Is there anyone left in the Web marketing world who thinks reciprocal links are still useful...?

Most of the talk and posts I read on the forums say that reciprocal liks are dead. Don't work. Cause search rank penalties.
It's too bad, really, because lost in all the commotion is the fact that not all reciprocal links are created equal, and many sites can and do benefit from offering reciprocal links.
What happened?
A few years back Web marketers learned that inbound links (IBLs) could help their search rank. Blame the Google Pagerank toolbar, if you must. The resulting frenzy to attract links resulted in some tactics that were less than ideal.
For example, the standard links page suddenly became the center of activity for search engine ranking purposes, which was never what a links page was supposed to be. Everyone started swapping links with everyone else in a nasty sort link orgy that found hardware stores linking to tanning salons and dentist's linking to accountants. All in the name of improved rankings.
And it failed, I'm happy to say.
It failed because search engnes like to feel a degree of confidence in the rationale for one site linking to another. Call it trust, call it faith, call it relevance. Once people realized that their unorganized random reciprocal links pages accomplished absolutely nothing, the second mad rush began to remove those un-themed reciprocal links pages so as not to be found algorithmiocally guilty by the Google gods. Some said the engines penalized sites with random recips, and even ignored their links altogether.
Caught up in the storm was the mild-mannered legitimate reciprocal links page that was perfectly themed, relevant, honest, and only swapped links with sites that were the same. Some stayed true to their mission, while others started selling links, unable to resist the money being thrown at them.
So where are we now? When it comes to reciprocal links pages, here are a couple truths you can take with you.
1). I think we'd all agree the following statement is false:
Every pair of reciprocal links in the world can be trusted as a 100% unbiased vote of quality between the two reciprocating Web sites.
2). If the above is false then I think we'd also agree that the engines would be nuts if they did not analyze reciprocity in some way so as to try and identify a level of trust or relevancy, and to identify scams, link farms, and self-run recip networks.
3). If #2 above is true, then it's logical that the engines could, I repeat C O U L D make a decision to ignore, credit, or even penalize based upon what they find.
4). Recips are still a great way to spread the word about your content and build relevant traffic, if they are done carefully and with the user in mind, not the search engines.
Eric Ward

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Eric founded the Web's very first online publicity and linking services, NetPOST and URLwire, in 1994. Eric's expertise is in helping companies generate links, publicity and buzz for their Web content. A hands-on practitioner, Eric also offers training and seminars that teach companies how to do it in-house. His client list is a who's who of online brands, from to

Eric has written for for ClickZ and Ad Age, and he won the 1995 Tenagra Award For Internet Marketing Excellence. In 1997, he was named one of the Web's 100 most influential people by Websight magazine. A well-known speaker at the major industry trade shows, Eric will soon publish The Ward Report, a monthly "how-to" newsletter on the art of link building and publicity for Web content, with commentary on the newest trends and practices.

A native of northern New Jersey, Eric has lived in Knoxville, Tennessee since graduating from the University of TN. Eric's wife Melissa and toddler Noah say "bye daddy geek" every day when he leaves for work.

Eric can be reached at