Just Say No to Reciprocal Linking

Services for Real Estate Pros with Dynamic Page Solutions

It's been understood for several years now that blatant reciprocal linking in an effort to manipulate search engine rankings is a big no-no and will get real estate websites penalized harshly. I only bring this up because I am repeatedly asked by clients if I think it's a good idea to set up a link page so friends and associates and random strangers can exchange links with them because linking is good right? Well reciprocal linking was okay pre-2007, but many real estate websites that normally ranked well for keywords starting getting penalized because of "link pages."  These are pages that are dedicated to "relocation partners" but the only real partnering that is going on is an attempt to swap link juice.

Obviously as a Realtor, you're going to have legitimate relationships with other Realtors where you may want to reference them as a local expert in say...Tallahassee. The tricky part is to determine where Google draws the line. Is five outbound links to other real estate websites okay... maybe ten or fifteen or do they give a grace card to anything under fifty? As usual Matt Cutts and the rest of the spam squad do not give exact numbers but general guidelines.

If you are determined to trade links with someone, at least find someone with a website that ranks better than yours because it doesn't do a whole lot of good to swap links with a website that doesn't rank for anything. If you plow ahead with this be warned as one SEO'er said, "don't come crying to me when you're site gets banished, unless your tears are made of diamonds, in which case you can cry into my pocket."

Truly, the best way (and least likely to cause banishment) to get inbound links to your site and work on real estate SEO is by blogging on sites like ActiveRain (using strategic anchor text that points to optimized pages) and leaving meaningful comments on others blogs with do-follow links. Squidoo, HubPages and Ezine Articles are other tried and true methods of creating quality in-bound links. Of course there are other methods that require varying levels of effort and expertise. To wrap it up, in-bound links are important, (to varying degrees depending on algorithm shifts) one-way links are by far the ideal and if you are solidly set on swapping links with a few associates, don't be a knucklehead and shout it out to the search engines by naming that page "links."

Posted by

Anita Koppens

Comments (66)

Tony and Libby Kelly
Keller Williams Realty Portland Premiere - Lake Oswego, OR

Great post.  I still get request from random people to do link exchanges.  I always think the requester is stuck in 2005!  

Feb 26, 2010 02:01 AM
Regina Brassil
True Sarasota Real Estate - Siesta Key, FL
ABR, AHWD, e-Pro

Whew! I am not the only one who knows this! I cant tell you how many of these requests I get a day...maybe soon the word will hit the streets.

Feb 26, 2010 02:18 AM
Regina Brassil
True Sarasota Real Estate - Siesta Key, FL
ABR, AHWD, e-Pro

Whew! I am not the only one who knows this! I cant tell you how many of these requests I get a day...maybe soon the word will hit the streets.

Feb 26, 2010 02:18 AM
Dave Murray
DMTX Realty, Coldwell Banker United, Realtors - Austin, TX

I've had some agents/real estate companies ask if I can designate them as the "(enter state here) Real Estate Expert" - in exchange, they will call us the Austin/Texas/Central Texas/Lake Travis real estate expert, and they already have! It's not blatant linking, it's a tool. They send me the link so I can see: something like www.mysite.com/states/texas/austin and there we are, right on top. BUT...something smells funny...if you go to their homepage, there is no link to "states." Much less, a link to Texas or Austin. So what use is that?

This isn't 1997. Search engines are rewarding content, not links. So the paragraph they sent "educating" me on SEO is outdated and useless.

Now these people are just getting braver. One emailed and said their purpose was to list agents and other real estate resources on their site, in exchange for us to link back to them. Sure, we have a "resources" page with 50 or so links, I put their link and logo on it. They wrote me back and said their marketing director "wouldn't accept it being so hidden," could we put their logo on our homepage? Now, if we're going to be on a 10 page list on their site, why should we put them on the main page of ours? No thanks.

You hit the nail on the head saying content and embedded links in blogs are the way to go. Keep working it!


Feb 26, 2010 02:23 AM
R.E. Renée Hoover, Salesperson
Century 21 Geba Realty, Milford, PA; Licensed in PA & NYS - Milford, PA
Poconos, Pike, Wayne, Monroe Counties, PA; PA/NYS

Thanks Anita.  This opened up a worthwhile discussion with lots of info and tips from you and other members.  Well worth the feaure.

