laptop-chainMany site owners barely understand the basic pathology of links, let alone advanced Dofollow, Nofollow, Pagerank flow-sculpting, and the inherent dangers of link farming. As search marketers, it is incumbent upon us to capitalize on the market’s naivety on behalf of our clients. That’s why they hire us.

The “Fool’s Gold Link Exchange” play is a perfectly ethical tactic we employ surrounding client link-trading activities which results in holistic reciprocal promotion & traffic, happy trading partners, and massive one-way link juice building…for our clients.

When is a link a Link?

Bloggers and savvy marketing types understand that links have value on 2 important levels. Laypeople think of links solely as referral mechanisms to drive branding and traffic. SEOs are also after the “signal” each link sends to search engines regarding the value of the site we’re marketing.

The uninformed do not have this multi-layered level of awareness about links, even in light of highly visible SEM industry dialog-of-the-day regarding Google’s algorithm, which depends on evaluating linking patterns to determine the “value” of any site. (For those uninitiated, quality and quantity of inbound links to your site are crucial factors in Google’s ranking criteria.)

We find that local business link trading partners, when asked “why” they want reciprocal links, respond regarding their desire for increased site visitors, awareness, branding, etc…We’re happy to oblige and take the algorithmic equity for our client.

The Spoils go to the Informed
Though the general level of understanding is rising, nearly all local site owners we encounter think of links only as traffic building and referral devices. Link exchanges for these purposes make them happy as clams. We say GREAT. Unless website marketing amateurs study or hire an experienced search agency, they simply don’t know enough to negotiate all aspects of link exchanges. Too bad for them.

It’s sure not our job to teach the world, rather to take good care of our clients while facilitating reciprocal link local networking on our terms. We encourage our clients not to give swapped Dofollow links unless the exchange partner specifically requests it. That’s the essence of the tactic. It is highly effective and the links are often of very good quality. We see the results in organic SERPs.

Why Local Search?
First, naivety and unqualified negotiators are more pervasive phenomenas in local search. Therefore it’s much easier to find link-exchange partners who don’t understand Do/Nofollow theory. Second, local search is all about getting indexed for products and services in your specific geographic area. Local sites you exchange links with are likely to be considered relevant to your area by search engines. This tactic can help your client dominate mid-tail keyword local SERPs.

The Ethics
First, we place our DoFollow/NoFollow disclosure in the reciprocal links page privacy statement and encourage our clients’ trading partners to read it before the exchange. The language is plain as day for anyone who knows what they’re doing (and actually reads the policy) to see.

“Outbound links are for branding, traffic, site referral purposes. We are happy to share approved links and hope each link brings our exchange partners traffic. At our sole discretion links may be NoFollow, for algorithmic purposes, unless otherwise negotiated.”

When exchanging links, our client’s partners haven’t nary a clue as to the negotiable SEO currency on the table. If a trading partner knows enough to ask for link juice as part of the trade, we freely give it, drop the link, or renegotiate. If they don’t ask…tough, they should hire qualified help. It’s not like they’re assuming they’ll get the juice. They have no idea it even exists. We’ve helped clients build thousands of terrific local links by this method and never received a single complaint.

Get Links or Perish
With Universal Search pushing local listings further down vanishing organic SERPS, dancing the link building hootenanny is now more critical than ever. Our clients pay real cash for the edge our expertise brings to the table. We never assume that an inbound link procured will bring Dofollow benefits. That’s because we’re qualified to negotiate on our client’s behalf and take the time to read and understand the small print. It’s not our job to teach those we negotiate with the various value-levels of traded links.

As search marketers, it is incumbent upon us to capitalize on the market’s confusion on behalf of our clients. After all, that’s why they hire us. Maybe there is something in Google’s algorithm (or will be) to detect such patterns, but we have not seen it. In most reciprocal link deployments we dynamically rotate the Nofollow links within text throughout the site (never more than 5 at a time site-wide) so there is no overall reciprocal pattern and honestly natural. We would never advise clients to do anything which violates Google’s TOS.

  • Dave

    Spot On – There is no reason to pass on the seo perks of link trades. Found you from the SEL email – speaking of links, the link from the email to your site was not live! Arggg!

    Regards, Dave

  • spostareduro

    Thanks Marty. I got a lot out of this. I usually stay away from link building on my blog cause I have been at a loss. But, it’s something I need a clearer understanding of. So, I better start brushing up.

  • MikeMarshall

    Hi Marty,

    I have a question regarding this. Let’s say that a client of ours wants us to put a link to them on our site. From what you are saying, there should be no more than 5 links and they need to be nofollow in order to not invoke the wrath of Google? Is that correct?


  • Marty Weintraub

    @Mike: You don’t ned to limit the links to that great an extent. That said, many SEOs are going to lengths to make sure outbound links look “natural” and “unpaid,” whatever that means. If your links are Nofollow there is less to worry about.

  • MikeMarshall

    Thanks Marty. Much like Rose at PPCThink, your SEO/SEM lessons are so digestible!

  • ryanol

    Get it while the gettins good!

    Soon the market and knowledge associated will mature and naive exchangers will be hard to come by.

    Just look at what ebay has done to pawn shops, garage sales & discount retailers….they are all full of crap. It all goes on ebay first then the crap that floats ends is whats left.

    When markets mature the cost of information goes down ala: sphinn, seobook, seojournal, seomoz etc.

    Soon even Joe Blo Shoe Shiner will be looking for a review on yelp instead of a tip…

    SEO is far from mature but its well on its way.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @ryanol: What do you mean?

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Design: Thank you for the comment. Some people think of links as traffic. Some think about link-energy. If you ask most local website owners why links are exchanged, they’ll say traffic and branding. It’s not our job to educate them. Traffic and link juice are two different things. We’re more than happy to discuss it if asked.

    You can be sure that’s the first question WE ask.

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