Google now discounts all reciprocal links

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Google now discounts all reciprocal links
Google now discounts all reciprocal links

Search engine giant Google has updated its search algorithm over time, which has sent shockwaves through the SEO community. Effective immediately, Google has instituted a new policy to discount all reciprocal links when evaluating websites for search rankings. This means that the exchange of links by two parties for the purpose of increasing their number of inbound links will no longer boost their SEO performance. Google’s new policy aims to uphold the original intention of the algorithm, which is to reward quality content that attracts natural links.

Reciprocal links refer to the practice of two websites linking to each other to try and artificially inflate search rankings. For many years these types of links were a relatively common tactic amongst webmasters and SEO professionals to gain an edge in getting webpages ranked higher in Google.

Up until now, Google would still assign some value and ranking power to these reciprocal links when crawling pages. However, that will no longer be the case with Google now completely discounting any value of a reciprocal link.

Google’s Reasoning for the Change

In a statement released on the company blog this morning, Google outlined several reasons for making this change:

  • Reciprocal links go against the ethos of how the web is supposed to work – with websites linking to others when they find their content truly useful, not because they expect something in return.
  • The buying and selling of reciprocal link packages had become an industry unto itself. Google feels most reciprocal links exist solely for manipulating search rankings rather than helping users.
  • By eliminating any SEO value and visibility benefit to reciprocal links, Google hopes to clean up shady practices and improve search quality.
  • Google’s machine learning algorithms have improved significantly, making it easier for them to detect which links on the web are truly organic vs reciprocal.

The Change is Effective Immediately

Unlike some previous algorithm updates which were rolled out gradually, Google was very clear that this new policy towards discounting reciprocal links is effective immediately.

So any reciprocal links that previously may have helped a website rank better will no longer have any positive effect as of today.

The Impact on Webmasters and SEO Pros

This change figures to have wide-ranging impacts on the SEO industry. Many websites likely have at least some reciprocal links built up over time, whether they were aware of it or not. Now all of that previous reciprocal link-building efforts will be wiped out in Google’s eyes.

For webmasters and SEO professionals who actively participated in reciprocal link building, this development will force them to rethink their linking strategies. Going forward, the focus will need to be on cultivating more organic, editorially-given links from quality websites rather than just exchanging links for the sake of rankings.

There’s no doubt frustration levels will be high for anyone who spent significant time, effort, and money acquiring reciprocal link packages to boost their site’s performance in Google. All of that work has effectively been invalidated now.

Confusion Around Exact Reciprocal Identification

While Google was very direct about their intentions to ignore reciprocal links moving forward, they were less clear about precisely how they determine which links are reciprocal.

Some webmasters and SEOs with whom we spoke expressed confusion about exactly what criteria Google will use to define reciprocal links. There is concern legitimate links could be incorrectly flagged as reciprocal when they are not part of any intentional link exchange program.

For now, website owners will likely adopt a “wait and see” approach to find out if or when previously beneficial links from partner websites get discounted in the rankings.

Now that reciprocal linking has essentially been made obsolete as an SEO tactic, the focus shifts to other ways in which websites can earn links and recognition to boost rankings. Some alternatives may include:

  • Creating highly shareable content that other websites naturally want to reference with links
  • Pitching original data studies and exclusives to reporters/journalists in your industry
  • Sponsoring or contributing expert commentary to niche industry publications
  • Promoting brand mentions on relevant podcasts, YouTube shows, etc
  • Connecting with influencers, brand advocates, and loyal community members who will evangelize your content

Hello! I’m Manikant Shaw, a digital marketing consultant and social media strategist based in Kolkata, India. My expertise lies in providing top-notch SEO services, crafting effective social media marketing campaigns, and optimizing Google Ads for businesses.

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