I found a question and answer dialog between an SEO and John Mueller of Google on last Friday’s hangout interesting. The answer to the question for most of you is obvious, exchanging a link for a link is against Google’s guidelines but it seems some may think it is not if they are topically relevant.
The question was asked at the 9:28 mark into the video and it goes back and forth for almost three minutes. Here, watch it, the play button should jump you right to where the question starts:
Here is the transcription if you do not want to watch it:
SEO Asks: Actually my question is related to link exchange. Up to what extent is it permissible to exchange the links or not considered as spam. Let’s say I have been outreaching to their websites from my competitors, have taken the website links. So basically as a human tendency we want something in consideration. So whenever I outreach them so they also ask link in exchange. So what’s the best practices when it comes to backlinks, exchanging the backlinks.
John Mueller answers: So a link exchange where where both sides are kind of like, you link to me and therefore I will link back to you, kind of thing, that is essentially against our webmaster guidelines. So that’s something where our algorithms would look at that and try to understand what is happening here and try to ignore those links. And if the web spam team were to look at it they would also say well this is not okay. And if this is the majority of the links to to your website like this then they might apply manual action. So that’s something I would avoid.
SEO Asks: Even it is topically relevant though?
John Mueller Answers: It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if it’s like topically relevant or if it’s kind of like a a useful link. If you’re doing this systematically then we think that’s a bad idea because from from our point of view those are not natural links to your website they’re only there because like you’re doing this deal with the other side.
SEO Asks: What this comes under natural natural backlinks like, we have to create the quality content naturally people will give us link that’s only natural or something because.
John Mueller Answers: That’s essentially the idea behind kind of natural linking. From our point of view it’s fine to contact people and tell them it’s like by the way i have this great content and maybe it’s something that you would appreciate for your website as well that’s that’s generally fine. But anything beyond that where you’re saying like well you must link to me like this or you must pay me money or I will pay you money for this link or I will exchange something for this link. That’s all something that from from our point of view would make this an unnatural link. So providing it to people and then and promoting it and saying like here’s great content and they link to you that’s perfectly fine. Providing it and saying like I will do an exchange if you give me a link that’s something that we would consider unnatural.
I mean, if you look the Google guidelines it says “excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking” is against the guidelines – it spells it out.
I reminds me of whenever I see an SEO fight about a guideline that may be in use by that SEO, they look for ways to say that the way they do it is okay because of this or that. But the truth is, they are likely wrong. SEOs are humans and humans sometimes make up theories that fit their agendas. Does it work for ranking purposes? Well, that is a different question. But is it against Google’s guidelines, that is not something people can question here.
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