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The ABC's of link trading

SEO is a confusing topic.  Many people run away from it because of a bunch of confusing jargon and the black box nature of Google’s ranking system.  Other people hire professionals to help boost their rankings.  I respect the pros that devote their lives to this field but I don’t feel that basic SEO is all that difficult.  In my opinion, SEO is something that should be hands on and done in house.  There is NO substitute for excellent content, however, it helps to have some back links from other internet sites to bring in people to see your excellent content.  If you are trying to tackle long tail keywords, this gets even easier because you aren’t up against so much competition.

Pick a strong anchor – There are countless articles on the web regarding anchor text.  Don’t get silly with it.  Make the anchor something that someone would ACTUALLY click on, not just something some keyword-packed garbage that clutter’s the site and makes you look like a spammer.  If you can use it in conversation within your content, even better, it gets counted as more relevant.

Spread out your links – This is not what you think.  Make sure the sites are linking between are on separate classes C IP ranges.  In other words, if your domain points at ip address, make sure the site(s) you are trading with are one a different ip range like or even  These are fictitious ip addresses but they are meant to illustrate my point.  Google gives more relevancy to OTHERS talking about you rather than you talking about yourself.  If you are on and, those two addresses are in the same range so google decides you are just pointing two of your own sites at each other.  This is good for your user experience meaning that you need to cross link your sites so your customers have the benefit of finding all of your web properties but if you do too much of this, Google’s ranking system could penalize you.

Purchased links –  This is a waste of time and money.  Most of these sorts of services use link farms. Link farms are a kiss of death to your search engine ranks and I highly recommend you follow that link and read about them because you could potentially get blacklisted from a search engine altogether for appearing in link farm.

Reciprocal link trades – sometimes you want to link two or more of your sites together so that your clients can see that you have many web properties to serve their needs in different ways.  For instance, I use my blog as a portal to all of my web properties.  Conversely, I link from all of my other sites, back to Rostad Realty.  If you do this excessively, you could potentially drive your page rank down.  How much is too much?  Only Google knows.  It’s all locked up in Google’s black box algorithm and they aren’t telling.  Ultimately the SEO should never be at the expense of user experience.  I don’t think you really need to worry about too many cross linking sites unless your sites have no actual content.

ABC link trading concept

ABC link trading concept

ABC link trading – Here is a way, if done correctly, to boost your page rank more dramatically compared to some of the other strategies.  Say that you own and  Now you have a friend who owns  Give your friend a  backlink (with his choice of anchor text) from your siteA to his siteB.  Now, your friend will give you a backlink (with your choice of anchor text) from to  Now you EACH have one-way links pointing at each other and google won’t see these as reciprocated links which are ranked lower.  By the way, there is no rule against using this strategy for yourself if you have enough sites at different hosting companies.  Here are the caveats:

  • Make sure EACH site is on a different Class C IP range.
  • Make sure you and your friend have similar traffic on and so that it’s an equal trade.
  • and get a boost but does not.
  • DON’T get the bright idea to link back to  That could be seen by Google as intent to manipulate your page ranking.
  • Don’t get greedy with this concept or it will start looking like purchased links or trades which will be counterproductive.
  • The trade should make sense from a user base standpoint.  If you are a Realtor, don’t do an ABC trade with a waterbed factory for instance.  Keep everything relevant to your content.
  • Finally, most importantly, make sure you have the content to back up your efforts.  This is all a waste of time if you don’t have something to “close” the client or lead them down the next step of your funnel.
  • Don’t do more than one of these without some additional reading and reasearch.  There are risks to this strategy but most of them stem around getting greedy or going overboard with it.

I will come right out and say that some of this is heresay.  Google locks their secrets away to protect them from exploitation.  Their ultimate goal is for people to find what they are looking for.  They are always re-evaluating what they are doing to make sure this goal is met.  This goes back to my advice that you need to prioritize quality of content over the any sort of SEO effort.  The BEST chance you have at truely getting instead Google’s head is by reading Matt Cutts’ blog starting with this post he wrote on page rank sculptingMatt Cutts is the head of the webspam team at Google.

About Geordy Rostad

I am a real estate agent in Kirkland, WA. I am constantly looking for new ways to innovate and expand my business and online presence. I have been an agent since 2002 but a lot has changed since then. We have awesome new tools to use to market our listings and ourselves and other tools to assess our efforts. Client expectations have dramatically shifted as well. Staging, photography, flyers and of course online marketing have all become more complex and central to winning customers and marketing listings.

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  • I would highly suggest everyone read Matt’s post about PageRank sculpting if you haven’t already. 🙂


  • Bob Stoneburner


    This all assumes that SEO is important to individual agents. Internet leads that stumble on an agent or brokerage site are usually poor and convert and close less than 1% of the time. The vast majority of traffic to both individual agent and broker sites is direct navigation. This is followed by search engines where people type in the name they wish to find. This is then followed by multiple misspellings of that name. Referral from keywords such as ‘homes for sale in seattle’ ‘san francisco real estate’ are already dominated by major portals with full time SEO staff.

