The Search Light Newsletter
The Search Light Newsletter
  Guiding your site to the top of the search engines... | 30 Sep 2006 - Vol 6 Issue #9  

In this issue...

Feature Article:

Reciprocal Linking vs. Mutual Linking: What's in it for the Visitor?

FAQ1: Should I set up a forum on my site for SEO purposes?

FAQ2: Why isn't Google displaying our product page for related searches?

FAQ3: Why does our site show different Google ranks in different locations?

FAQ4: Where can I find free article distribution lists?

FAQ5: What is the best way to promote a new SEO product?

Feature Article:

Reciprocal Linking vs. Mutual Linking: What's in it for the Visitor?

By Scottie Claiborne
Some of the advice floating around regarding linking for your site can be pretty confusing, especially when it comes to reciprocal linking. Is it something you have to do? Can your site succeed without reciprocal links? Will you be penalized for reciprocal linking? There are so many conflicting theories... let's try to clear the subject up a little.
Link Popularity
The founders of Google worked off a premise that has been active in academic papers for years: citation authority. They found that the more academic papers cited another's work, the more likely that cited work was to be an authority on the subject. Similarly, when a lot of sites link to one site, it's likely that site is an authority for the topic. The "topic" is whatever those links say it is...if 25 sites link to another site with the term "oak shelving," it's likely that page is an important page for oak shelving.
Manipulation of Links
It didn't take long for people who wanted to rank well for certain terms to figure out that they needed a lot of links with their chosen keyword phrases to improve their rankings in the search engines. Many schemes were born, including mini-sites, site networks, link farms and reciprocal linking.

Reciprocal Linking
At the most basic level, reciprocal links are links you trade with other sites (you add their link, they add yours) in order to build link popularity. There are online services, group exchanges and software available to help you link up with more like-minded webmasters, fast. As a result, many sites have grown sizeable directories on topics that have nothing to do with their area of expertise, simply because those other sites were willing to trade links with them.
Does this work? At the moment, it does seem to work. The engines (except for Teoma, which analyzes link communities) tend to count a link as a link, regardless of the subject matter of the originating site.
Will it continue to work? Who knows? As the engines look for more ways to determine which sites are truly expert and which ones are simply manipulating their way to the top, link relevance is sure to come into play. Some say it's already starting to affect rankings.
Mutual Linking
I like to separate mutual linking from reciprocal linking. Mutual linking is where the content of each site actually benefits each other's sites. If you sell shoes, you may want to recommend other sites for replacement shoelaces and still other sites for shoe cleaning supplies. You may even maintain a directory of regional shoe repair service shops. This is useful information for your visitors, who are likely to need these services as well. It makes sense for these sites to also recommend your shoes and link to your site. While it's technically still a reciprocal link, it has a mutual benefit for both sites.
While you can make a case that visitors to your shoe site might actually need weight loss formulas, like to gamble, or are concerned about the size of certain body parts, it really isn't likely that links to these sites will be clicked and followed by your visitors... they only make your site look unprofessional.
The links you trade with these sites may or may not actually be helping you in the engines, but they're definitely not helping you to make more sales.
Will I Be Penalized for Reciprocal Linking?
You might. I don't say that to send you into a panic, but the truth is if you link to a site that is considered a "bad neighborhood" by the engines, it could negatively affect your site. That innocent-looking pet accessories site may be cloaking, hiding links or text, or participating in other linking schemes and just hasn't been caught yet. Why risk it for a link that probably won't even bring you traffic? Sure, people who wear shoes often have dogs, but if you're just linking to them for the link, it's probably not a good idea.
Be very aware of whom you link to. You control where your site links to and that could come back to haunt you. Link only to the sites that will help improve your credibility and your sales!
Should I Hide All My Outgoing Links?
Absolutely not. There have been many people who feel that since Google's Florida update (in Nov. 2003), adding relevant outgoing links seems to have a positive effect on rankings. Besides, if you hide or block their links, and they hide or block yours, what's the point of participating in a reciprocal linking program at all?
So What Will Happen if I Do Reciprocal Linking?
While no one knows for sure what the future of link relationships will be with each search engine, I tend to think that as soon as they can figure out how to do it most effectively, off-topic links simply won't count anymore.
If you pin ALL your link popularity on trading links with whoever will trade with you, you could find yourself starting over from scratch at some point. If you are looking to build long-term rankings (and real business links that can attract customers), it takes more work and creativity than just sending out automated emails or joining a linking program.
Give your site an advantage by giving people a reason to link to it -- a helpful tool, a guide, an industry specific directory, or some other useful content that people will feel good about recommending on their site. If your site is worth linking to, you won't have to rely as much on swapping links as a promotion strategy.

About the Author
Scottie Claiborne, owner of Right Click Web Consulting is a web specialist involved with helping web sites to succeed through fine-tuning the site goals, the audience, and the marketing message as well as gaining traffic through search engine optimization. Scottie received her Master's Degree in Information Technology Management from Mercer University in Atlanta, Ga. She specializes in usability, marketing, and SEO and offers training workshops as well as individual consultation. Her articles appear in newletters such as the High Rankings Newsletter as well as Search Engine Guide and others.

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   Hello Readers!

