Google now discounts all reciprocal links

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Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving and further refining the ranking formula, which in turn leads to changes in SEO principles used by businesses to achieve better ranking. In this case, inbound linking will be affected by the introduction of new rules designed by Google to prevent mutual exchange of inbound links between two sites from skewing the results. From now on, reciprocal links will carry zero weight in the page rank algorithm and won’t have any influence on the position the site is assigned.

As all experienced SEO professionals know, reciprocal links were a popular choice for link building purposes for a very long time. The arrangement between two parties to link to each other’s websites is relatively easy to forge, which made the tactic very useful during the early stages of website promotion when expensive or time-consuming SEO procedures are beyond reach. When taken to full extent, this method can result in a huge number of inbound links and a corresponding climb up the results page. Website owners can link to different pages and content pieces for their linking partner, motivated primarily by the desire to see their own pages promoted in this way and less with relevance of the linked content.

This principle runs contrary to Google’s long-standing objective to cut off any possibility of circumvention of its rules of engagement. In response to widespread practice of reciprocal link exchange, the search engine leader decided to remove the benefits that motivated websites to collaborate in this way, eliminating SEO value of such links. The practice is still not illegal and could make sense for websites that have genuine interest to support each other, but sizeable gains in the Google results list are not a part of the equitation anymore. Websites won’t be penalized for reciprocal links, but won’t be rewarded for them either.

More complex link building schemes could also come under fire, since Google is working to perfect the ability to recognize three-way link exchanges that have grown to be common in recent years. Once this technology is fully developed, standard practices of link building for SEO purposes will have to be thoroughly revised. While inbound links still have major impact on website’s position on Google searches, these links will be expected to come from independent sources that have no conflict of interest. From a practical perspective, accumulation of inbound links will probably go slower than before and websites will have to rely on organic growth.

Website owners should consult their SEO agencies to find alternative ways for increasing visibility and attracting traffic. Those who are able to adjust to the new ranking formula quickly might be able to gain an edge, so flexibility can be very valuable in this sense. Of course, new rules set by Google will likely have some immediate adverse effects on the process of acquiring of inbound links for smaller websites, but this can be offset by focusing on high-quality content distribution to foster spontaneous linking to the main site.

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