Social Link Exchange Is Not Penalized By Google

This post is about Link Building, Other Search Engines

Since Google added link exchange to banned practices in its Guidelines for Webmasters, bloggers have developed a fear of adding people to their blogroll in return of the same favour. Now, while Google clearly discourages Link Exchange as a link building practice, it’s made clear that online relationships are encouraged and rewarded on the notorious search engine.

Social Link exchange will NOT result in penalization if it’s genuine – done out of honest motivations like a friendship or a business relationship, not for the mere PageRank juice and hits.

I asked Google to explain their decision further on 2009, and even though their response was rather vague, but I felt it as positive. Look at how the Guidelines put it too:

Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)

The verdict is that Link Exchange as a link building practice *alone* gets penalized, especially when it’s “excessive”, whilst social relationships built through blog commenting, guest posting and (yes!) blogroll link exchange are not, since they are not spammy in nature (aka, link schemes). Social relationships are never “excessive”: they are only fair.

If you seek link building when adding a friend to your blogroll, don’t worry: that’s fine, as long as a real relationship takes place between the two parties. It’s not rare to find blogs that link to each other on their blogrolls BUT they never comment on each other’s posts, they are not connected to each other on social networks, they never mention each other in their blog posts. Google is not dumb: this kind of link exchange is clearly done to affect PageRank, not to build relationships.

Link building should always be genuine, encouraged with honest discussion, friendship, appreciation and by keeping your blog readers in mind in everything you do and write. Blogroll links may help that, but only marginally: remember that your Blogroll is a place for your family members and your buddies, not your SEO techniques.

To avoid any troubles, I suggest applying XFN microformats to your links. For instance, if you’re linking to a friend on your Blogroll, add a rel=friend to the link: it will tell both people and search engines that the site you’re linking to is your friend’s. Of course, don’t stop to this small practice: link back to your friend sometimes in your posts, mentioning something you did together.

One last tip: when you tell people on your site that you’re willing to reciprocate their links, make it a rule that you need to build a relationship first. There will be no linking back and forth if they are not willing to communicate. Would you exchange cellphone numbers with someone who’s not a buddy? Think of that.

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Originally posted on: Written on June 24, 2011, Friday

Luana Spinetti is a marketing blogger and artist for hire based in Italy. She has been in business since 2009. When she's not busy writing or drawing for clients, you may find her reading a Sci-Fi book or scientific articles on robotics and Computer Science. Get in touch with Luana on Twitter (@LuanaSpinetti), Instagram (@luanaspinetti) or Goodreads.
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