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Quality Link Building : Social Links, Reciprocal Links and .edu & .gov Links

Quality Link Building : Social Links, Reciprocal Links and .edu & .gov Links

Links, Links and More Links… This is the second installment of a three part link building series. The first installment is available at Link Building & Determining Link Quality.

As we covered a few topics in Link Building & Determining Link Quality., I would now take this time to talk about a few other types of links and their potential effects on rankings so we can determine the right kind of link building that we believe to be safe and effective.

In determining link quality we need to consider all possible avenues of link building and strategies that can help produce natural link building by getting users to take an action (link baiting). Link baiting is a very effective way to gain natural links. It inspires an individual or group to take notice and discuss something special about a site or something spoken about a site. So in effect we are actually promoting those “special things”.

Following are a few more link categories and a little information on them. Some of these tend to work well from a marketing perspective more so than just trading and selling links (both of which Google considers spam ).


In case anyone is unaware, Google DOES consider trading and buying links spam. It specifies this in Google’s application for a patent. I have added an excerpt below in the Reciprocal Links section. This is always controversial as we discussed last week, anyone can find reasons for and against advertising and link exchanges.

Earned Links

To start this one we will talk about earning links. These are exactly as stated – simply links earned. How do I earn links? Glad you asked!

Its very simple and yet very difficult at the same time, as you must put yourself forward into the industry and gain earned “Industry Popularity”. This means that if you are busy with numerous projects and important business relationships, you need to find time to become someone that can create an idea, write an article, or just tell the world all about the Search Engines conspiracies and their good and evil doings. Blogging, creating widgets, gadgets, offering free templates and tools can also earn sites links. Creating controversial opinions on an industry related topic and then getting it attention through syndication can also create traffic and links and in turn — rankings.


Social Media Links

Despite the hubbub, its not necessarily the link on the domain like a link on, it is more the power of getting additional links from being seen on a social site that you are after. Social links generally fall into the category of earned links. Although having a top digger write and syndicate an article for you is not a bad idea either if you can swing it.

These links on the social sites themselves are recommended but with minimal emphasis. I do not believe that being bookmarked by “Joe Schmoe” or 50 Joe Schmoes should really make you rank better. The passing of a link from a reputable site is far stronger in my opinion. However we do not ignore the possibilities here.

Anything that will cause a reader to want to discuss your news or article on their blogs or on social sites like dig is well worth trying to get.

Bookmarking sites like, do in-fact offer potential impact on rankings. Google’s application for patent implies the user archiving is one potential part of its algorithm.

“user maintained or generated data may be used to generate (or alter) a score associated with a document. For example, search engine 125 may monitor data maintained or generated by a user, such as “bookmarks,” “favorites,” or other types of data that may provide some indication of documents favored by, or of interest to, the user.”

So here we can determine that getting other users actively involved in our sites may help pick up the rankings by having it considered of individual value by a human. Thus, making considerations for social links a recommended goal for any SEO campaign.

Bookmarking sites may not be a widespread activity in many industries, so there is a potential that they have limited weight. Another issue with this type of link is that user quality determining factors are unknown and relating these properly when bookmarks are not always categorized tends to lead me to believe that many bookmark pages may in fact appear as link farms rather than bookmarking sites so be cautious.


Reciprocal Links

These are traded between two sites from a resource page. They were used heavily in campaigns in the early 2000’s but declined in favor of hoarding page rank and going after one-way links. Reciprocal links are still working and a very controversial posting on Matt Cutt’s site shows (Better Read it!) a site ranking well for an extremely competitive term and at the same time, Matt states:

“As Google changes algorithms over time, excessive reciprocal links will probably carry less weight”.

The site was apparently fluctuating in and out of the Google index. An article in Forbes details the jewelry sites history.

This can be interpreted many ways:

  1. Google currently places heavy emphasis on reciprocal links (despite the fact that they penalize sites for using them – odd – see below for proof).
  2. You can be banned or penalized for reciprocal link trading as the site in the article above was penalized manually in the Google 950 penalty.
  3. The way to get Matt Cutt’s attention is to have Forbes write an article.

So reciprocal linking is currently given a bit of evidence to be working and in fact with #1 rankings for extremely competitive terms used by the site mentioned in Matt’s blog, we have to assume that this, in fact, really is effective, or at least in this instance.


So with all that in mind, I personally never try to get clients reciprocals unless it makes perfect sense with a powerful site and that is very rare. If you decide to use reciprocal links, do so in moderation. Most of Matt’s statements do come true.

Another issue with reciprocals is Google’s own Patent which calls “trading links” SPAM!!!!

“A spike may indicate either a topical phenomenon (e.g., a hot topic) or an attempt to spam search engine 125 by, for example, trading or purchasing links. Search engine 125 may take measures to prevent spam attempts…,”

Noting this in a patent is enough to say, forget reciprocals!

.edu Links & .gov Links

Often over-emphasized as a way to get rankings and considered to pass a higher value of a quality link even called “Trust” links. Here I will agree and disagree. The high quality .edu links come from large and known universities on pages close to the root as those are far more valuable than any page with a ~username/ and an easy variable to insert into any search engines link quality checker to check for potential spam or devalue a user (student) as compared to a non-user.


While not all edu users are potentially bad, we are again dealing with the lowest common spam factor, by this I mean the percentage of good pages dropped from a Search Engine index to end a larger body of spam pages from having any effect may come into play.

Further, edu links are stated by Google’s Matt Cutts, as not having any additional value when compared to a non-edu site. While many marketers have stated they feel this is a false claim, there is no evidence that can be used to say otherwise. In fact as I tend to be in more commercial sectors of the search results, I do see less emphasis on .edu sites ranking.

So I tend to believe that in fact edu’s pass the value they are worth like any other site. As many edu sites are authorities, these will in fact pass an authority value. So the domain extension is not the given, instead the “Authority” value is. Whether Trust is passed from edu’s or not is still questionable. Keep in mind a domain extension does not signify an Authority status. There are even university sites now made for text link ads (that means they are spammy).


On the other side of the coin is the .gov site. Face it, you’re not getting one of these too easily unless you really offer something good. I have never seen a .gov link for sale, although I have seen an SEO firm add their text link to a PR7 .gov homepage under a class titled invisible and get away with it for years now.

Here again is where Google is uneven handed as they did not penalize the site for this. .Gov sites are well maintained by humans and much harder to gain. So we do believe that a .gov link adds more weight. They are also more powerful in ranking. Getting a .gov link requires that you just ask and explain how your site would be an additional asset for their readers. In my original link popularity tutorial from 2003 (which unfortunately this was copied by so many companies that it was duplicated-out of Google – or what some people term Google Bowled – Here’s proof that no site is safe in Google!), anyway… I talked about asking for links to your site.


The one thing I did that all the cloners missed was that we were to add in why the site is in fact a noteworthy resource to add. If you cannot sell it to yourself; you will not sell it to anyone, so be sure that you do update your site and make sure it really is a resource before approaching edu and gov sites. The one nice thing about edu and gov sites is that they are generally free links and are best found via the backlinks of your competitors or via related searches to your industry.

To be continued…

Alan Rabinowitz is the CEO of SEO Image, a New York based SEO and Internet Marketing company which focuses on corporate branding and positioning in search engines.


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Alan Rabinowitz

Alan Rabinowitz is the CEO of SEO Image, a New York based SEO and Internet Marketing company which focuses on ... [Read full bio]

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