In 2014, is it still okay to participate in a free link exchange? That’s what I had to ask myself today when I received an email that proposed a free link exchange amongst “our websites”. I have to admit that I found this email rather odd. Especially given the fact that people just aren’t sending out these unsolicited emails anymore. But still, I had to ask myself, “technically speaking, are free link exchanges still acceptable?”
Here’s a copy of the email I received:
Subject: Proposition for free link exchange
From: “Brian Baker”
Date: Tue, July 1, 2014 3:42 pm
To: XXXXXXXXXX @billhartzer.com
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I would like to introduce myself; my name is Brian Baker,
As I have a serious amount of quality Gaming and Gambling sites I would like to advise a free link exchange offer with billhartzer.com or any different sites you own.
You will surely be glad to know that I’m having many ideas for link exchange which I am sure will be to our advantage and come in handy in our rankings in Google.
Please let me know if you interested in more information, or have any other things to say on the matter.
Waiting to hear your respond,
A quick look at Mr. Baker’s website appears to be all focused on “Free SEO”, proposing that he will perform free SEO services for your website. I bet that there will be, unfortunately, people who will fall for this and contact him. By the way, if you’re reading this and are wondering, there really is no “FREE SEO”, and, not only that, I would venture to go out on a limb here and say that you need to be really suspicious about this. Not only should you RUN AWAY from cheap SEO services, you should also RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN when someone offers free SEO services. It will end you costing you a LOT of money if you purchase cheap SEO services, and even cost you more money (maybe even your website and your entire business) if you allow someone to perform free SEO services for you.
What could happen if you “purchase” free SEO services? Well, let’s look at what might happen:
— Your website gets penalized by Google. Low quality link building and spamming your link on websites, usually what is done by cheap and free SEO services, will get you website penalized. Think Google Panda and Google Penguin. If not, then it will be a manual action. You’ll end up losing search engine rankings at the least, and then you’ll end up hiring someone, such as myself, to clean up the mess. It will end up costing you, big-time.
— Your website could become compromised. If someone is offering free or cheap SEO services, then they most likely have another motive: they want access to your website. If they get access to your website in order to make changes, then they will most likely add links to their websites (usually multiple websites that have nothing to do with your business), and they may even upload malicious software on your website. Sometimes they will add a script on your website that allows them to control the content on your website, such as add links and do other things that aren’t acceptable.
So, you have to wonder, if they’re offering “free SEO services”, then what is their motivation? How are they going to make money? SEO services (at least the “right” marketing services) cost money, as someone who is experienced at marketing your business online is going to be spending their time marketing your website. No one works for free. That’s just absurd.
Let’s get back to the original question, though. Are Free Link Exchanges Still Acceptable? The short answer is simply, no. They are not. When you think about link exchanges, that’s simply trading a link. I link to you and you link to me. But why are you linking? Why are you exchanging a link with another website? The reason typically is that you want to “rank better” because links are still seen as being an important search engine ranking factor. Anything that you do to try to manipulate PageRank, when it comes to linking, is consider to be a link scheme: and link schemes are against Google’s guidelines.
Certain link exchanges, such as between business partners and between companies owned by the same holding company, are still acceptable in certain cases. For example, if you look at the home page of Match.com, you’ll notice the following “link exchanges” between websites owned by the same company. Notice that these websites are all “on topic”, which are dating-related:
All of those link to other websites, and while they’re in small text on the website’s home page, they could still be considered “acceptable”, although I question the motive of these links. But they technically could be something that are not necessarily a “link scheme” in Google’s definition.
But what about the email I got today? Well, let’s first have an open mind. If I did business with this individual and we are in the same business then potentially the link he’s recommending might be okay since he does SEO and I am in the SEO business, as well. But wait. He wants my SEO website to link to his “quality Gaming and Gambling sites”.
Last time I checked, SEO is not “gaming and gambling”.