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Link Exchanges Violate Google Guidelines – Relevance Doesn’t Matter via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s John Mueller answered a question about link exchanges. He was asked how much is okay. Mueller explained how Google’s algorithm and quality team deal with link exchanges between websites.

Background on Link Exchanges

A link exchange is a situation that comes from an agreement between two publishers to link to each other.

Sometimes two websites link to each other without an agreement or any contact between each other. That’s considered a natural reciprocal link.

Reciprocal link and link exchange are generally used interchangeably but the phrase link exchange is explicitly about an arrangement to link between two websites.

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Variation on Link Exchange Tactic

On a side note there is also a variation of the link exchange called a three-way link exchange.

A three-way link exchange is where site A agrees to link to Site B with Site C. Site B agrees to link to Site A in exchange for the link from Site C.

The purpose of the three-way link exchange is to trick Google into seeing the interlinking as one-way links and not as reciprocal links.

When are Link Exchanges Considered Spam?

The person asking the question shared that in his link building outreach many website publishers ask for a link exchange, which is also known as a reciprocal link.

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The concern was if exchanging links violated Google’s guidelines and if so, how much link exchanging was permissible until it is considered spam by Google.

The question:

“My question is related to link exchange. Up to what extent is it permissible to exchange the links or not considered as spam?

So what’s the best practices when it comes to… exchanging… backlinks?”

Google Says Link Exchanges Violate Google’s Guidelines

Google’s John Mueller didn’t have to think about his answer.

His response was quick and without ambiguity.

John Mueller said:

“So… a link exchange where both sides are kind of like you link to me and therefore I will link back to you, kind of thing, that is essentially against our webmaster guidelines.

So that’s something where our algorithms would look at that and try to understand what is happening here and try to ignore those links.

And if the web spam team were to look at it they would also say this is not okay.

And if this is the majority of the links to your website like this then they might apply manual action.

So that’s something I would avoid.”

Link Exchanges Between Relevant Sites?

The person asking the question next asked if Google’s negative view of link exchanges was also true for link exchanges between sites that are relevant to each other.

There is a longstanding myth that a spammy technique is not spammy if it’s done between relevant sites.

Link sellers in the not so distant past have erroneously claimed that because their link inventory consisted of high quality sites and because they only sold links to other high quality relevant sites that Google was okay with it. Which of course is wrong.

The “between relevant sites” justification is an oldie but it has never been a goldie.

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The person asked:

“Even if it is topically relevant though?”

Mueller Reacts to Question About Link Exchange with Relevant Links

Google's John Mueller shaking his head noJohn Mueller shook his head and answered:

Google's John Mueller shaking his head no

“It doesn’t matter if it’s… like topically relevant or if it’s kind of like a useful link.

If you’re doing this systematically then we think that’s a bad idea because from our point of view those are not natural links to your website.

They’re only there because like you’re doing this deal with the other site.”

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Link Exchange Loopholes

John Mueller mentioned that it’s a bad idea if a publisher engages in systematic reciprocal linking, which means when it’s a strategy that’s being executed.

He also said that it may be problematic if most of a site’s backlinks consisted of link exchanges.

Some may see that as loopholes to justify doing link exchanges at a smaller scale.

But Mueller also said that Google will try to find those and ignore them.

Rather than look for loopholes in what Mueller said it’s best to simply walk away from link exchanges and not engage in that. It’s clear that link exchanges violate Google’s guidelines.

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For sites that aspire to avoid getting banned by Google it’s good to keep in mind that spammy link schemes are a short term solution for a long term problem.

Citation

Watch Google’s John Mueller answer the question about how much  link exchange is okay, clip is viewable at the 9:25 minute mark.

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NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

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