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This article pertains to methods of hyperlinking to/of different websites, often used in regard to search engine optimization (SEO).


Reciprocal link

A reciprocal link is a mutual link between two objects, commonly between two websites to ensure mutual traffic. Example: Alice and Bob have websites. If Bob's website links to Alice's website, and Alice's website links to Bob's website, the websites are reciprocally linked. Website owners often submit their sites to reciprocal link exchange directories, in order to achieve higher rankings in the search engines. Reciprocal linking between websites is an important part of the search engine optimization process because Google uses link popularity algorithms (defined as the number of links that led to a particular page and the anchor text of the link) to rank websites for relevancy.


Relevant linking

Relevant linking is a derivative of reciprocal linking or link exchanging in which a site linked to another site contains only content compatible and relevant to the linked site.

Three way linking

Three way linking (siteA ⇒ siteB ⇒ siteC ⇒ siteA) is a special type of reciprocal linking. The attempt of this link building method is to create more "natural" links in the eyes of search engines. The value of links by three-way linking can then be better than normal reciprocal links, which are usually done between two domains.

Two-Way-Linking (Link exchange)

An alternative to the questionable automated linking practices referenced above are free, community-based link exchange forums such as, in which members list their sites according to the sites' business category and invite webmasters of other compatible sites to request a link exchange. Such forums were created to foster the ethical exchange of links between sites dealing with similar, relevant subject matter in order to offer visitors broader access to information than that obtainable on either site individually. Unlike automatic linking schemes, these forums require members to editorially review sites requesting a link and make human-intelligence-based decisions on whether establishing a link with them would benefit end users and comply with search-engine quality and best practices guidelines.

One-way linking

One-way link is a term used among webmasters for link building methods. It is a hyperlink that points to a website without any reciprocal link; thus the link goes "one-way" in direction. It is suspected by many industry consultants that this type of link would be considered more natural in the eyes of search engines. One-way links are also called Incoming Links or Inbound Links.

Resource Linking

Resource Links are a category of links, which can be either one-way or two-way, usually referenced as "Resources" or "Information" in Navbars, but sometimes, especially in the early, less compartmentalized years of the Web, simply called "Links." Basically, they are hyperlinks to a website or a specific webpage containing content believed to be beneficial, useful and relevant to visitors of the site establishing the link.

In recent years resource links have grown in importance because most major search engines have made it plain that -- in Google's words -- "quantity, quality, and relevance of links count towards your rating."[1]

The engines' insistence on resource links being relevant and beneficial developed because many of the methods described elsewhere in this article -- free-for-all linking, link doping, incestuous linking, overlinking, multi-way linking -- and similar schemes were employed solely to "spam" search-engines, i.e. to "fool" the engines' algorithms into awarding the sites employing these unethical devices undeservedly high page ranks and/or return positions.

Despite cautioning site developers (again quoting from Google) to avoid "'free-for-all' links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines (because) these are typically useless exercises that don't affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines -- at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive,"[2] most major engines have deployed technology designed to "red flag" and potentially penalize sites employing such practices.

Multi-way linking

Multi-way linking is a technique used for website promotion whereby websites may create similar one-way links that each involves 3 or more partner sites. This provides each website with a one-way non-reciprocal link. This technique has evolved from reciprocal linking. The latest search algorithms have evolved to hold less favor towards websites that contain a high percentage of reciprocated links, and a higher favor towards websites that maintain a high level of incoming non-reciprocated (one way) links. How to filter out excessive reciprocal link schemes is even being mentioned in anti link spam patents.[3].

The term multi-way simply refers to the fact that the link exchange is between 3 or more websites, however each link is singular by only pointing to one other website. Other means of linking that may increase your web presence may also include other indirect methods such as loading images, videos, content or RSS feeds from a third partners website.

Link campaign

Link campaigns are a form of online marketing and SEO. A business seeking to increase the number of visitors to its web site can ask its strategic partners, professional organizations, chambers of commerce, suppliers, and customers to add links from their web sites. A link campaign may involve mutual links back and forth between related sites, but it doesn't have to require the reciprocation of links.

Incestuous linking

Incestuous linking is an SEO strategy used by a webmaster to promote a collection of their own web sites, or those of close friends.

