Reciprocal link scams are on the rise. It is no secret that most search engines count the quantity and quality of incoming links to a website when deciding how to rank it. In fact some give weight to the ratio of incoming links versus outbound links. This has lead some webmasters to use some unscrupulous tactics in order to inflate their search engine rankings at the expense of their link partners.
FFA Links Pages
Free for all (FFA) links pages are worthless and potentially harmful for your incoming link to be on. If a potential partner has a page with no Page Rank and over 30 outbound links be careful about placing your link there. True FFA pages may have hundreds of outbound links on a page all going to a wide variety of irrelevant websites.
This will either be worthless in helping your website in the rankings race or it may harm your rankings as some search engines will penalize your website for having a link on an FFA page. If your link is on a partner site that has over 30 outbound links, this may not be a true FFA page, but most likely this page will be disregarded by the search engines. This will not be a good trade either. Your goal is to have quality links pointing to your website. Why give out a quality link from your website if you don’t receive one in return.
Disconnected Links Pages
Disconnected links pages come in three types. The first type is a standalone page that does not link to any other page on the website. Sometimes a Webmaster will isolate the links page by not linking it to any page whatsoever. In the second type, the Webmaster can bury the page by linking it 4 or more levels down from the homepage (robots usually do not crawl this deep) and thus this link page will never be indexed and your link will not count as an inbound link.
The third type of disconnected page is a links page with a URL that is different from the domain name of the site you want to link to. This link page may be created by a service on the web or software, but if you link to a partner’s URL with a particular domain name, make sure this same domain name is linking back to you. The Webmaster will use this tactic in order to receive lots of incoming links on his site and appear to the search engines not to have a bunch of outbound links from his site (your link is actually on another site, remember).
Dynamic Link Pages
While not necessarily a scam, this technique can leave you on the short end of the reciprocal linking stick. It is no secret that most search engine robots have difficulty in indexing dynamic pages (the ones with the “?” in the URL) and simply by-pass these pages. Some webmasters have taken to creating their reciprocal links pages dynamically instead of statically. The downside is that most of the time these links will never show up in the search engines. The webmasters get a reciprocal link from your website which most likely is static and has some Page Rank and in return, they put your link on their page which has no Page Rank and will never show up in the search engines. This doesn’t sound like an even trade does it?
One way to check this out is while you are in the process of checking out some potential link partner sites (and if you have the Google toolbar) check out the Page Rank on your potential partners’ link pages. If the page rank is zero this does not necessary mean they are dynamic but it warrants further investigation. If you go back and then forward in your browser you can usually see if the page is dynamic. Also, many times the page will have an .asp at the end or .php and probably a “?” in the URL as mentioned before.
If you like this potential link partner’s website you can always ask to trade links on a static page and / or some page with a Page Rank of more than zero.
What can I do to insure a fair link trade?
You can insure a fair link trade by first checking out your potential partner’s links page where your link will appear. Look to see that it is static and has some Page Rank. Verify that the URL of the links page comes from the same domain as the rest of the website. Also make sure there are not over 30 outbound links on this page. In addition, start on the homepage and trace the route to the links page. If it is more than 2 levels down from the homepage, then don’t trade (unless there is some Page Rank of course). Make sure you can trace the path to the links page to verify it is not a standalone page.
Of course monitoring link exchanges is also important. Many websites (such as ours) change over the years and links pages may be discarded or orphaned in the process. Note that reciprocal linking doesn’t have the power that it used to have. So, some websites, such as ours, choose not to engage in it. But, if you do just make sure that the trade is as fair as possible and if you can get some quality direct traffic from the exchange, then more power to you.