If you watched our most recent “Spam Slam” video, you heard us talking about a recent solicitation one of our clients received regarding reciprocal links. If you didn’t see the video and stumbled upon this article anyway, you can watch it below:
Before we go any further, let us clarify that reciprocal links aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, if two websites have overlapping interests, and linking back to each other makes for a better overall user experience, that’s perfectly fine. Google is all about user experience these days, so providing this type of beneficial, on-page experience makes complete sense. However, that wasn’t necessarily the intent alluded to in the email.
Google’s Quality Guidelines regarding Link Schemes reads as follows:
Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
- Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
- Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
- Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
The email scenario described in the video is a violation of the first bullet point. While no money is said to be exchanging hands between the two lawyer sites, we can assume that money would exchange hands between the solicited-to attorney and the marketing company overseeing this operation. It’s also a violation of bullet point number two. In this case, a larger link scheme is at play in hopes that Google won’t be able to recognize all the various pieces involved. Newsflash! Google IS smart enough to pick up on this. It might not be immediately, but Google will eventually make the connection and all sites involved will be penalized (at least that’s the way it’s all supposed to play out…whether or not Google follows through sometimes is a different question).