Understanding Reciprocal and Non-Reciprocal Links

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Non-Reciprocal links
Non-reciprocal links are one-way inbound links to your posts that originate from other sites, and they are considered as recommendations by other sites to their readers. These non-reciprocal links get highest values when they originate from the relevant and high-ranking web pages, and also if the anchor text within the link is one of the keywords of your web page that it links to. The non-reciprocal links are also given much importance in the search engine optimization methods and search engines value them very highly.

Reciprocal links
Simply stated reciprocal links are based on an agreement by two sites (two way) to link to each other. Reciprocal linking is often used by small  sites as a way to increase Web site traffic and link popularity.  However, if you plan to enter such arrangements then it’s important to understand the implications and the realities.

Here’s the back story. In order to boost their site’s rankings with the sheer number of inbound links many webmasters had agreed to reciprocal link exchanges.  However, because many of these links were not relevant (see: Understanding Backlinks), they were disregarded in the last Google update. That meant that although the irrelevant inbound link was ignored, the outbound link still got counted and this diluted the relevancy score of many sites. The result was that many sites dropped off the Google map during the last Google update.

Matt Cutts on Nofollow, Links-Per-Page and the Value of Directories
- Also note that there is a Google patent in the works that will deal with not only the popularity of the sites being linked to, but will also assess how trustworthy a site is that you link to from your own site.

Reciprocal Links from the seobook.com glossary

Blogging for money
If you are blogging for money then PR can be a major issue.  Once your site has a higher PR then higher paying writing opportunities become available to you. However, if your write for services like ReviewMe, Text Link Ads, Smorty, and PayPerPost then it’s important to understand that Google doesn’t like paid links, if you have them and if your site doesn’t indicate them with “nofollow” or, if you’re active on the Internet selling links on your site then your PR will suffer.

It’s Google’s search engine and they have every right to say that if you sell links, they might penalize you. Google is not telling site owners what to do with their sites. Google is telling site owners what to do if they are concerned about doing better in Google. If you don’t care about Google and page rank then get involved with services like ReviewMe, Text Link Ads, Smorty, and PayPerPost, and sell all the links you want. But if you don’t want to be harmed in Google PR updates then don’t sell links and don’t link to sites that do.

Linking Strategy
(1) Links add valuable content to your site and we know that search engines (as well as people) love great content. The best linking strategy is to get a lot of non-reciprocal links (or one-way links), which are also relevant links to your site from high ranking and popular sites. When your site receives a lot of quality non-reciprocal links, the search engines consider your websites and the web pages that receive these inbound quality links as containing highly valuable web content.

(2) If your web pages and the site get a lot of reciprocal (two-way links), especially if they are not related then the search engines will assume that these are solicited links, and search engines do not give much importance to such two-way or reciprocal links and may even penalize your site.

(3) Exchanging relevant, high-quality reciprocal links with other related sites is another method of driving targeted traffic to your site. Exercise caution when agreeing to reciprocal linking because in the last Google update, reciprocal links were one of the targets of the search engine’s latest filter. Before you consider reciprocal linking to sites, consider your reader’s perspective and whether the proposed links provide value to them. If the sites are related to your site, then it could make sense because the links are organic and useful, but reciprocal linking between dozens or hundreds of sites, however, is unlikely to provide reader value.

(4) Search engines like Google  use link popularity as a method of ranking your site in their results. The more related sites that link to your site (especially high traffic sites relevant to your field), the higher on the page your site will appear when someone searches on “your” keywords.

Related posts found in this blog:

How to Become a Better Blogger 3: Ethics and Links
Natural Linking Strategy for Bloggers
How backlinks will make Google your blog’s best friend
WordPress: How to maintain and track links

42 thoughts on “Understanding Reciprocal and Non-Reciprocal Links

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  4. good post and make me jealous if you is already knew about everything.

    i want learn about the SEO. i will bookmark your site. thank for your share.

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  6. Great Advice, my personal favourite is to check the competitions links through the search engines and research. Using the linkdomain: and site: operators, it’s time consuming but it’s interesting you can learn more around a topic and about your competition as you research. Great Article!

  7. You hit the nail right in the head with the fifth point in your short linking strategy – reciprocal links feel gray hated when you engage in backlinking partnerships with fishy websites.

