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Moving Away from Reciprocal Linking
In times past, you could rank well for most keywords if you traded links
with a lot of other web sites. Traded links, or reciprocal links, are no
longer as effective as they once were (though some advocates still say
you should do it as long as the links traded are in the same theme).
Google now appears to be favoring "one-way" links more. However, one-way
links are a lot harder to get. If you work hard to provide great content
and benefits to your visitors, you will, in time, get a lot of one-way
links. It's time consuming, but worth it.
However, most sites that are ranking well in competitive areas actively
seek out links. In order to make links look like one-way links, and
thereby please Google, many sites are using three-way links now.
A three-way link is where Site A links to Site B, and Site B links to
Site C, and Site C links to Site A, like so:
A -> B -> C -> A
In Google's eyes, this is seen as three one-way links rather than three
reciprocal links. So if you're having trouble ranking your site
using reciprocal links, and you're having a hard time finding one-way
links, you might try the three-way approach.
Be careful, though, that the three-way link is coming from a quality site
that is not banned or penalized by Google. Some shifty webmasters who
are trying to inflate their rankings will have you link to their high
quality site, but in turn give you a link from a low quality site instead.
Sure, it's a three-way link, but how will Google see that link?
Also, be aware that some people view 3-way linking as a "gray hat" tactic
(as opposed to "white hat"), since it is trying to "fool" Google into
believing that your links are all one-way when really they are not.
Of course, you have to make your own decision about what is and is not a
good method of search engine optimization, and you need to be prepared to
accept the consequences. If Google decides to turn on sites that use
three-way links at some future time (right now 3-way links sites are
ranking very well), then you'll need to be prepared to accept that.
So you'll need to weigh the risk/reward factor to decide whether or not
you feel it is warranted. However, keep in mind that sites have been
using three-way links for many years with success.