In the last couple of articles we’ve had a look at both the purpose and constitution of links and how they affect the credibility, popularity and authority of websites.
In the final part of this article, we’ll now turn our attention to the different types of links out there, from one-way links to reciprocal links and multi-channel links and try to establish whether certain links are better than others for your particular business purposes.
The term itself is pretty self-evident, and doesn’t really require much in the way of further explanation: I link to your website, and you in return link back to mine. It’s a sort of mutual back-scratching, and has to some extent been open to abuse. There’s a school of thought that would suggest that these links are a thing of the past and are certainly past their sell-by-date, but I think that’s being a little harsh. As a concept, reciprocal links are fine, but there are reciprocal links, and there are also ‘reciprocal links.’ The question is how do you spot the difference?
Low-quality reciprocal links
This type of reciprocal link is usually found on pages specifically designed to house this type of link. They’re easy enough to spot if you look closely enough. They’re usually gathered from a ‘resource’ page that contains a large number of assorted, and barely related, links from the host source to any number of other websites. Once you link to a site like this, they’ll tip you the nod and link back to you and a whole host of others too. The problem with such links is that they add little value to your own website: the chances are they have little relevance to what you have to offer, and therefore don’t bring any benefit if you do link to them. In fact, they may even harm your reputation in the longer-term, as search engines don’t look kindly on websites that have little respect for their own reputation and are prepared to link to other less-than-honest sites.
High-quality reciprocal links
High-quality reciprocal links don’t depend on mutual back-scratching. Most, in fact, are based upon value judgements in the sense that one sight will link to another purely on the basis of the content it provides and the relevance to your own site. Should that website find what you deliver to be useful too, then they will reciprocate and give you a link back. The difference between high-quality and low-quality links is that the former is independent and was not pre-arranged.
Does that always mean that there is never any hint of pre-arrangement or manipulation between the parties? Of course not. Websites can agree to swap links if they feel the mutual content is valuable and will increase the esteem of their respective websites. The only thing to remember, is that it has to look squeaky clean and natural. If you link to a site’s primary page content early on, and they do likewise, then things should be ok. If you do it too often, however, the search engines may feel they have to take a dim view.
These are essentially links between 3 or more websites where for instance, you link to a website that has relevance to your own line of work, say for instance a classic bike website and that website in turn links to a generic directory about motorbikes, and this directory links back eventually to you. In its own way, 3-way linking is an attempt to get round the watchful eye of the search engines and any accusations of deliberate reciprocation. Unfortunately, these search engines are pretty clever, and can manage to spot deliberately arranged multi-way linking patterns. However, websites can be equally clever and inventive. We now have what’s called link wheels to overcome this problem. Link wheels are essentially simple: one network of sites links to a secondary network of sites, and they then link back to you. What you get out of it is a series of one-way links through these link-wheel networks which are very difficult to trace. Whether these link-wheel schemes bring any long-term, sustainable benefit is open to question.
As far as links are concerned, these are la crème de la crème. They add value to your site and increase your online reputation and standing. One way links are unsolicited and happen when other websites find the content you produce interesting and useful. They link to you, but ask nothing in return, and you don’t link back to them. Websites that produce this type of content will receive these one-way links organically over a period of time. There are, of course, always people out there willing to sell you one-way links. These one-way link brokers will offer untraceable links that apparently fly under the search engine radar, but they are generally best avoided.
Links are, without question, an important part of any optimisation campaign, but some links definitely punch above their weight. You can risk purchasing these, or get your website listed on a link-wheel, but these options are risky and can never guarantee success. The only sure-fire way of building lasting and valuable links is to create a top-quality, informative website that other sites will want to link to. It takes time undoubtedly, and won’t happen over night, but the links you’ll get will be worthwhile and more than likely sustainable.