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Nine Reasons to Ignore Three-Way Link Requests

“So if I understand correctly,
you want to offer me a minor league bench-warmer
in exchange for one of my star players?”

Like you, we are inundated with link requests. Some are worthwhile; some are not. Obviously if the topics are way off base, we don’t pay any further attention. If the topic is on-base, we give the site a quick eyeball test.

But what do you do when a three-way link is requested? Just to understand correctly, a three way link is when a webmaster or hired gun requests a link from your site to their site, and offer in exchange a link from another website altogether.

Here are nine solid reasons to ignore such emails…

There is more work up front, because there are two websites to evaluate for one linking opportunity. Given the relatively few worthwhile requests, it really is not worth having to work twice as hard to decide whether to pay further attention, when you can work many times less hard by just deleting.

As a general rule, three-way linking requests are on average of a lower quality than straight two-way swaps. So there is even more incentive to delete the message rather than work twice as hard to review it.

Most three-way link requests want you to give a link from your high-quality website (your star player), but offer you a link from their low-quality website (their bench-warmer). If they are not interested in linking back from their quality site, why should you even bother?

The website they are promoting is the one they want a link to, naturally. Over time, as they build ever more links, a link from that site will become valuable. They offer a link from a site they are not promoting, which through attrition will become less valuable. Yet they are asking you to link to them from the site you are promoting and making more valuable. Fair? I think not.

Very often the website they want to link to you from is not even theirs. Very often, it belongs to a linking specialist they have hired. The linking website in most of those cases exists solely to provide reciprocal links, making is not only poor quality, but also expendable; when the linking campaign is over, the hired guns have no interest in keeping your link, poor quality as it is, live.

With alarming regularity, three-way link requests come in offering return links from the same website, often a directory. Link to Site A and get a link back from PainInTheButtDirctory.com. The next day, link to Site B and get a link back from PainInTheButtDirctory.com. The next day, link to Site C and get a link back from PainInTheButtDirctory.com. The next day, link to Site D and get a link back from PainInTheButtDirctory.com. It’s actually kind of amusing in an annoying, make-them-stop sort of way.

Contrary to popular opinion, a three-way link does not fool Google and Yahoo, at least not if it is done on any measurable scale. If a website has a high percentage of inbound links from websites that are all linked to from the same website or family of websites…well, let’s just say that the one thing huge data processors are expert at is recognizing patterns. ‘nough said.

Do the search engines value three-way links more than two way links? Some people swear by it. I have no data to back up the assumption I am about to share with you, and I could be very wrong. However, I suspect that the search engines see two-way link swaps as both a means of boosting link popularity sometimes and as a means of partnership marketing sometimes. What percentage probability they attribute to which characteristic is likely based on features of the linking pages. However, when there is a three-way linking pattern detected, I am pretty sure the search engines would attribute close to 100% probability that the links are solely to manipulate their ranking of your website. When else do you ever hear of three-way linking? I suspect that these links are seen as fairly dark gray-hat SEO, if not black hat.

The very last place you want to be found in is in a link directory that is solely used for three-way links. It’s like waving a big red flag and calling out, “Hey there, Google. Yoohoo, Yahoo. Lookit me. I’m messing with your rankings.” Is that the message you want to send the search engines about your website.

blackhat1 whitehat2

Are there legitimate three-way link requests? I have to add this footnote, because there is nothing black and white, not even SEO hats. There are some rare situations where a brand new website approaches us with a link request. They know that their links page carries no weight and might not even be indexed or cached by the search engines. In other words, they know they have nothing of value to offer in return. So they offer a link from another website. This happens rarely, but when it is specified that this is the reason, I usually take the time to look at their website and consider their offer. And, assuming the site seems worthwhile, I sometimes ask for a link back from their “worthless” page, knowing that over time it will be worthwhile…and in many cases more so than the third-party link page that seems more worthwhile in the short term.

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35 Responses to “Nine Reasons to Ignore Three-Way Link Requests”

  1. Frank (1 comments) Says:

    As a beginner with Internet Marketing, I had never heard of three-way linking. Sounds unscrupulous to me. There must be checks and balances to keep this type of thing in check. Thanks for the education~!

