If you pay attention to industry news, you know that Google punished members of a few European link networks last week.
Which leads to the extremely valid question of…
Exactly what is a link network?
To answer that question, let’s ask Google:
Per kontrolit.net, the answer is:
A link network ignores quality in favour of generating vast quantities of artificial links on a large number of websites that they control. By this means, they hope to manipulate the ranking of search results. The websites within the network usually offer very little value to visitors; their sole function is to dupe search engines and until recently they were pretty good at it.
Per searchenginewatch.com, the answer is:
Simply, a link (or site/blog/article) network is a group of sites that are connected. They can be owned by one person or multiple people, their connections can be as obvious as a badge displayed that proudly identifies the site as a member of X network or as covert as a footprint uncovered by lots of digging.
Notice those two answers are not exactly the same.
The first focuses on a high quantity of artificial links being generated by websites under the control of the network.
The second actually describes the Internet has a whole. Is the entire Internet a group of sites that are connected?
Links to your site from other sites improve your ranking (for the most part, links from some sites, such as porn sites, hurt your ranking). So it would seem being part of a group of websites who exchange links would be beneficial for everyone involved.
The key to knowing if what you’re doing relative to building links to your site will help or hurt is to take the perspective of “If a Google search engineer were sitting next to you, would he cringe at what you’re doing”. If the answer is yes, don’t do it.
Having said that, one of the chicken and egg aspects of being found on Google is it is much easier to be found once you’ve already been found.
From that perspective being part of a link exchange (I’m intentionally differentiating link exchange from link network) will help you get started.
What is a Link Exchange?
A link exchange is not someplace where you receive links, but rather some place where you give links. However the other members of the exchange also give links and some of them give links to you. The focus here is on giving, not receiving.
Why is this OK?
If you go to a local business networking meeting, a Chamber of Commerce function for example, and you meet someone who has an interesting business and you later refer people you know to him, are you doing anything unethical? As long as the business is ethical, the referral is ethical.
A link exchange is nothing more and nothing less than taking that concept onto the Internet, and doing website to website for your Inbound Marketing what you’re doing face to face already.
Want to learn more?