving feedback to Yahoo! If this happens over and over again (15 seconds visits), this is an indictment on your site. It spells you don't have valuable enough content to belong in the top ranks. Check out your ranking at the next database update. Sure enough, your site drops off the radar. The party is over. You may be tempted to go and try new tricks. The vicious cycle continues.

Reciprocal link exchange is not dead, if you provide links for the benefit of your visitors. Linking for the sake of visitors is a win-win scenario. You have a page that delivers valuable content, and at the end, you list recommended sites that deals extensively on the subject matter. Your visitor gobbles up your content, clicks through to your recommended site, and finds more valuable content. In summary, he finds what he is looking for. You send targeted traffic to your link partner, in return he sends targeted traffic to you. You both win, the surfer wins and the search engine wins, by delivery relevant results to the searcher. Since you help the search engine to win, they reward you with high rankings.

Surfers are looking for content. Search engines are looking for good content sites to serve up to surfers when they key in their search phrases. Since search engines cannot use humans to review all the sites in their index to rank them according to keywords, they use algorithms. Webmasters have tried to beat the algorithms, so that they come out tops in search engine results pages (SERPS) whether they have good content or not.

If the search engines continue serving non-relevant, low content or keyword stuffed pages that look like gibberish to the human eye over and over again, they will soon be out of business. To stay in business, they have to develop complex algorithms that are always a step ahead of smart webmasters who are more interested in high rankings than good content.

If you have very good content, other sites will link to you. You become an asset to them, since you are helping them deliver good content to their visitors. I have linked to sites without asking for a return link.

Again, you can exchange one way links with other sites. For this to happen, one of the webmasters has to own two good sites with a relevant theme. The down side to this is that this too can be abused. Webmasters can exchange one way links for the sake of the engines, and not visitors.

You have to keep in mind that by linking to a site, you are endorsing that site. If you endorse a poor quality site, your visitors and the search engines will penalize you for poor judgement. You are better of with a few high quality links than a quantum of low quality links.

The bottom line is for webmasters to mind their business, literally. Focus on building your online business. If you are building a content site, focus on delivering good unique content. Provide links in the appropriate content pages to resources you'd be proud to recommend to your visitors. Keep building your business, and satisfying your visitors. The engines will eventually take notice, and reward you with high rankings for being a useful partner in their business model.

Anytime you want to exchange links, stop and think, if there were no engines, would you go ahead with the link swap?

Usiere Uko is the webmaster of the Financial Freedom Inspiration website and editor of the monthly Financial Freedom Inspiration Newsletter, a free ezine to inspire you to exit the rat race and fulfill your God given dreams. To subscribe or visit the site, please click on the URL below. http://www.financial-freedom-inspiration.com

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