Due to the domination of the search engine market by Google, and its underlying PageRank technology, sites are deemed to be more important if they have large numbers of inbound links. If those inbound links are also from highly ranked web sites, they will boost the web site further. With the take-up of blogging and social networking sites such as MySpace, this has resulted in lots of web sites that are inter-linked and can artificially improve the ranking of a web site without merit, i.e. without valuable or unique content.

When the sites are not directly owned, this is referred to as a web clique.


Overlinking in a webpage or another hyperlinked text is the characteristic of having too many hyperlinks.[4][5]

It is characterized by:

  • A large proportion of the words in each sentence being rendered as links.
  • Links that have little information content, such as linking on specific years like 1995, or unnecessary linking of common words used in the common way, for which the reader can be expected to understand the word's full meaning in context, without any hyperlink help.
  • A link for any single term is excessively repeated in the same article. "Excessive" is usually more than one link for the same term in a line or a paragraph, since in this case one or more duplicate links will almost certainly then appear needlessly on the viewer's screen.


The opposites of overlinking are null linking and underlinking, which are phenomena in which hyperlinks are reduced to such a degree as to remove all pointers to a likely-needed context of an unusual term, in the text-area where the term occurs.[5] Underlinking results whenever a reader encounters an odd term in an article (perhaps not even for the first time), and wants to briefly browse more deeply at that point, but he or she cannot without an extensive search of the article for a (possibly non-existent) instance of the linked term.

The extreme case of underlinking is a dead-end page, a page with no links at all. Usability experts discourage making dead-end pages.[6]

Underlinking also occurs when web pages use the rel=nofollow attribute to prevent search engines from considering these links when performing link analysis, weighting or ranking.[7] Wikipedia is a well known example of this kind of underlinking.[8]

Link doping

Link doping refers to the practice and effects of embedding a large number of gratuitous hyperlinks on a website, in exchange for reciprocal links. Mainly used when describing blogs, link doping usually implies that a person hyperlinks to sites he or she has never visited, in return for a place on the website's blogroll, for the sole purpose of inflating the apparent popularity of his or her website. Since the search algorithms of many web directories and search engines rely on the number of hyperlinks to a website to determine its importance or influence, link doping can result in a high placement or ranking for the offending website.

Originally used in an essay published in Sobriquet Magazine and on, link doping has been confused with the related practice of excessive hyperlinking, also known as "link whoring". While the two phrases may be used interchangeably to describe gratuitous linking, link doping carries the additional connotation of deliberately striving to attain a certain level of success for one's website without having earned it through hard work (as an average athlete on steroids might perform better than a naturally gifted athlete not on performance-enhancing drugs).

Free for all linking

A free for all (FFA) link page is a web page set up ostensibly to improve the search engine placement of a particular web site. Webmasters typically will use software to place a link to their site on hundreds of FFA sites, hoping that the resulting incoming links will increase the ranking of their site in search engines. Experts in SEO techniques do not place much value on FFAs. First, most FFAs only maintain a small number of links for a short time, too short for most search engines to pick up. Second, the high "human" traffic to FFA sites is almost completely other webmasters visiting the site to place their own links manually. Finally, search engine algorithms count more than link numbers, they also check relevancy which the unrelated links on FFA sites do not have. Another drawback to FFAs is the amount of spam e-mail webmasters will receive from members of the FFA. Using an FFA can be considered a form of spamdexing.

Link popularity

Link popularity is a measure of the quantity and quality of other web sites that link to a specific site on the World Wide Web. It is an example of the move by search engines towards off-the-page-criteria to determine quality content. In theory, off-the-page-criteria adds the aspect of impartiality to search engine rankings. Link popularity plays an important role in the visibility of a web site among the top of the search results. Indeed, some search engines require at least one or more links coming to a web site, otherwise they will drop it from their index.

