The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

Links come in all different shapes and sizes. Some good, some bad, some are just there. In part 14 of this series we looked at the anatomy of a link, analyzing the different elements that make a link what it is. There are a lot of things to consider when looking at the value of the link, many of which lie in the the value of the page or website doing the liking. But here we'll look at a slightly different value of link, in how it's linked between the two sites.

There are three basic ways of linking between sites, One-way, reciprocal and multi-way. We'll take a look at these, their values and whether its a type of linking you should be engaged in.

Reciprocal Links

Reciprocal Links

A reciprocal link, in simplest terms, is a link from Site A to site B and a link back from Site B to Site A. Many have written reciprocal links off as being completely irrelevant but that's far too simplistic. There is nothing wrong with reciprocal links in an of themselves. Its all in the execution.

Low-Quality Reciprocal Links

Low Quality Reciprocal Links

The lowest quality reciprocal links are those found on pages specifically designed to house reciprocal links. What you get from these "resource" pages is a bunch of barely related links from Site A to one or more dozens of other websites. All of these build their own "resource" pages that do you the favor of linking back to you and one or more dozens of other sites.

These pages are usually easy to spot because they generally provide little value to the visitors of the site, other than for a good laugh. If you find yourself linking to a site that links back this way it would probably be of benefit to you to stop linking to them. The link pointed to you likely has no value, however by associating yourself with them (via your link) you can be sending the search engines a signal that you don't care much about the quality of sites you link out to.

High-Quality Reciprocal Links

High Quality Reciprocal Links

Despite the belief of some, there are reciprocal links that can pass a lot of value to you. Low-quality reciprocal links are there simply for the quid pro quo of the link. High quality reciprocal linking has nothing to do with doing someone a favor in order to get something in return. These are two links that are made independently of each other simply because you, and the "reciprocating" site find each other's content valuable.

It's entirely possible that one of the linking parties has no idea the other site is linking to them because each link was given entirely on the basis of the value of the content being linked to. It wasn't pre-arranged or purposeful in any way.

That doesn't mean you can't pre-arrange a reciprocal link and still make it valuable. You can, you just need to make sure it looks as natural and non-pre-arranged as possible. Linking and receiving a link in the midst of quality content in primary site pages can do the trick. Just be careful about how many of these reciprocal links show up at the same time.

Multi-Way Links

Multi-Way Links

This is where some of the link schemes get clever. Reciprocal links, we are told have no value so you have to have three or more site's linking together so there is no direct reciprocating link at all.

Three-way link schemes aren't all that difficult for search engines to sniff out so these multi-link programs have gotten more complex. The latest version is link wheels. This is where networks of sites link to a second level of sites which then link to you. You get dozens or hundreds of "one-way" links to your site through these link wheel networks.

Like most linking schemes these link wheels will probably have limited value over the short-term without any real long-term benefits.

One-Way Links

One-Way Links

On a pure value standpoint, one way links (sans any linking schemes) are the most valuable links you can get. This is, in most circumstances, a link to your site from someone that finds your content valuable, doesn't ask for a link back, you don't link back to them on your own.

If you have good content, this type of link isn't all that rare. The best link marketing is creating a valuable website that is informative, helpful and educational. Of course this isn't proactive marketing, which is why you see a lot of options to purchase one-way links.

Without a doubt, search engines frown on purchased links that are not clearly defined as such both visually and/or using the nofollow attribute. Purchase links at your own risk. If you are using a broker that claims to keep their purchased links hidden from the search engines, keep in mind that the search engines can easily spend money building sites and purchasing links from these same networks. The hidden network is no longer hidden from the search engines and they might not even be aware of it.

Not all purchases links have no value, but only so long as the link flies under the search engine radar. This can rarely be done by purchasing links from a broker, but can be done on a one-on-one situation.

Links are an important part of your optimization campaign, but not every link will provide you the same value. Aside from worrying about reciprocal links, link wheels or even purchasing one-way links, go outside of the box of "get me a link" and think about providing value to your visitors that is worth linking to. Once you have that, then consider ways to get the word of your content out to those that are most likely to link, become customers, and spread the word.

