Paid, Reciprocal or Free Links… What is Better?

By Catherine Potts | Feb 23, 2007
More Articles by Catherine


When you purchase a product, you might think “if I buy it, I own it… therefore I’ll get it what I pay for”. Not always. Paid linking, one would think, is something that is a guarantee of visibility. Well, Google disagrees to a point. They assess some paid links as lower quality and less natural (not all), therefore are downgraded in validity.

However, as shown Dave N’s findings Yahoo! is #1 on Google for ‘autos’. Dave N claims it’s because they bought that position. So how is it that larger companies can buy their position and smaller ones cannot without the fear of being adversely affected in the SERPs? Dave N says it’s in the money. Makes sense, but if they are accepting paid linking at all, doesn’t that go against some of their practices? They are the the top right now over MSN and Yahoo! so it goes without saying that we all have to try and figure out how to get to the top of the results on Google since it’s where the competition is.

Reciprocal linking: I link to you and you link to me. This increases both websites visibility if not just to help link the reader from one article to another, which is purely innocent. Apparently, Google isn’t onboard with reciprocal linking as much as they used to be and are trying to devalue the reciprocal linking schemes. So how do they know what is legit and what isn’t? A fine example is me linking the quote below to drive my point:

As Chriss Boggs states on Search Engine Watch :
“Google will likely respond that is that is the case, people should use the “no follow” attribute to ensure that the search engine doesn’t assume that the link was obtained for the purpose of trying to improve PageRank and potentially actual results pages rankings. This is however not a realistic expectation. SEO’s, as with any other industry, would probably prefer that any link may have the dual purpose of both helping with traffic as well as with rankings. Would Google be willing to give as much credence in their algorithm for on topic links that are attributed by “nofollow?” If not, then asking webmasters to employ them unilaterally is probably unfair.”

What Google’s policy reads (obtained from LED Digest):

“Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links … Keep in mind that our algorithms can distinguish natural links from unnatural links. Natural links to your site develop as part of the dynamic nature of the web when other sites find your content valuable and think it would be helpful for their visitors. Unnatural links to your site are placed there specifically to make your site look more popular to search engines.”

So how can we know for sure what is the better way to link? For right now, it looks like the free with no follow attribute links and if you’re going to use backlinks, make sure they are relevant. The best way to get your site the most natural visibility is keeping things clean and on the up and up. Joel Lesser of LED Digest advises that reciprocal linking shouldn’t be completely eliminated if its what benefits the end user and says that it’s a good thing that Google is working to figure out the good from the bad. In the meantime… we wait.

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