It’s Better Up There – SEO Experiment

This website has been developed as part of an experiment to test if reciprocal links still have a powerful effect on search engine rankings, specifically on Google.com.au. As a byproduct of this experiment we also hope to help some local Australian businesses improve their online visibility and branding. Yes, that means you!

About 5 years ago, when I first started learning about SEO, I was told that reciprocal linking passed on no value and if I wanted to successfully link together a number of sites, a link wheel was required. Google’s algorithm has changed a lot since then and more recently we have heard Matt Cutts of Google discuss how sites with quality content that are authorities in any particular area can all rank well despite all linking to each other. (I think the example he used was about 5 sites containing information about bats, but I can’t seem to find the video. If anyone knows which one it is please let me know so I can post it here.)

Reciprocal Backlinking

A reciprocal link denotes a situation where site A links to site B, and site B also links to site A.

Despite this, a number of SEO companies claim that as of mid-April this year, Google now discount ALL reciprocal links, citing a Google Webmaster Tools page on link schemes as evidence. This assumption seems incorrect to me, firstly because the first line on that guide says “may be considered part of a link scheme”, which also means it also may not.

Secondly, discounting all reciprocal links would not give a fair indication of any given company’s real value as many cross promote or have partnerships with other firms where legitimate reciprocal linking is involved. To discount these entirely would reduce the accuracy of Google’s listings.

My theory is that reciprocal links do pass on value as long as they are not built to excess. To test this theory we are going to link to a number of Australian businesses and try and rank for the keywords “SEO”, which is arguably the most competitive keyword possible on Google Australia, and “SEO Experiment”. The rules of this experiment, chosen to get the most accurate results are:

  • Australian businesses only of any type will be considered.
  • We will not build over 50 outbound links in the first stage of the experiment.
  • All anchor text will be made up of business names only.
  • A sentence of up to 160 characters describing the business is also allowed. We suggest putting some of your keywords in here, however it must read as correct English and not be keyword stuffed.
  • Businesses with dodgy back link profiles or shady moral standing will not be accepted. This is completely at our discretion. We will also not accept sites who have a large percentage of their existing back link profiles built through reciprocal or bought links.
  • Multiple listings from sites already linking to each other will be rejected.
  • All sites are requested to link back to this domain URL.

Every attempt will be made to stay within Google’s Guidelines during this experiment. While some people may find this laughable (as they believe link exchanges violate them outright), the guidelines are very subjective and we will do all that we can to provide unique and interesting content in the form of the experiment and results and a good user experience, which is what Matt Cutts says Google wants.

For more information and a breakdown on how we intend to stay within Google’s Guidelines please see this page.

Finally, for those of you who are familiar with SEO, you may have noticed that this URL has some existing authority in the form of PageRank, Domain Authority, and Page Authority etc. This is because prior to our purchasing of this domain, it was used as a promotional website for the movie Elysium, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. This had absolutely no bearing on our decision to purchase the domain.

If you have any comments about this experiment; criticisms, or ideas on how we can improve the results please feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section below.

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