I don't know about you, but pay per click campaigns have dominated my time this month. In a single day, Google made 4 unique (large!) debits to the credit card associated with our AdWords account, practically draining our entire business credit flow for September.
Turns out that due to an internal technical error with Google's billing system, our AdWords campaign had not been auto-charged for 3 full months, meaning we were racking up huge amounts of click-debt, which they attempted to clear in a single hour via multiple debits. They would've charged even more on our card, but it was eventually tapped of funds and declined. THEN, Google had the hide to switch off all our ads and send me an email telling me that our credit card had been declined and we should arrange payment via alternative methods.
As you can imagine, I was confused and pissed off. I sent a long, detailed complaint to Google and first I received a standard reply defending their decision to switch off our ads. I replied that my complaint had nothing to do with our ads being switched off, but their inadequate billing cycle and their failure to follow their own billing protocols and that perhaps they should re-read my complaint. That seemed to do the trick. Next thing I knew, my complaint was escalated and I had received an apology and an offer of $500 in credit to be applied to my account immediately.
It just goes to show that Google can get it wrong. If you run pay per click campaigns, don't trust the search engines to always have your best interests at heart. Mistakes can be made and click fraud is apparently rampant. Keep a close eye on your campaigns for errors and don't be afraid to complain if you notice something suspicious!
As for this month's feature article, Scottie Claiborne (Super Mom, IT entrepreneur and my long-time forum buddy) shares with us the difference between reciprocal linking and mutual linking.

Enjoy this issue and remember to visit the daily Search Engine Advice Column to check out my answers to frequently asked search engine questions or submit one of your own.
Till next time - wishing you clicks and conversions...

  • FAQ1: Should I set up a forum on my site for SEO purposes?
  •    Dear Kalena...
    Great blog! I wish mine was so successful. Anyway, the question I'd like to ask you is about forums. I'm setting us a new web site where I'd like to include a forum.
    Having little experience in the broad SEO field, I cannot justify if setting up a forum for my web site would be beneficial in terms of search engine optimisation. Does Google & others love forums? Any suggestion from you would be most appreciated.

    Dear Danka
    Thanks for the blog feedback, I appreciate it.
    Regarding setting up a forum, you've got your priorities all wrong. When making changes to your site, you can't let search engines rule your decisions! You should always grow your site development strategy based on the needs of your site visitors, NOT because of some supposed search engine advantage.
    Forums can be a good way to add fresh content and new pages (threads) to your site on a regular basis, but as far as any search engine benefits go, it's the same as everything else. It's the quality of the content you add and it's popularity with your site visitors that will benefit you, not the fact it is a forum.
    Do you have time to run and monitor a forum on a regular basis? Can you locate, implement and update reliable forum software? Do you have the traffic that is required to keep a forum active and interesting? Will a forum *really* add value to your site from a visitor perspective? These are the questions that should rule your decision.

  • FAQ2: Why isn't Google displaying our product page for related searches?
  •   Dear Kalena...
    A client of mine has a site with many different pistol holsters. He was ranked with a certain holster (galco holster), and when you click the site, it takes us to the home page and not the sub page where that particular brand is at. Is this normal? I would give you the link but he is buried deep in Google, page 41 or so, but shouldn't it bring up that subpage or are they only posting the main page?
    I have always thought the subpage would be categorized as per the keywords on that page.
    Let me know if I am dumb or if they changed it or if it is just a freak of nature :)

    Dear Chris
    Google displays whatever page/s on a site it believes is the most relevant match for the search query. Although it sounds logical that a page dedicated to a particular product or brand should be automatically displayed by Google for related searches, it doesn't always work this way.
    This is because Google uses a complex algorithm made up of over 100 factors to determine which page is the most relevant match. Important factors include the density on a page for the search query in question, the number of links pointing to that page with anchor text containing the search query and the reputation of those linking sites. My guess is that your client's home page probably mentions "Galco holster" and has less text on it than the page dedicated to "Galco holsters" so the density would seem higher, plus the home page would have more incoming links from trusted sites than the sub-page does.
    You can learn more about how Google collects and ranks pages in this article by Matt Cutts.

  • FAQ3: Why does our site show different Google ranks in different locations?
  •    Dear Kalena...
    My tech cannot explain and I thought you may. When searching specific terms on my computer at work, we come up like on the 4th or 5th page. When I do the exact same search at home, same terms and same settings, we come up on the first or second page. Why is that?

    Dear David
    You don't say how far geographically your home is from your office, but it sounds like your different IP locations are triggering searches on two different Google data-centers. Google shows slightly different results, depending on the IP address of the searcher and the data-center the query is sent to.
    It's not uncommon for the same search to trigger different results for searchers in different locations, particularly if they are undergoing a major data-center shuffle (historically known as the Google Dance).

  • FAQ4: Where can I find free article distribution lists?
  •    Dear Kalena...
    I just read your article titled How to Profit From Your Free Reprint Articles. My question to you is this: You spoke of free distribution lists for articles; can you point me to one or more of those services?
    Thank you,

    Hi Gavin
    Sure, try these free article distribution lists.

  • FAQ5: What is the best way to promote a new SEO product?
  •    Dear Kalena...
    We have created an amazing SEO toolkit. What do you think is the best way to promote it? Channels?

    Hi Mike
    Using AdWords to promote your new product is a good start, especially if you opt-in to the Google Content Network so your ads are shown on search-related sites via AdSense. You should also consider advertising via Yahoo! Search Marketing to reach a larger chunk of the search market, including MSN searchers.
    Here are some other excellent ways to jumpstart buzz about your product:
    - Create a professional press release and circulate it via distribution channels such as PR Web.
    - Send the press release to key bloggers in the SEO industry and ask them to blog it.
    - Send the press release to editors or widely-read SEO newsletters, ezines and publications.
    - Send a free evaluation copy of your product to journalists in the search industry and/or influential names in the industry and ask them to review it. If they like it, they will most likely blog and/or write about it.
    - Start an affiliate program for your product and begin recruiting affiliates and sub-affiliates.
    - Write an article/review about the product yourself and syndicate it via search-related article announcement groups such as those described here and in our articles about article marketing.
    Best of luck!

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