Over half of search engine optimization links used to be reciprocal links—that is, links that went two or three ways rather than just one way. Today, that number is lower, because Google has decided to impose penalties on websites that rely too much on reciprocal link numbers. In this guide, we'll take a quick paced look at some of the pros and cons of both reciprocal links and one way links, and help you create a linking strategy that incorporates the best of both worlds.
Reciprocal Link Pro: Easy to Start
One of the best things about reciprocal links is that you probably already know some people who can provide them. With so many attorneys today starting blogs, as soon as you start a blog you can ask your blogging friends and colleagues for a reciprocal link agreement. Usually, people who are your professional connections will agree to this kind of reciprocal links arrangement, and before you know it, you'll be getting some of their link authority as well as some of their blog traffic.
One Way Link Pro: Available on Social Bookmarking Websites
One of the easiest ways to build one way links is to use social bookmarking sites like Digg or Reddit. These websites let you build your own one way links. If you want your link to get onto the front page automatically, you can even pay to have a link displayed as a sponsored link, but you can also try to get it to the front page just by having great, readable content.
Since social bookmarking websites are so big, they're an excellent source of one way link juice for just about any website. A word of caution, though: if users on these sites think you're spamming, you could be banned. Quality and variety is key.
Reciprocal Link Con: Google Algorithms for Stopping Overuse
Because it's so easy to exchange links on a one for one basis, Google found itself having to stop websites from getting too much search engine optimization potential just from reciprocal links. A reciprocal link will only provide you with additional link juice if you don't have a pre-existing high percentage of reciprocal links on your site.
Because of this, no matter what, you can never rely on reciprocal links alone. You will always have to combine your reciprocal link strategy with strategies for building one way links.
One Way Link Con: Google Algorithms for Stopping Abuse
Of course, one way links can be misused just as much as reciprocal links. It just took Google a little longer to catch on to the ways one way linking was being abused. In response to people purchasing large quantities of one way links, Google imposed penalties on websites that had signs of link buying. For example, your website could incur a penalty if too many of your links displayed the same anchor text, or if too many links came from the same IP address.
While most of the time, Google's detection scheme only detects paid-for links, even links built with white hat techniques can generate false positives. When you're building one way links, you have to be careful to use a wide variety.
Reciprocal Link Pro: Contextual Linking
Most of the places where an attorney will be able to put reciprocal links will be in places that are contextual—other law firm websites, law blogs, legal directories, and so on. Because of this, your reciprocal link strategy will be more successful. Google considers contextual links to be more valuable, and you will be rewarded for reciprocal links that are clearly a sign of esteem between colleagues rather than a paid-for link exchange.
One Way Link Pro: High Page Rank Links
While law firm websites and law blogs may be contextual, they also don't usually have a particularly high PageRank. Because PageRank matters so much to Google when it tries to decide how much authority a particular link confers on your site, one way linking from these sites can get you a steep increase in search rankings.
For example, links that you receive from Facebook or Twitter aren't likely to be reciprocal links. These links are very likely to give you a significant rankings boost.
Reciprocal Link Con: Cluttered Websites
If you use too many reciprocal links, odds are that your website will begin to look very cluttered—and the websites with your links will look the same. Because this can be unattractive to website visitors, you may want to keep your reciprocal link numbers down to a manageable level.
If your website already looks cluttered from reciprocal links, you may want to consider reducing some of them. Keep in mind that if you have an existing reciprocal link agreement, you should always notify the people linking to you before you remove their link. Otherwise, you run the risk of violating the agreement.
One Way Link Con: Making It “Look Natural”
While it's easy enough to post to social bookmarking sites or social networks, the vast majority of the time it's quite clear that your one way link building efforts are being done by you, and you alone. Reciprocal linking is more likely to convey existing relationships within the legal community and in your own city or region. Trying to make your one way links look natural can be very difficult, and any attempt to “jump start” the appearance of a grassroots, viral marketing campaign is likely to be discovered for what it is.
The best strategies for building links involve using both reciprocal linking and one way linking. Reciprocal linking makes sense when it comes from sources you know you can trust, and websites with a clear contextual relationship to your website. One way linking is necessary to avoid the appearance of having too many reciprocal links and incurring penalties. You should make sure that your one way links are located on websites with high PageRank numbers whenever possible.