Are exchanged or reciprocal links okay with Google?
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John Mueller answers what to do when building links

John Mueller answers what to do when building links

Google’s John Mueller answered a question about link building practices in an Office Hours hangout. Mueller outlined Google’s passive and proactive actions against certain links and offered suggestions for a better way to acquire links.

Is it necessary to spend thousands of dollars on links?

The person who asked the question noticed that he saw many YouTube videos with link building and read case studies that showed that link building is necessary for the best placement.

The question asked:

“… The question is about the practice of link building. So we … approached many … companies … they say they will charge thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars to get the link … from the website or news sites and …

They also talk a lot … about … we should get a high authority … link and the like. “

Next, he explained how companies he approached showed him examples of sites that were ranked high because of their link building.

The person continued:

“… they also show that okay, look this is a place that ranks high on … Google and … they have taken our service and they have paid us.

So if you pay us, your site will also rank because we will place … your site’s backlink with the good article on the site … ”


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Are “such practices” necessary to be ranked in Google?

Next, he questioned the wisdom of spending money on what he perceived as low-quality link building, what he called “such practices,” suggesting manipulative practices.

He seemed uneasy that, according to the link building claims, Google’s search ranking rewards manipulative practices that cost thousands of dollars.

He continued the question:

“I do not think it is wise to put money into such practices or not. Like what is your opinion, like what are your final formulations?

And one more thing. … There are a lot of people on YouTube and they write a lot of blogs, like these are the best link building methods you do this … and you like it and they charge a lot of money but we don ‘t want to engage themselves in such things as that. ”

The person who asked the question ended by asking:

“We just want to know … what to do now?”


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Screenshot of John Mueller in the Office Hours Hangout

Google’s John Mueller paused to answer the question of what to do when building links

How Google handles manipulative link building

John Mueller explains how Google treats artificial links:

“What to do now …

I think this is a super complicated question because there is no answer for everyone.

So I think first of all, as you probably recognized, artificially creating links, dropping links on other sites, buying links, all of this is against the guidelines of webmasters.

And we take action on this algorithmically, we take action on it manually.

And the actions we take include degrading the site that buys links, degrading the site that sells links.

Sometimes we also take more subtle actions because we just ignore all these links. ”

Screenshot by John Mueller explaining how Google handles paid links

Google: Paid links have no effect

Google’s John Mueller says paid links have no effect:

“For example, if we recognize that a site regularly sells links, but they also have other things around it, then we often go in and say okay, we will ignore all the links on that site.

That basically means … many of these sites are things where people are still selling links because it’s like they can sell it and they’ll find a seller, so of course they will try to do that.

But these links have absolutely no effect.

So that seems like a big waste of time from my point of view. ”


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Mueller describes non-black hat links

Mueller concludes his answer by suggesting Google-friendly link building tactics.

His first suggestion is to classic create content and tell others about that approach. It’s an oldie, but a goodie, but it can work.

Mueller suggests building it and telling others about it:

That being said, I think there are ways you can approach the topic of links in a way that is less black hat where you buy links from other sites.

But where you actually kind of actively create content that you know will attract links and then go out and reach out to other sites and say hello, we have this interesting content, you will not look at it.

And … kind of encourages them to link to your site, but without this kind of exchange of value, exchange of money, all this.

And it’s something that some people are very experienced at doing, and they can really guide you to find the subject areas that are interesting to other people. ”


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It is difficult to create links to product pages

Creating content and telling others about it is not always an appropriate strategy for an e-commerce site. An e-commerce site offers products, not articles.

Attracting links to product pages is one of the hardest kinds of links to acquire because people generally do not feel excited about certain products, and when they do feel excited, the typical e-commerce store is a store with out of thousands selling the same product.

The problem with attracting links to product pages is that it is extremely difficult to make the case that one store out of thousands deserves a link more than the other stores that sell identical products.

The tactic of building content to help rank a product page rarely works because the links acquired to that content increase the content and not the products.

