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Free for All Link Exchanges
Jun 25, 2004

Free for All Links: Links are often mentioned as an important aspect of website promotion, and you'll find recommendations of all sorts about how to best use them. But not all links will further your search engine optimization (SEO), and some may even scuttle it, so here's some explanation to help you avoid link pitfalls.

What Are Links?

The name link is a nickname for a hyperlink, an element in a web document connecting it to another section of that document (an internal link) or to another document somewhere on the web (an external link). External links can be used for a variety of purposes, including advertisement and promotion.

Besides being categorized as internal and external, links can be categorized by where they appear. It is possible to have links in running text, where they are generally identified by being a different color (and turn to a third color once they've been clicked). A link page where external links are collected and categorized is another popular place for links to appear. Thirdly, many advertisements, which may appear in a frame or elsewhere, show a graphic or text that is a link.

Using HTML, links can be set in at least two ways: the first is to replace the current page in the user's browser; the second is to create a new window (or tab) in the browser, while maintaining the connection with the address on your site. Because your visitor stays in contact with you with the second style of link, it is usually preferable.

What Are Free For All's and Link Farms?

There are various definitions of both Free For All's (FFAs) and Link Farms, so we have to define them before we can talk about them. Some people consider them the same thing. while others consider them two separate issues. The separate definitions is what we'll used here. We'll call a group of websites in which every site is linked to every other site regardless of theme and subject to be a link farm.  (Be sure not to confuse this with a webring, a group of topically linked sites.)

The (usually fly-by-night) websites that are simply a list of links with the newest submission topping the lists are what is known as FFAs. Known for their ability to generate spam to submitters, they are difficult to disengage from, once you've signed up. 

"Link Schemes"

Link schemes is the name Google uses for any links created solely to try to affect a website's page rank, and it takes a dim view of all such attempts to manipulate the system, as detailed in the Google Webmaster Help Center article "Link Schemes." Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller warns webmasters this article has all rights reserved and is copyright by 100 Best to be wary of links that wouldn't exist if there were no such things as search engines and/or that you would be ashamed of people knowing about, such as links your visitors can't see (

Besides links created only to increase page rank, Google also warns against links that are purchased and not either marked with a <nofollow> for the robots (see the article, More About <meta> Tags for an explanation of how to do this) or otherwise kept from influencing search engines; links to any kind of questionable site, whether run by spammers or home to any questionable (or illegal) materal; and "excessive" reciprocal links or link exchanges.


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