Feb 26, 2010 03:17 AM
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Hi Anita -- This concept worked well for me from 04-06 and I got a ton of SEO off it, but removed it all in 07 when the experts advised it.  Totally agree.

Feb 26, 2010 03:27 AM
Tony Grego, 317-663-4173 #1 Trade Association for Alternative Inv
REISA - 317-663-4173 - Indianapolis, IN

Thanks. Good points to know and to use. 

Feb 26, 2010 04:52 AM
Jerry Murphy, CRS, SRES
Long Realty West Valley - Anthem, AZ
Anthem, Phoenix, and Scottsdale AZ Real Estate

I would beg to differ a little Anita, and I'm not saying that I'm the expert by any means.  But our website has been ranked very high (usually first page or top of second page) for the "Phoenix Real Estate" search on Google for the past two years.  We have dozens of recriprocal links to and from our page with agents, (many Active Rain agents by the way) around the country.  We have never been dropped by Google.  Either we are doing something different from what you describe or we are doing something good. We've obtained these rankings on the search engines purely organically, never having paid for optimization or pay per click.  Take a look at our site, www.ArizonaPremiereLiving.com and let me know if you see anything that contradicts what I am saying.  Thank you for the post and best of luck to you.

Feb 26, 2010 05:30 AM
David J. Lampe
Your Castle Real Estate - Arvada, CO
Realtor - Web Savvy Denver

Thanks for the great post. I agree that ActiveRain and other blog postings are the way to go for inbound links.

Feb 26, 2010 08:16 AM
Nicky Dou
Keller Williams Market Pro Realty - Fayetteville, AR
The BEST REAL ESTATE AGENT in Northwest Arkansas

Great post. I usually ignore the email requests I get (oh so often) they dont even seem sincere...

Feb 26, 2010 09:03 AM
Dynamic Page Solutions
Dynamic Page Solutions - Mesa, AZ

Hi everybody! I just wanted to let you know that Anita has not been ignoring all of your great comments...she is on a well-deserved vacation! I am one of Anita's colleagues at Dynamic Page Solutions, and I want to help address some really interesting points a few of you have brought up:

Elizabeth--That is a good observation and makes a really important point about HubPages. HubPages doesn’t reward just any content with the coveted do-follow links. All your links will be no-follow until your overall hub score is 75 or higher. Even then, if your score drops below 75, the links will automatically convert back to no-follow. So, it’s important to post only high-quality hubs and keep them fresh!


Matthew--Unfortunately, only the search engines themselves truly know how they perceive reciprocal linking. We have to conduct our own research and testing to approximate the value/penalty for these things. That being said, we know that reciprocal linking is certainly monitored by the search engines and sites are penalized when they see something that they don’t like. Strategic reciprocal linking can be done safely in small quantities, but the benefit is minimal. Like DMTX.com (aka Julie) mentioned (http://activerain.com/blogsview/1513695/just-say-no-to-reciprocal-linking#6343581), search engines (Google in particular) tend to value sites with good content and a few high-quality links over the ones that have tons of reciprocal links. It’s always a good idea to balance your link-building sources. So, I guess that is the long way of saying to only reciprocate if it makes sense, not just for the acquisition of links, and don’t let reciprocal linking account for more than 10-15% of your overall back-linking…then, you shouldn’t be in danger of “overdoing it”.


Tim--Thanks! I couldn’t agree more. Providing quality content is essential for long-term rankings and is the best way to build a diverse, “white hat” inbound linking portfolio.


Corinne--Yes and no…inbound links can absolutely help promote your site and give it better rankings, but a total lack of outbound links can actually be detrimental. Google likes to see that websites are part of the “community”, so when a site doesn’t link to other resources in the community, they view it as essentially attempting to horde the traffic…and they don’t seem to like ranking these kinds of sites too highly. I typically recommend that Realtors link to schools, chamber of commerce, local parks and recreation, as well as any other non-competitive community resources. Don’t go crazy with outbound links, as you can drain any page rank that you have established. Be strategic in regards to how you link and from which pages—for example, don’t put the link in your global navigation because it will then be an outbound link from every page of your site.


Leah--Quality, relevant links reciprocated sparingly should not get you in trouble.


Brian--I will try to clarify:

1) Using strategic anchor text: Using the terms for which you would like to be found to create links to your site. This is key to showing the search engines what your site is about, but too many links with the same anchor text is seen as being contrived. If you are doing any sort of linking campaign, make sure to diversify the anchor text.