Search engines such as Google use a special link analysis system to rank web pages. Citations from other WWW authors help to define a site's reputation. The philosophy of link popularity is that important sites will attract many links. Content-poor sites will have difficulty attracting any links. Link popularity assumes that not all incoming links are equal, as an inbound link from a major directory carries more weight than an inbound link from an obscure personal home page. In other words, the quality of incoming links counts more than sheer numbers of them.[9]

Web popularity and the problems of link popularity

The link popularity does not consider users’ judgement about websites’ content: It only computes the number of links and the website traffic quantity. It seems qualitative becasuse as Robert K. Merton [10] [11] shows speaking about "popular scientist": "popularity is a cumulative process";in fact well known scientists get disproportionately great credit for their contributions to science, while relatively unknown scientists tend to get disproportionately little credit for comparable contributions (the Matthew Effect). However, the popularity in the scientific community is linked to the scientific reader judgements and not as in web comunity, only to the others websites judgements (i.e. the comunity itself). The scientific reader is more aware of this popularity process than a web user, who is forced in a simple click automatism. In this sense, Link popularity is not a real "qualitative" index for three main reason:

1. The linkpopularity is not related to qualitative dimensions of the interaction: As Federici, Borsci, Stamerra, and Mele [12] show, the popularity, as an indirect measuere of the website quality, considers only the web comunity judgements (inlinks) and not the accessibility and the usability dimension of the website. In this sense, linkpopularity does not consider how a websites answers, in qualitative way, to the users needs but, just, how is probable that the information that a user search can be foud in a website.So, the diffculties of the users in order to interact and achieve the information are not considered by the Linkpopularity perspective.

Rich-get-richer phenomenon: The actual ranking algorithms used by the search engines lead to the impossibility for not popular websites to emerge from the web. As Cho et al.[13] [14] show the “rich-get-richer” phenomenon is widespread through the web: the popularity of already popular web pages tends to increase, while the new or not popular pages have less possibility to be clicked.

2. Popularity as illusory perception of a qualitative order in information: As Federici et al.[12] show the link popularity is certainly the main criterion used by search engines both to arrange web information and to reply to users’ queries with effectiveness and efficiency. Yet, this functional order criterion can be misunderstood when users assume that the highest websites in the rank offer better content quality than others. Actual ranking algorith implicitly indicates a quality level concerning the website to the user, and this happens because of a simple perceptive mechanism induced by the web technology, that is founded on a common marketing law: the most a good is sold, the better the good, or rather in this case: The most a website is clicked, the better the website. Search engines order any query outputs in a top-down hierarchical sequence starting from the greatest ranking level website to the lowest. So the highest website occurring in the rank is perceived by users as qualitatively better than others, i.e. as the best answer to the users’ queries. In this way, it has become a common idea that search engines and ranking lists are structured to offer as fast as possible the best answer to the users’ queries. A certain “cognitive consonance”, according to which websites with best rank value have the best content quality (i.e. demand met supply), has produced a circular and vicious process: since popular websites are already better reachable in the virtual space (that meaning they will probabilistically get more clicks), they will always be more popular. Since they appear in the first rank positions, popular website is more likely to be clicked and this effect influences both users’ choices and information use. In this way, quality becomes a mere technological product that informs and forms users’ reality, influencing their judgements and choices, while they become part of a process induced by the same technological tools that they operate.

Definition of popularity in the world wide web context:

Federici et al.[12] define, using the common definition in Webster dictionary, the “popularity” as a threefold meaning comcept: 1. the first meaning concerns with the features of that which is stated of being popular: “the quality or state of being popular (…) adapted to common people”. In this “objective” sense, popular concerns with the accessibility structure of information that is popular because it do not offer resistance (barriers) to users. 2. The second meaning of popularity refers to the attitudes or believes of people: “the state of being esteemed by people at large (…) or pleasing to common people”. In this “subjective” sense, popularity concerns with the people perspective onto the features of objects. This is what we trace back to “usability”, namely, what is deemed popular on web by the users because of suitable, friendly, satisfactory. 3. The last popularity meaning concerns the pursuing an aim: “Something which obtains, or is intended to obtain, the favor of the vulgar (…) The act of courting the favor of the people”. In this sense, the popularity is not just a feature of an object (accessibility) nor a (user) self-representation of an object (usability), rather than it is the set goal reached, namely the website wide-spreading, such as say, its “linkability”.

These authors propose a large definition of popularity in the web context (the Web Popolarity): Web popularity is a property that is attributed to a website when it is well widespread on Internet by the means of inbound and outbound links (linkability/link-popularity), the information is accessible for all users (accessibility), and when users esteem its use as efficient, effective, and satisfactory (usability).

Link bait

Link bait is any content or feature within a website that somehow baits viewers to place links to it from other websites. Matt Cutts defines link bait as anything "interesting enough to catch people's attention."[15] Link bait can be an extremely powerful form of marketing as it is viral in nature.