    I don’t believe that Google has a problem with reciprocal links exchanged between theme related sites. Of course your rankings won’t benefit as much as from a handful of one way links, but reciprocation remains a useful practice for all white hat environment.

    Just considering the amount of traffic generated by a strong reciprocal link network is more than sufficient to stop saying no to reciprocation in off page optimization.

    [edited by timethief to remove link]
    See if it helps your off page campaigns!

    Great post, timethief
    Talk soon,

    • @magic162
      The answer I gave you on the wordpress.com technical support forum and in the email I sent in rely to yours is the same. I do not enter reciprocal link exchanges. If I did I would only link to blogs that have contents that are directly related to the content in my own blog.

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  9. Hiii Timethief,

    You answered my question about ads & than i checked the links given by you…..

    Really I’m quite Impressed about Your Blog…

    Very Informative & useful posts…

    I have bookmarked your site…

    If you have some time plz visit mine blog & Tell me the things where i should work on..

    Thnx a ton…


  10. Thanks, very useful info, it’s good to get some real detail rather than the usual vague suggestions from people.

  11. @recyclecindy
    I use commentluv on my personal development blog. I moderate all comments and check out the links before I approve comments. It’s true that using it will bring you opportunistic commenters, who simply want to leave footprints back to their sites, and that it does attract more spam comments, some of which are auto-generated, but over all I’m not concerned because I’m on top of these things. I do have a links page for that blog and on it you will find that I have posted only links to related blogs. I’m not into link exchanges. I check every link using the badneighborhood link checker http://www.bad-neighborhood.com/text-link-tool.htm

  12. If a blogger links to your blog in his blogroll and you do not link back to him in yours that’s an example of a one way non-reciprocal link. If you link to another blogger’s post in a post of your own then that’s a second example of a one way non reciprocal link.

  13. Timethief,
    I have a question about rec. links. If a blogger puts you in his blogroll, is that an example of a reciprocal (if you do the same)/non-reciprocal (if you don’t do the same for him) link, or must the link be in an actual post of his that links to a specific post of yours?

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  16. dang, I don’t get all this linking techinical stuff~ I just post and type away,what I like,and don’t-heh
    I feel like Curly from the 3 stoodges- the way he slaps his face in frustration~lol

    good post tho for you’s in the know~

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  18. Thanks for the tip on pay per post. I have it on my site. will take it off right away. I do care of page rank because my articles are NOT the sort to be thrown away in the trash.

  19. @GCorey
    It’s great to hear that you will recommend my site to other beginner bloggers. We all have to start somewhere and my blog is set up to help beginner bloggers get underway, as well as, to help those who want to build a better blog and become a better blogger.
    Happy blogging

  20. @Albang
    I’m so glad that this is just what you needed to know. Don’t forget to click back to the Understanding Backlinks article because there are links there for tools like the Backlink Builder one that can help you locate related sites.

  21. @Alex
    Thanks very much for the compliment. I’d be interested to hear more about strategies for one way backlinking. Best wishes for happy blogging.

  22. @Gary
    You’ve got it for sure. Without good quality, non-reciprocal back links a site won’t make it very far and the hard part is getting those links. Don’t forget to use the tools like the Backlink Builder one that I provided links to in Understanding Backlinks as they will be helpful for finding related sites.
    Best wishes

  23. Another Great Article! Seems like a catch 22, you want to get other’s to link to you, but you don’t want to link back. It feels lopsided.

    It also seems that if you have a blog that doesn’t fall into the popular niches, you’re ahead of the game due to lower competition, but behind the game due to less linking options.

    Great Reads.. Thanks again for sharing the knowledge

  24. This is a very detail and useful post!

    It is true that reciprocal link no longer work well. I used to have a blog that I installed a script to exchange links with over thousands of websites. Well, that works well last time and get me up to PR3 very soon. The PR of that blog is no longer that high anymore.

    One-way links are much more important nowadays and more one-way link building resources are in the market than ever!

  25. Thanks for the info! I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on raising page rank and now I see that without good quality, non-reciprocal back links a site won’t make it very far. Of course, now the question is how to find these sites and get them to notice and link to you….

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