    Frank

  2. Nathan (2 comments) Says:

    I've never actually done three-way linking. I don't know why, but it just never seemed like a good idea to me. Good job on actually spelling it all out.

  3. web development (1 comments) Says:

    Previously i think 3 way link is beneficial but reading to this blog many of my doubts are clear for 3 way link, thanks for sharing all these 9 points.

  4. Jens (1 comments) Says:

    Sure it's an opinion with some good reasons, but if you change fair on three-way linking and have good quality on your "second" site, there is nothing better then three-way linking.

  5. Winston Salem Movers (1 comments) Says:

    I had heard of three way linking but thought it was a generally well accepted practice. Thanks for giving the other perspective on this, I will think twice abuot 3-way opportunities from now on. -Jeff

  6. wilson (40 comments) Says:

    An applause for David here! Honestly, I didn't know the proper ways to do the three-way linking and I also don't want to do it at all!

    PS: Nice white and black hats, David. Do you have any Grey hat?

  7. Marketing Guy (2 comments) Says:

    Points 4 and 7 are the most compelling for me. 3 years ago I would spend time evaluating link requests and it was worth my while. Now there are so many scam requests and low quality offers about, I just delete link emails from people I don't know and trust.

  8. David Leonhardt (143 comments) Says:

    I've actually been thinking we should have blue-hat SEO and green-hat SEO – I just need to find good definitions for them. :-)

  9. Harry Baldwin (1 comments) Says:

    I've just started getting these requests for my sites in the past 2 months or so. It's almost as if I'm on some "3 way linking request" list or something.

    I do find a lot of them offer links back from the same old junky sites, but some seem decent. As you say though, just checking them out takes a long time and is generally a waste of time.

  10. CashMaker (1 comments) Says:

    +1 for bluehat haha. By the way, you forgot to mention that most search engines don't like 3-way link exchange and I even know that some people got banned from Google for exchanging links in this way.

  11. David Leonhardt (143 comments) Says:

    Well, there are some good requests, mostly for straight link exchanges. Even if most of them are junk, I find it is worth paying attention. Consider how hard you have to work to build links, and here is someone coming to you with an offer. If it passes the eyeball test, I find it's worth paying further attention.

  12. Milwaukee SEO (1 comments) Says:

    This post is dead-on. 3-way exchanges are one of the most worthless ways to build links. Practically all the requests I've ever gotten are to sites of questionable value (online pharmacy, gambling, etc.) and I have no interest in providing links to these. There are far better ways to spend my time building links that reviewing requests like that.

  13. Online Shopping (10 comments) Says:

    Nowadays, SEO is not using three way linking as it takes up time and there are no guarantee.Thanks for sharing! I have learnt loads through your post!

  14. DSFlyman (1 comments) Says:

    Point 5 and 9 seem to overlap. Yes, it sounds like a waste of time, but for all intents and purposes it just seems like that extra link is not only going to be from a poor quality site, but often just a painted up (if that) link farm

  15. Nashville SEO (2 comments) Says:

    Definitely stay away from any of those 3 way link exchanges. If Google figures out what your doing (Which they probably will) then your PR and SERPs are going to be in trouble. That's if they don't end up blackballing your website. Black SEO is a dangerous game, just work smart and be patient and the search engines will promote your site… end of story.

  16. SEO Tips (1 comments) Says:

    Three way links are of no use or very little use.Neither are reciprocal links of much use.Nothing compares a one way link building.I think Social bookmarking and feeds submission directory are natural link and traffic building places.

  17. Lauren Reagan (1 comments) Says:

    Wow, I have never heard of this 3 way linking, amazing what you learn while surfing the net late at night.
    Lauren Reagan

  18. Gadgets (1 comments) Says:

    I hate three way link exchange request. Sometimes I want to exchange with good PR site by post request on some forums, but I've only 3way link exchange request, I hate them because my backlink from bad blog with bad PR or traffic.

