“Please take down my link.” I never thought I would live to see the day that I would get an email like this, but the latest Google update has caused some people to panic. This particular person thought that his site would be penalized if he had a link coming from a site in an unrelated field. Well, following the Jagger update how should we approach linking? Should we “nuke” our reciprocal links directories altogether? Or is there a sensible way to continue linking?
Google doesn’t explain the details of their updates and algorithm changes. It is widely thought they made moves to crack down on spamming and techniques designed to fool their indexing efforts. And possibly sites that added lots of irrelevant links in a short period were penalized. Google representatives have also stated publicly, in forums, that if you link to a “bad neighborhood” you could be penalized.
I can’t get inside the Google algorithm anymore than anyone else, but I strongly believe that linking should go on in a “natural” way, in a way that predates the linking craze which Google itself helped to create. Here are some elements of a natural linking strategy.
1. Link to the kinds of sites that will provide good resources for your web visitors.
This is actually the very idea behind Google’s system of Page Rank. Sites that are “cool”, that are informative and interesting will get “votes” or links from other sites on the basis of their value as a web resource. So, link to those sites that are worthy of being in your link directory.
2. Don’t link blindly just because someone is willing to give you a link in return.
Check out any site that is proposing a link exchange with you. Are they a possible spam site? A site that has no content and only ads, or a site in fields such as online gambling, pornography, or similar areas would be suspect. If the site has a page rank of 0 and also has none of its interior pages indexed by Google, then it may have been penalized. You can tell how many of its pages are indexed by making this search: site:www.suspectsite.com .
3. Link to those sites that cater to your target audience.
In the early days of the Internet, the main incentive to link was that it would provide you with some targeted traffic. This concept is still valid. If you have a site about yoga, then find sites whose visitors would likely be interested in yoga and propose a link exchange with them. You may or may not raise your page rank with this exchange, but you will get the kind of visitors that you are looking for.
4. Get One-Way Non Reciprocal Links
There are two primary ways to get these valuable one-way links. The first way is to make your site so informative, so useful, so authoritative, that people will mention it or list it without you having to do anything at all. This is of course not an easy task, but it should be a target. You should strive to be the best in your field and if you can approach this goal then you will be noticed and you will get links without even asking for them.
Another way to get one-way links is to write articles and get them published on other websites. You are probably an “expert” in the field covered by your website. Share your expertise with others in the form of 600-800 word articles. You can distribute your articles in the article distribution groups of Yahoo! Go to http://groups.yahoo.com and make a search for article publishing or free reprint articles and you will find a number of places where you can place your article. Remember to include a link back to your site in the resource box at the end of the article.
So, don’t press the panic button. Keep your link and resource directories but build them up in a way that adds value to your site and helps you to get an extra flow of targeted traffic. If you have the skill to get non-reciprocal links, then by all means get them.