I hadn't planned on getting into link exchanges and their part in real estate seo, but surfing through the forums changed my mind. There has been a lot of debate among SEO experts as to whether recip linking was dead. There is valid evidence to support both camps. Matt Cutts (google employee) posted in his blog about 2 months ago some statements to support that. He had pointed out that perhaps unrelated recip links could hurt a site's ranking. Personally, I think its a bad idea for anyone to base their ranking on just recip linking. While I don't think its outdated, I think its still a valid part of promoting your site. However, when done incorrectly it can hurt your rankings. There are some basics to follow. The original idea behind the swapping of links was to generate traffic to your site from like minded, non-competing sites. As the search engine ranking wars escalated, the value of recip links has come into question. So with that in mind, these are some of the basic rules to follow when trading links. When linking its best to go with quality versus quantity.
1. One of the primary objectives for trading links should be to generate traffic to your site. In order for that to happen, the link must be findable. So when trading, if you need a map and compass to find your link on your partner's website then how do you expect anyone else to find it?! The generally acceptable navigation if you will, is no more than two clicks away from the main index page.
2. Don't be afraid to refuse an exchange. Not every request for a link exchange is going to be right for your site. As your site climbs in the rankings, you will be bombarded with offers to swap. Unrelated sites should be politely refused (pharmacy, gaming, adult, the list goes on). Not every related site should be accepted either. If the page they are giving you a link back on is buried (see above), has no page rank or is unindexed, then you may want to consider refusing. In his blog, Matt Cutts also discussed the trust value of links (page rank) as well. A good rule to follow is that the page have a rank of at least 1, is easily found through links on the site and has been indexed by search engines. Unlike ActiveRain, most directory type sites require a home page link in return for a link in their directory. Very, very few are worth it in my opinion. One of the exceptions is http://www.ibsteam.net/ In return for your link, you get a spiderable link in the directory plus you may put up a detail page (like here) with additional links to your site.
3. There are sites that you should absolutely avoid trading with. Bad neighborhoods for example. A google term for sites that have perhaps used questionable or "black hat" techniques to artificially boost their rankings. These sites have been banned or dropped from google's index. You can verify a site is listed by doing a site search. If google can find anything for the url, its a good be they have been banned. Also if the page rank bar is greyed out, that's another indicator. Or you can use the google banned checker from my seo tools post :) In addition to bad neighborhoods, you want to avoid sites that don't provide an html link back to you. Some sites use a JAVA script or CGI script link which is not spiderable and therefor of questionable value to you. You may have seen sites with CGI links, using the popular HOT LINKS exchange script. Another nasty trick are site owners that put a nofollow tag on your link. This in essences tells a search engine the link is of questionable value and not to spider it. It was originally intended to fight comment spam on blog sites, rendering blog spammers links worthless. A friend of mine just fell victim to this by a popular Hawaii site. On my free seo tools post, there are a couple sites that will detect the tag for you.
Like in real estate, your site will gain a reputation. The web isn't as big a place as you think. You'll run into familiar faces, especially if you are actively exchanging links. So the best policy is to give what you get. Some site owners may request that you include their anchor text, but only post your url in return. These exchanges still have value, but not as much as a link with your keyword in the anchor text. Generally if the site is a decent trade, I'll go ahead with the trade but post their url as they did mine in return. When trading, always check to make sure your link has been placed. You will run across the ethically challenged that will delete your link a few days after the trade is complete, although sometimes accidents do happen. Hmmm it seems my post hath runeth over. There is a lot more to discuss so I'll be revisiting this topic again in the coming weeks.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me or post it comments.