How Quality Links May Get (And Keep) Your Site On Google
Since this is an article in the Linking School, let's start with a quiz.
Question: Are reciprocal links still a necessary component of a successful website?
Answer: Yes, perhaps more so than at any other time in web history.
Question: Who says so?
Answer: Google, among many other credible experts who don't earn their living by soiling cyberspace with fear-mongering misinformation and selling so-called solutions to the non-existent issues they've created.
Wait. Do I see a hand raised somewhere in the back of the classroom? Does someone have a question?
"Yes. I belong to some webmaster forums and look at a bunch of SEO sites and everyone is saying that Google hates links, that links bring down your page rank. OK, maybe not everyone is saying it. But a lot of people are. What about that?"
Well, student, many people don't bother reading Google's Webmaster Guidelines and FAQ pages. They find it more fun to log on a forum and whine about things of which they know nothing. And many other people who do know Google's guidelines choose to ignore them because it is in their self-interest to promote search-engine chaos. Does that answer your question?
"Sort of. But isn't saying that a lot of people 'know nothing' about the subject an exaggeration?"
I'm not saying they don't know anything about anything, I'm just referring to what they know about how Google really works. They may know ten times what I know about successfully building and operating websites. All I'm doing with that statement is pointing out that nobody knows anything about what Google does and how and why it does it except Google.
If you are reading a forum post and the author says "Google will delete you from the index for this and sandbox you for that" without citing chapter and verse from an official Google document or a statement by a Google executive, you should really take that posting with the proverbial grain of salt.
For example, I said earlier that for Google, linking is a vital and necessary component of a successful website. Since I don't know anything about how Google the company and Google the search-engine ranking program arrive at their decisions, how dare I make such a statement?
I make it based on incontrovertible evidence. Here are two pieces of that evidence. I could cite more, but our classroom time is limited.
1. Go to this Google page and read "How do I add my site to Google's search results?"
Google answers by saying "Although Google crawls billions of pages, it's inevitable that some sites will be missed. When our spiders miss a site, it's frequently for one of the following reasons ..."
Google goes on to list four specific reasons why a site may not have been indexed. The first of these reasons, the VERY first is "the site isn't well connected through multiple links to other sites on the web."
That's Google talking, not me, not any self-proclaimed SEO guru. Those are Google's own words: The site isn't well connected through multiple links to other sites on the web.
Note also that Google specifically says "connected through multiple links TO other sites." The word "to" means out-going, forward ... you are linking to someone, as opposed to receiving a link from someone.
How many forum posts have you read that claim forward links are bad, that only one-way incoming links are good? Google doesn't seem to agree. They seem to think -- they outright say -- that to be "well connected" you need links "TO other sites."
2. The question this time is "My site's no longer included in the search results. What happened?"
After explaining how sites can sometimes be dropped because of "fluctuations" in data-center processing, Google says this: If your site is well-linked from others on the web, it's likely that we'll add it again during our next crawl.
There's that "well" word again ... "well linked ... well connected." In response to this question, Google is saying your site should be "WELL-linked FROM others." In the answer to the first question they said your site should be "WELL-connected through multiple links TO other sites ..."
So, what have we learned in Linking School today?
We have learned that in Google's view, in Google's own words, webmasters should use both forward and backward links to ensure getting their sites listed - and keeping them listed - in the Google index.
Add that knowledge to something you already know, the fact that getting quality one-way links for the vast majority of commercial websites is virtually impossible, and you come up with one answer: Reciprocal Linking.
Just a minute, though, the school bell hasn't rung quite yet.
That answer, Reciprocal Linking, is incomplete. It should be Relevant, Ethical, Non-Automated Reciprocal Linking.
Because, while Google (and your customers) want you to have links, they are very particular about the nature of those links, how you obtain them and the rate at which you add them.
Here is how Google Software Engineer Matt Cutts defined the link-related reasons a site could fail to meet Google's "Bigdaddy" inclusion criteria:
The sites that fit "no pages in Bigdaddy" criteria were sites where our algorithms had very low trust in the inlinks or the outlinks of that site. Examples that might cause that include excessive reciprocal links, linking to spammy neighborhoods on the web, or link buying/selling.
Here's the bonus lesson for today. There are tons of reciprocal linking programs out there. Some offer to link your site to thousands of other sites automatically the minute your check clears. Others promise other equally dubious hands-off ways of bulking up your link count.
Only LinksManager is designed, tested, and constantly tweaked to ensure it remains consistent with Internet best-linking practices and search-engine guidelines.
Only LinksManager has a published standard of ethics and routinely "fires" users who violate it.
The truth is that the incredible things you can do with LinksManager, things like LinkBlogs and Linklets are not as important in regard to search engines as the things you can't do. You cannot harvest links through LinksManager, you cannot send spam through LinksManager, you cannot create doorway pages with LinksManager, you cannot add unapproved links to anyone else's site with LinksManager.
And because neither you nor anybody else can use LinksManager to engage in these questionable practices, it's easy to solicit and implement the kind of high-quality relevant links that search engines - and your customers - demand.
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