Missed a part of this series?
Part 1: Everything You Need To Know About SEO
Part 2: Everything You Need To Know About Title Tags
Part 3: Everything You Need To Know About Meta Description and Keyword Tags
Part 4: Everything You Need To Know About Heading Tags and Alt Attributes
Part 5: Everything You Need To Know About Domain Names
Part 6: Everything You Need To Know About Search Engine Friendly URLs & Broken Links
Part 7: Everything You Need To Know About Site Architecture and Internal Linking
Part 8: Everything You Need To Know About Keywords
Part 9: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Core Terms
Part 10: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Qualifiers
Part 11: Everything You Need To Know About SEO Copywriting
Part 12: Everything You Need To Know About Page Content
Part 13: Everything You Need To Know About Links
Part 14: Everything You Need To Know About Link Anatomy
Part 15: Everything You Need To Know About Linking

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


It might sound simplistic but I think the best way to encourage people to link to your website is to write quality content.

Yes, let's make our sites for our customers so our conversion rates are higher. Yes, let's make our sites terrific so people want to show link love to us. Yes, let's not try to fool the search engines.

Unfortunately, my main organic competitor has a basic site about our products and then tucked away on the site he has an obscene amount of content about unrelated things (we sell natural supplements, he has all sorts of articles about NASCAR, paintball, etc.). And in my (completely unbiased ;^) ) opinion, my site provides the customer with better information that is easier to access and with better specials. In other words, I have more content than him for what we are selling and think my content for what we have in common beats his, hands down.

Apart from the unrelated content, which makes his site massive, guess what is the one thing that seems to also set him apart and (therefore?) always places him before me in the searches? Backlinks. And they're not even good ones.

This series has been so helpful to me...I've been devouring the articles and making changes. I'm still a little confused as to how sheer numbers of links trump quality links in the Googleverse.

@Carolyn - Unfortunately the search engines still have trouble determining link quality. Until they can get that figured out link numbers will always outweigh link quality. The search engines get a lot of things right, but there are still some holes here.

Stoney, It's a comprehensive post covering the main points on linking. I've got an experience I want to share with you:

On a travel website, I wrote some great articles for which I had to read lots of books. This goes back to several years ago. It took the site several years before Wikipedia and BBC found out about some of those articles and linked to them. Of course, since they've found the articles and linked to them, the site has received the type of visitors it always wanted and the rankings it struggled for.

Here's the question for you: Imagine such a time consuming strategy is taken, but those authority sites don't fond you to link to you. Do you recommend a way to get them to find you to read the great content you've created?

@Rahman - great question. Basically you follow the food chain down. Find the resources the big sites routinely link to and comment on and try to get links from them. Go down as far as is needed until you start getting picked up and working your way to the big dogs.

I like the Links article, it makes sense and it rings TRUE.
I am building (very slowly) a quality educational site, my "links" page contains links useful to teachers and carers (parents), so Teaching Tips and Apraxia pages.
To build and get inbound links form related sites is hard, since the other quality sites are either sales competitors or sites who's owners think that their way is the way to go and they have all the answers.
Any ideas how to overcome this?
I do not mind linking to them, if they are good, as my links will prove.

I totoally agree that we should be selective about where our links are from and that higher quality and relevant sites are best. However. How, apart from comments on a blog, like this, or contributions to a forum, do you get many good quality links? Cleearly this will only ever be possible for a site with good quality content - you need to earn the quality ink - but hw do you encourage it?

Thanks Stoney. Great answer and smart strategy to let others know about where you are and what you do. it should eventually help them find out about me. I appreciate it.

I think it is important for links to always occur as naturally as possible. It is when you start to force the process too much that people tend to see problems spring up.

@Pete - It really comes down to community engagement.

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > SEO 101 - Part 15: Everything You Need to Know About Linking