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Some unscrupulous folk give reciprocal links a bad name.Here are some other phrases that might have brought you to this page.
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Reciprocal links are links from one web site to another with a corresponding link back. Linking is a large part of the infrastructure of the World Wide Web. In fact it wouldn't be a "web" without links linking all the various web sites together. Links between sites are like roads. They "carry traffic" so to speak from one place to another. Like roads they come in all shapes and sizes and they vary from worn paths across fields to lanes, roads and highways.
If you have a web site and you want visitors it needs links. Obviously if someone knows the URL (Unique Resource Locator) or "web address" they can type it into their browser but most of the time people visit your site by clicking on a link from another web site.
If lots of people who run web sites think your web site is good then many might link to it. This will increase the availability or the "visibility" of your web site and you will get more traffic. There is another reason why links to your web site are good and that is because the megalith "Google", and many other search engines, give a web site a higher rating if it has lots of links to it from other sites.
So, for example, if John's bicycle shop has a web site and hundreds of other web sites link to it and Samantha's bicycle shop web site has only two links to it then a search for "bicycle" on Google would put John's web site higher in the list than Samantha's. The idea being that John's bicycle shop is more relevant to the user because it is more popular. So by having more links to your web site you get two boosts to your traffic!
Some people specialise in helping promote websites. They are often called SEOs which stands for Search Engine Optimisers. (see more about SEOing) It seems reasonable that one method they employ is to try to get lots of links to the web site and one way to do this is to find sites with relevant content and to ask the owner to link to their site. Often times people might even say yes but not bother. But a good incentive is to offer a link back. This way both parties gain by increasing the links to their web site. On the basis of this idea some unscrupulous folk started creating sites that are called "link farms". Web sites that simply create thousands of reciprocal links. Often they pose as directories like the phone book and once they have a web site with a lot of traffic they can, of course, have prominent links to their own web sites. They also start generating a lot of spam as their robots trawl the web and send emails to any contacts they find requesting a reciprocal link. It can be all automated. Their software creates a link on their site and sends an email offering a reciprocal link. Their software keeps checking for the reciprocal link and sends reminders and even threats if the reciprocal link doesn't appear. It is easy to spot these emails because they are impersonal starting with "Dear Webmaster" and then go on to explain that they have read the content of your site and think it is very good and relevant (even if you only have pictures).
On account of this unscrupulous behaviour Google started to downgrade link farms. It all becomes a little difficult and if one takes the philosophical issues of people's rights to create what they like then Google is being dictatorial but one can also take the pragmatic and statistical view that the fact is these link farms are falsely generating traffic for selfish motives and ruining the free flow of the web.
In general creating a lot of relevant and selected linking is good and will have the desirable consequences of helping people find stuff they are interested in and of a higher ranking in search engines.
Here are some links to web sites that have some connection with this one and where there are reciprocal links with us. If you feel that your site has some relevance to this site, either because it has useful related content, or because of views you like (or dislike), or for any other reason please send me an email requesting a reciprocal link and most often we will oblige. (But do go to the Contact page and send an email addressed to Sam) The links don't have to be on this page. I like to put links to interesting sites all over Toxic Drums.