“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.
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.Written by David Leonhardt
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