One can internally link from the content pages to the product pages and it can help.

But I have rarely seen that happen, even for content sites that went viral.


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There is simply no substitute for a direct link to a product page.

Here’s what John Mueller said about acquiring links:

“Where if you sell refrigerators, then a category page with refrigerators will obviously not be very interesting for other people.

But if you can create a study about refrigerators that is somehow fascinating to others, it’s something that’s a lot more interesting to people where they say, oh … here’s this really cool study about refrigerators.

Did you know that they were like that, or that they were invented like that or whatever.

It’s the kind of thing where you create something that other people find interesting that other people will link to.

From my point of view, it’s the kind of link building that I have less trouble with because you’re creating something that other people link to because of what you’ve created.

But it’s not that other people link to your content because you give them money to do so or because you kind of have those backdoor relationships to the other site.

So that’s the direction I would take there. ”


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Mueller warns against shortcuts to link building

Next Mueller turns away from offering constructive link building suggestions and returns to discouraging short-term solutions because they may get you banned. Do not go for short-term rewards at the expense of long-term success. That’s pretty much what he advised (you can watch the video below if you’re interested).

Links more important than popularity?

Some sites have built-in benefits that help them acquire links. For example, brand awareness can help create links because the brand is known and therefore able to build trust with a site that can link to it.

And this can skew Google’s search results to favor the site with the most links and not show the site that is most popular that a searcher is likely to see.

As an example, a wildly popular store I do not name cannot rank for their key phrases as they pay PPC to be displayed for these search terms.


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This company, which I would call Site A, has a popularity that is largely driven by social media, word of mouth and not search. They are an example of a really popular company in their niche.

Two keyword phrases that the popular store should be ranked by, but do not contain the usual top marks one might expect. One is the very competitive two-word phrase and the other is the more descriptive three-word phrase.

The results of the search engines (SERPs) for the two keyword phrases have a search result in fourth place, which is a regional brick and mortar (place B) with shops in a handful of rural areas.

Place A is the very popular store and Place B is the regional store.

Google Trends showing search popularity in two online stores

Site A is wildly popular online with tens of thousands of followers on social media. Site B has social media followers in the low six figures.


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The Google Trends graph makes it clear that there is huge search traffic for the Site A brand, but Google ranks a relatively unpopular site as No. 4 for a highly coveted two-word phrase.

The relatively unpopular site B is a regional site that acquires many links from regional news media sites. They also have live links (with coupon codes) from “influencers”, which seem to indicate an active advertising campaign.

By the way, these coupon codes are not from an affiliate program because site B does not have an affiliate program. So it may be that the coupon code and non-followed live link are from a private agreement between the blogger and the company.

How popular is site A?

Here’s a Google Trends graph showing how Site A is almost as popular as McDonalds:

Google Trends Graph Comparison with McDonald’s

As you can see, page A is almost as popular as McDonalds, but it can not surpass a regional store that happens to have decent links …


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Performance on Bing

Bing is more resistant to linkspam than Google is. When I search on Bing, it does not rank Site A for the phrase in two words. But it also does not rank Site B, indicating that Bing was probably not affected by the links that google was.

The most interesting thing, though, is that Bing does not rank the very popular site A for the more descriptive three-word phrase. To see if something ranks high on Google because of links, check the same keyword phrases on Bing.

If the SERPs are pretty much the same, except that the suspicious site does not rank in Bing, there is a hint that one site may rank in Google because of links.

This is just an illustration showing the strength of the link to influence Google’s search results.

The question of how to connect Build is frustrating

Circling back to the person who asked John Mueller the question, one can understand the frustration that lies in the question that was asked:


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“We just want to know … what to do now?”

The answer to how to build word of mouth popularity by promoting the site to both users and sites is hard to answer.

There are many out there who suggest short-term solutions to long-term problems, and it can be frustrating to see these solutions continually proposed as the answer.


See John Mueller’s answers discuss link building after 1 minute mark:

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