  19. silver earring (1 comments) Says:

    I never been invited to do a three way linking. It's good I run across your article, and I will follow your advice about this. Thanks.

  20. SEO (17 comments) Says:

    Very important information to share with us thanks. stay away from any of those 3 way link exchanges. If Google figures out what your doing (Which they probably will) then your PR and SERPs are going to be in trouble.

  21. Hicham Maged (3 comments) Says:

    I agree with you. The important thing while linking is the 'quality' of the link you are sharing. On the other hand, what is the importance of a link if it's outside your niche? The only exception for what I mentioned here, and this is personal insight, is the links you placed for being into other directories.

  22. Minneapolis SEO (1 comments) Says:

    I think you nailed it on the head, why try to manipulate Google and other search engines? There are so many ways to get quality links that (as you mentioned) the work is simply not worth it. Link exchanges are worrisome as you have to monitor the link and make sure that the site you are linking too doesn't get looked down upon by the big Google. There is nothing that will hurt your rankings more than linking to a "bad neighborhood"

  23. Seo Services Company (1 comments) Says:

    I've never actually done three-way linking. I was thinking to use this link building techniques to see its results but thanks a lot for posting this article. you actually have saved a lot valuable time of mine's as well as of others too!

    Again Thanks and Keep it Up!

    Regards,
    Sohaib

  24. sarki dinle (2 comments) Says:

    Three way links are of no use or very little use.Neither are reciprocal links of much use.Nothing compares a one way link building.I think Social bookmarking and feeds submission directory are natural link and traffic building places.

  25. Charles Peeler (1 comments) Says:

    First off, thank you for the post. I have been moving up and down for the past month on google. I have been as high as page one number 6 and now dropped to page 2 and with another main keyword page 4. My SEO guy says DO NOT DO the linking trick. He warned me that I would get hammered soon. But all the ones that moved above me out of nowhere are doing it. I will sit tight and buy my time. TY

  26. islamda cinsellik (1 comments) Says:

    Definitely stay away from any of those 3 way link exchanges. If Google figures out what your doing (Which they probably will) then your PR and SERPs are going to be in trouble. That's if they don't end up blackballing your website. Black SEO is a dangerous game, just work smart and be patient and the search engines will promote your site… end of story.

  27. Milwaukee Web Design (1 comments) Says:

    3 way link exchanges are a thing of the past. However, based on my time in the field and doing competitor research, I can find examples that these three way link farms and how they definitely helped to push them to the top for major keywords. Once those companies are there, and combined with good content and solid click-throughs with limited bouncing, they tend to stay there.

  28. MN Web Design (1 comments) Says:

    3 way link building is ridiculous – i get these solicitations all the time

  29. Chicago Health (1 comments) Says:

    Thanks for the post. I have seen differing opinions about this topic. You back up your opinion with some very good points. It appears that until google releases any additional info about three way links the best practice is to avoid them. Thanks for sharing.

  30. Dave Trenton (1 comments) Says:

    Well, 3 way link services around and still working fine for a lot of people, so not sure how this theory and content piece are valid. Has there been a case study done to prove this or is it just theory?

  31. Health Quote (2 comments) Says:

    I agree there is no good reason for these link exchanges these days. Wasting your link juice on a link return scheme is just not worth either the risk or the reward.

  32. Peter Armenti (1 comments) Says:

    Not to sound stupid.. but I'm pretty sure I just got better results commenting on this thread than accepting a 3-way link request :)

  33. Grout Revive (1 comments) Says:

    I'd have to concur with you Peter.. I don't see why people waste effort on such things. They apparently don't value their time

  34. Long Island (1 comments) Says:

    As the owner of a regional social networking website.. I get these kinds of requests all the time.. all I can say is.. delete, delete, delete :)

  35. certsquare (1 comments) Says:

    Contrary to popular opinion, a three-way link does not fool Google and Yahoo, at least not if it is done on any measurable scale. If a website has a high percentage of inbound links from websites that are all linked to from the same website or family of websites…

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