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Link Farms, Web Rings and Reciprocal Linking

Link farms, web rings and reciprocal linking are various search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques for improving PageRank. Some methods are more effective than others, whilst some will actually damage your ranking.

Link Farms

Link farms are produced when an automated system places links on participant websites to other participants' sites, in order to create a vast network of links and so to improve the number of links in to each participating website.

The term "link farm" has become pejorative over the last few years. The reason for this is that Google has improved its algorithms to ignore the links generated by these schemes, or even ban participants from the index.

Many link farm services have re-branded themselves as "online networking" services, and other similar euphemisms, but wasting your money on joining them is a bad idea because it can permanently damage your ranking.

Web Rings

A web ring is a scheme whereby each website participating in a ring features the same navigation bar at the top of every page. This bar has links to the "next" and "previous" sites in the ring. Eventually, if a user keeps clicking in the same direction, they will end up where they started. The navigation bar will also feature a link to a central site which links to all the others, so that if one link in the chain breaks, the web ring will still function.

Web rings are usually on a particular theme, such as music or education. There is usually a moderator who selects the sites to include in the web ring. Web rings can be useful for web users looking for content relevant to the site they are already browsing.

Web rings may draw extra traffic via human clicks, as well as adding two incoming links to your site. They will probably not considerably boost your PageRank, though.

Reciprocal Linking

General reciprocal linking is not frowned upon by search engines and can be extremely useful. This is when you approach websites and ask them to display a link on their site in exchange for a returning link from your page.

Ideally, the links should lead to and from different internal pages on the sites, because links back and forth between two pages are not given as much weight by search engines.

When you are working on getting reciprocal links, make sure that you choose only those websites which are relevant and complementary to your own. For example, if your company provides entertainers for children's parties, a reciprocal link with a website which sells balloons and party favours would be useful.

Even better than direct reciprocal links are those which involve a small ring: for example, Site A links to Site B, Site B to Site C, and Site C to Site A. This sort of linking will be much harder for search engines to detect as reciprocal, because there is no return-linking. It is obviously quite difficult to organise a linking scheme like this, but it benefits all parties and is therefore worth pursuing.

By Brian Jackson

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