Link bait in search engine optimization

The quantity and quality of inbound links are two of the many metrics used by a search engine ranking algorithm to rank a website. Link bait creation falls under the task of link building, and aims to increase the quantity of high-quality, relevant links to a website. Part of successful linkbaiting is devising a mini-PR campaign around the release of a link bait article so that bloggers and social media users are made aware and can help promote the piece in tandem. Social media traffic can generate a substantial amount of links to a single web page. Sustainable link bait is rooted in quality content.

Types of link bait

Although there are no clear-cut subdivisions within link bait, many attempt to divide them into types of hooks. This is a short list of some of the most common approaches with brief descriptions:

  • Informational hooks - Provide information that a reader may find very useful. Some rare tips and tricks or any personal experience through which readers can benefit.
  • News hooks - Provide fresh information and obtain citations and links as the news spreads.
  • Humor hooks - Tell a funny story or a joke. A bizarre picture of your subject or mocking cartoons can also prove to be link bait.
  • Evil hooks - Saying something unpopular or mean may also yield a lot of attention. Writing about something that is not appealing about a product or a popular blogger. Provide strong reasons for it.
  • Tool hooks - Create some sort of tool that is useful enough that people link to it.
  • Widgets hooks - A badge or tool, that can be placed or embedded on other websites, with a link included.
  • Unique content hooks - This hook is intended for people that are in need of unique contents or articles for traffic or AdSense revenue. This became popular after Google implemented Duplicate Contents Filter and sites with duplicate contents saw fall in traffic. To use this hook, you have to create unique contents and give it out to Bloggers and webmasters with an obligation to put link back to your site.

Forum signature linking

Forum signature linking is a technique used to build backlinks to a website. This is the process of using forum communities that allow outbound hyperlinks in their member's signature. This can be a fast method to build up inbound links to a website; it can also produce some targeted traffic if the website is relevant to the forum topic. It should be stated that forums using the nofollow attribute will have no actual Search Engine Optimization value.

Link broker

A link broker is a company that allows you to buy or rent links. Link brokerages function in a few different ways but all offer the same service: selling or renting you links. The quality of the sites, the links they sell and the prices vary greatly, as do the effects those links can have at the search engines.

Blind link

Some links are created to intentionally hide the ultimate destination of a link until the user has clicked on it. It's accomplished via redirection (possibly a URL shortening service) or client-side JavaScript. Blind links are usually used for deceptive or advertising reasons, and are most associated with TGPs and Rickrolling.

Blog comments

Leaving a comment on a blog can result in a relevant do follow link to the individual's website. Most of the time however leaving a comment on a blog turns into a no follow link, which is almost useless in the eyes of search engines such as Google and Yahoo. On the other hand, most blog comments get clicked on by the readers of the blog if the comment is well thought out and pertains to the discussion of the other commenters and the post on the blog.

See also


  1. ^ "Link schemes" Google webmaster central
  2. ^ "Search Engine Optimization (SEO)" Google webmaster central
  3. ^ " Encyclopedia". PC Magazine.,2542,t=overlinking&i=48688,00.asp. Retrieved 2007-01-19. 
  4. ^ a b Dvorak, John C. (April 2002.) "Missing Links". PC Magazine. Archived from the original on November 22 2004. Original link inaccessible 26 February 2009.
  5. ^ Design Tip: Avoid Dead End Pages
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Factors influencing link value" (web). December 2007. 
  9. ^ Merton, RK (1968). "The Matthew Effect in Science". Science 159: pp. 56-63. 
  10. ^ Merton, RK (1988). "The Matthew Effect in Science, II: Cumulative advantage and the symbolism of intellectual property". ISIS 79: pp. 606-23. 
  11. ^ a b c Federici,S., Borsci,S., Stamerra,G., and Mele,M. (2010). "Web popularity: an illusory perception of a qualitative order in information". Universal Access in the Information Society. doi:10.1007/s10209-009-0179-7. 
  12. ^ Cho, J. and Roy, S. (2004). "Impact Of Search Engines On Page Popularity". International World Wide Web Conference. 
  13. ^ Cho, J., Roy, S. and Adams, R.E. (2005). "Page Quality: In Search of an Unbiased Web Ranking". SIGMOD: pp. 551-562. 
  14. ^ "SEO Advice: linkbait and linkbaiting" (web). Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 

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