    The time spent optimizing individual agent websites (who’s value is debatable given the popularity of driving traffic to Facebook, blogs and agent profile pages on portal sites) is likely better spent on other lead generation efforts. Contrary to popular belief, Google is fairly low down the list of best ways to generate leads and build brand awareness.

  • Bob Stoneburner

    Gasp…..I know this is blasphemy and we’ve all been lead to believe Google will deliver more business than we can handle to our doorstep….but the truth is, a good CRM program, solid client management and following up with past clients still works best.

  • I would shy away from the link exchanges, even the ABC trade. It’s been about three years, since a majority of the agent websites got nailed my Google for massive reciprocal link exchanges. I would stick to writing great content and blogging.

    Just my 2 cents…

  • All good points that I considered when writing this blog.

    Bob, I agree. Wasting time optimizing an individual site is MOSTLY useless if you are going after big fish such as “homes for sale in seattle”. There is no point in that. An individual has little hope of even ranking in that mess. However, if you want long tails or smaller fish, it could make sense. Say someone is looking for “blue ridge lynnwood real estate” (It’s a neighborhood in Lynnwood, WA). Then getting a little bit of SEO in place to jumpstart that could help if you have content on the backend that truly pitches you as THE expert for that area.

    Ryan, this is why I stated, don’t get greedy with it. If you get greedy with this strategy it will surely backfire but if you are simply trying to make a couple of trades to build some small steady traffic, these strategies can be useful.

    If nothing else, generating a little traffic to your site is good data for your listing presentation. Even if that 1 in 1,000,000 visitor doesn’t buy your listing or use you as a buyer’s agent.

  • I think one of the most valuable link building strategies that is often overlooked is this: Build a website that’s worth linking to.

    Search engines reward quality and quality sites get linked to more often than poor quality sites.

  • All good points here. I would be careful with the ABC trading, as google is almost like big brother these days. You can game it today, but on their next algo update, you could be caught. The penalty box is a terrible place to play in.

  • Great point, Steve.

    It’s never good to create an adversarial relationship with someone you’re so dependent on for valuable traffic.

  • I would stir away from link exchanges. I think Ed is right on 🙂

  • Glad to see my post stirring up some discussion at least. Yes, I agree with all of you 100%. Writing good content should be your primary goal. If you don’t have good content, it really doesn’t matter how many back links you have because your reader will leave just as fast as they came.

  • Getting natural links will only help. Going for the link farms will not help at all. that is actually more dangerous.

  • Bob Stoneburner

    Geordy: Granded,individual agents can show up in organic search results with very specific keywords.

    However, I have yet to see an individual agent website that has a comparible search experience to that of a major portal. Hence an agent website becomes little more than an online brochure in the minds of consumers.

    Agents can accomplish the same objective for SEO with an agent profile page on a major broker site, or even a Facebook profile. Individual agent websites are simply unnecessary if your brokerage has a decent portal. This is especially true if they offer minor optimization tools for their agents profile pages.

    Agent websites are considered necessary primarily because brokerages have allowed third party web companies to come in and sell agents on the idea that they need a website. In exchange, brokerages are rebated back a percentage of agent sales.

    The reality is, internet leads that find your site from search are very poor leads and rarely convert. This is true even at the broker level where the largest portals close less than 0.01% of total visitors and less than 1% of total inquiries.

    Tinkering with your website or its rank in search does little to increase actual business. Of all activities designed to increase sphere and generate leads, SEO should rank among the lowest in terms of priority.

  • Geordy,

    Good rundown on SEO. The ABC link trading is a nifty idea and needs more study so I can get my arms fully around it. Undoubtedly, figuring out SEO is a never-ending quest.

  • Matt Cutts Pagerank Sculpting is very interesting. Webmasters take note and you will be rewarded in the long term.

  • I have to disagree that trying to optimize an individual agents website is pointless. While personal experience would support the notion that the bulk of the leads and individual agent gets will be difficult to convert, let alone useless, it’s really a numbers game and if you get enough leads….some will be good. This all goes along with content and blogging and keeping your visitors on your site…but it sure beats holding open houses and sending out mailers with conversion rates probably not all that better than that of internet leads.

  • I liked it i am open to trade links if anybody is intrested look my website and quality of it and how it is not full of spam!

  • Very cool, good information Geordy.

  • Yes, it does not seem reciprocal links are very effective anymore.

  • Thanks for the info about class C IP ranges. Never heard of that before but makes sense. I have always heard that we should try to link with other companies in the same geographical region in the same industry for the highest relevancy. Is this wrong? Should we actually try to link with someone out of state?

  • Thanks for the info about class C IP ranges. Never heard of that before but makes sense. I have always heard that we should try to link with other companies in the same geographical region in the same industry for the highest relevancy. Is this wrong? Should we actually try to link with someone out of state?

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