Search Shorts: Link Exchanges Are So 2002
Today, I was browsing apartment rentals in Riga, Latvia. I was searching via the Flock toolbar, which defaults to Yahoo search. I found a pretty good result that had all kinds of apartments, with prices, descriptions, pictures, and maps, and lots of great information about the area. This wasn’t a fly-by-night operation, autogenerated made for AdSense site.
At first, the site got me thinking of geolocation issues. The domain has a .lv TLD, which makes sense, as it’s a Latvian-based company, except that they likely are targeting an audience not in Latvia, and does the TLD prevent them from ranking as well as they could for searchers in other countries.
But then I got distracted from all of that by something else. In the left nav, along with events, bars, and excursions, was another menu item: Link exchange. Really? In 2009 a link exchange program so blatant it gets main menu treatment? I scrolled to the footer. Copyright 2002. But the reviews are from 2009, so clearly the site is still being updated.
I clicked on the link exchange option. That brought me to a page with link-exchange in the URL. The page instructs people to copy their text link code into their web sites and once that’s done, email them with information about the reciprocal link. Sure enough, looks like lots of sites have done just that. “Link partners” include an RSS feed submission program, online mattress sales, Canadian car insurance, and diesel electric generators.
These are my questions: the owners of the Riga apartment and all of the sites listed on the link exchange page know enough about SEO to know that links matter, but they don’t know enough about SEO to know that link exchanges can hurt you (or at the very least not help you) in the search engines? Clearly, the apartment site isn’t trying to hide its link program and the reciprocating sites don’t mind being prominently listed on the “reciprocal link exchange page”. Are these site owners following bad advice and know just enough to be dangerous? It’s a conundrum.
Sure enough, the site ranks #1 in Yahoo for relevant queries, but for those same queries, it ranks on the third page of Google’s results (and on the second page of Bing). And it’s a good site, with great content. It’s exactly the site I was looking for. And it likely would be better off without all the resource investments of that link exchange programs. The company apparently spends time reviewing incoming emails and updating the web site with links — they are allocating limited resources to something that’s actively hurting them.
Seems kinda crazy.