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Something that was raised in my SEO session at Podcamp Pittsburgh 5 yesterday was linking and link reciprocity.

Are reciprocal links a good thing or a bad thing?

First, consider what your site is and why you’re writing it. If you’re writing a resource to send people to other places on the Internet then feel free to link away but….

Reciprocal links are links that link from your site to someone else’s and they link back to you.  This is very nice of them… and you, I’m sure but search engines are starting to look non-too-fondly at link reciprocity.

There are so many sites and ‘services’ that are trying to garner online reputation by requesting link exchanges with other well ranking sites to boost their search engine exposure.
It would seem that on a daily basis I receive a  number of emails requesting a link exchange with another site. They wouldn’t be offering if there was nothing in it for them, right?

Often, these link exchanges are offered by services that are promising their clients a better search engine ranking.

Many search engines are looking at reciprocal linking as webmasters being in cahoots. “I’ll link to you, you link to me and maybe we can use our leverage to climb the ranks.” The practice is really being wised up to.

Link directories aren’t helping either. Manually formed or web trawled, link directories are becoming less of a useful resource and more of a site monetization practice that hurts many sites that are linking to and from them.

Now, what can you do about it?
Well, carefully consider your link exchanges, link to those you trust.
Link specifically, don’t link straight to the top level of the site, link to a page within the site that is topical to the conversation.
Consider using select “no-follow” links so that search engines don’t crawl out of your site and find links that are linking back etc. (you might want to make sure linkees know you use no-follow links on your site)
Use your common sense.

Yes, link reciprocity can be good for community. Linking to other sites can show you’re community minded and like other sites. Again though, use your common sense when you’re doing it.

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