Since Google’s Jagger update, during 2005, the internet has become a fermenting ground for pundits advising us on how and why we are going to be penalised by Google if we continue using tried and tested techniques that previously worked well.

Most of this advice is pure mythology. So, it is time to examine these myths and discuss why they are myths.

Firstly, let us be clear about one thing: everything said about how to improve Google ranking is theory, unless Google says it themselves. The problem is that some of the theories are just plain wrong.

Myth 1) Linking from link farms will get you penalised by Google. WRONG. It may well be that it does your website absolutely no good at all, but why should Google penalise a website when, if this were the case, a competitor could add links to your site from link farms? I do not believe that Google, or any other search engine, will penalise a site because of what an unscrupulous competitor may do.

Myth 2) Involving your website in reciprocal link trading will get your website penalised by Google. WRONG. There are legitimate reasons for sites linking to each other, therefore, why would a site be penalised for what may be a perfectly legitimate link exchange? Reciprocal linking does not carry anywhere near the weight it used to do, it has been downgraded by Google, but reciprocal links will not harm your website, and in fact, maintain some value, though much reduced.

Myth 3) If sites that are considered “Bad neighbourhoods” link to your site, you will be penalised by Google. WRONG. Webmasters have absolutely no control over who links to their site. It would be unethical for Google to penalise a site due to the actions of other third party sites.

So why does this confusion exist?

Most of what I’ve said above is self explanatory, but maybe a little more comment is needed on the subject of bad neighbourhoods.

Bad neighbourhoods are websites that have been penalised or banned by Google. If you link TO a bad neighbourhood site you are, in the eyes of Google, guilty by association. And may be penalised. But, as I’ve already said, if they link to you it is out of your control; they are associating with you, not you with them.

So how do I know if a website is a bad neighbourhood? Simple, first you need to download and install the Google toolbar. As, no doubt, you are already aware, the Google toolbar shows the page rank (PR) of any website you visit. If the website you wish to link to has a PR allocated you are safe. If the PR is zero, but the indicator bar is just a white background, then you are safe. But beware; if the indicator background is grey, this means Google will not even allocate a PR=0 to this site, you are looking at a bad neighbourhood website – do not link to this site.

General Considerations.

Although links from link farms will not get you penalised, they are of no value, so why bother?

Although reciprocal links have been downgraded, they still have some value. So, link wisely to related content sites only. The importance of the site linking to you will be of more value to your site than a less important site, but personally, I do not mind linking to a related site with a PR=0, it is probably a new site that is still in the Google sandbox, and may gain a high PR at some future date.

It is a good idea to periodically check whether the sites you are linking to are still safe – avoid greyed out PR indicators.

And finally, the best advice of all, generate one way links to your website. One way links are the most important links you can have. But even these vary in importance according to the PR of the linking sites, the wise use of anchor text, and the relevance of the linking page/site.

I will have more to say on that subject in a future article.

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