2) Pointing to optimized pages: If you are linking to a page on your site that is not “search engine friendly”, you run the risk of causing confusion on the part of the bots that are crawling your page. The terms you are optimizing for must be present and preferably located in all the right places (title, H tags, strong tags, etc) in order for your page to be seen as being relevant for those keywords. Basically, if you are linking to a page that has not been properly optimized, you will need significantly more links in order to rank highly in the SERPS.

3)and leaving meaningful comments on others blogs (OK, I understand this part): Make sure you use do-follow links! There is a bit of HTML code that can be associated with a link called a nofollow tag or rel nofollow. There are tools that can find them for you or you can view the source and search for rel=nofollow in the link(s) in question. Hope this helps.


Gregory—Too funny! Obviously, getting links from attractive people is always ok. In fact, Google prefers it that way… =D



Don--This is often times referred to as “3-way linking” or “triangular linking”. I have not heard the term “chain linking” before, but it makes sense. There are certainly risks to this as well. Google has been aware of the reciprocal linking issue for some time now and is also aware of the evolution to 3-way linking. Both 2-way and 3-way reciprocal linking are not only considered “black hat” they are “old hat” as well…so just be careful.


Kathie--Well said!!


Leslie-- I will be glad to post an updated SEO primer or glossary. That’s a great idea, and I bet a lot of agents here could benefit from it. Thanks for commenting…now I have an idea for a new post! “Determined to trade links with someone” means that you would be actively seeking links from other websites by exchanging for a link from your website (AKA: “link swapping” or “reciprocal linking”).

I am not sure I understand what you are looking for when you say “what would it look like”, but I will try to give some different examples. There are a number of software tools that are designed to assist in creating an automated link exchange campaign. Some of which I have personally used (quite successfully I might add) when it was the thing to do.

So, to give 3 different perspectives: A) From your perspective, it would “look like” setting up a campaign, most likely with automated tools, to deliberately attempt to make your site appear to be more popular than it really is. B) To the person that you are attempting to reciprocate with, it would look like either 1) a golden opportunity, if the agent was not aware of or did not fully understand the risk/reward that is involved OR 2) like you were trying to manipulate the SERPs with old, “black hat” tactics, if the agent was “in the know”. C) To the search engines, it would look like you are trying to manipulate the SERP (search engine results page) results and they will therefore penalize you.



Feb 26, 2010 10:49 AM
Steve, Joel & Steve A. Chain
Chain Real Estate Investments & Mortgage, Steve & Joel Chain - Cottonwood, CA


Apparently SEO work will never be permanently Optimized. LOL


Feb 26, 2010 01:36 PM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

It's good to get clarification on the current best practices for SEO.  It seems to be ever evolving.

Feb 26, 2010 03:29 PM
Brian Habel
HomeSmart Advantage - Saint George, UT

When you think about a WEB you don't think about how a spider has gone back and forth on one line only, or even in a triangle, unless this is the beginning of the WEB you weave and structure is important.  But thinking like a real WEB, I think has really helped me.

Feb 26, 2010 04:47 PM
Richard Johnston
San Fernando Valley - RE/MAX Grand Central - Sherman Oaks, CA

Thanks for the SEO information.

Feb 26, 2010 09:44 PM
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker


Great information.  Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

Feb 27, 2010 02:54 AM
Don Sabinske
Don Sabinske, Sabinske & Associates Inc. - Zimmerman, MN
Sabinske & Associates Inc.

Good points.  And, that is why I am subscribing to your blog.  Thankfully, someone I subscribe to reblogged your article.  Keep up the good work. 

Mar 14, 2010 03:38 PM
Dynamic Page Solutions
Dynamic Page Solutions - Mesa, AZ

Don - I appreciate the vote of confidence and will try my best to deliver quality tips.

Mar 15, 2010 05:50 AM
Russel Ray, San Diego Business & Marketing Consultant & Photographer
Russel Ray - San Diego State University, CA

As long as there is a system, there will always be people trying to work the system.

Come join the fun in ActiveRain's Guerrilla Marketing Team Contest.

Mar 26, 2010 04:54 PM
I had no idea how to approach this before-now I'm locked and lodaed.
Aug 06, 2011 06:31 PM