Three Way Linking: Good or Bad???

What is 3 Way Linking?
Some webmasters own multiple sites and try to build up one of their specific sites by offering link exchanges from their other sites. In doing this they add a link to you on their other site and get you to link to the main site they are trying to build up.

What Benefits Exist in 3 Way Linking?
Citation analysis works well in academic environments but kinda falls a part in a commercially driven direct marketing environment (which is what the web is).

Many search algorithms may be able to detect link trading as an artificial means of boosting the popularity of both sites and discount the value of these links.

By doing a three way link from sites hosted on different servers a webmaster can build link popularity without the search engine being able to detect the link trading as easily.

The Problem with 3 Way Link Exchanges

Most people engaging in 3 way link exchanges are doing it with the express intent to manipulate search results. This typically means they are trying to make automated bots think their ideas are better than they are, and are willing to do deceptive things to do it.

There are legitimate reasons to do three way links, but most of the three way link partnerships I have been offered are not worth touching with a 10 ft pole.

The real problem is that if their two sites are not connected and they are primarily working to benefit the link popularity of their main site then it does not really hurt them if the site linking to you gets banned. If those sites get banned then they parse no link popularity to you.

In doing this webmasters can agressively market their high margin websites while keeping them somewhat shielded from the dangerous effects of their aggressive promotion.

In fact many marketers might set up 20 or 30 or more secondary sites to echange links with.

An Example 3 Way Link Technique
Some people will set up a bunk directory and ask for you to link back to one of their partner sites. In doing this they get links that would cost them thousands of dollars a month for making an investment which is sometimes less than $100.

They do not mind linking out to somewhat crapy sites because they are getting tons of free marketing for 5 - 10 minutes worth of work each day. I have recently seen more and more directories partnering up to promote more and more sleezy high margin pharmacy and debt type websites.

3 Way Linking: Moral of the Story
If you are trading links with a debt reduction site on your personal hobby site to list in a directory of some sort it is not a fair trade.

Many other sites will be suspicious of you and not want to trade links with you if you have shady off topic links on your site.

If people you do not know want you to trade three way links you should do a bit of investigating before just saying yes.

Published: August 15, 2004 by Aaron Wall in seo tips


July 19, 2007 - 12:01pm

what are inbound and outbound links?
what is blackhat seo and whitehate seo?

November 22, 2006 - 12:48am

It is a fact that the linking system (recipical) has meet its day, I have seen so many cheats out there it is unbeivable, javascript category pages so goos cant below to spider, rel="nofollow" commands, if the page where you link is going to be on has no page rank no dont bother linking to that site, but you have to use common sence when using this concept, always check other catory pages first, as the page you goto may not have been ranked yet..

November 22, 2006 - 10:34pm

Are you serious, virtually ALL link arrangements are designed to improve site popularity, with similar levels of abuse. So what's the problem? They are either all acceptable or all ethically reprehensible.

November 22, 2006 - 10:44pm

Amused is one word, and I can think of others, but I won't use them.

It is not about attaching arbitrary ethic or moral is about weather or not a technique is effective or not, and if it gives you an ROI after factoring in the value of your time.

Most of the active legitimate portions of the web don't trade links heavily so much as they just link to things they think are interesting.

Don Criuckshank
September 26, 2006 - 12:04pm

Are there many software tools to help with 3-way linking? I have found Netrazer, but others seem quite thin on the ground. Most do only two way linking with the drawbacks as explained by the author.

September 26, 2006 - 9:21pm

I would stick away from automated 3 way tools... because if many people used it then that would still create an obvious distributed link farm, IMHO

Robert C.
August 3, 2007 - 6:44am

Glad I found this thread, because I have been looking at a service called, from Johnathan Ledger. I wonder how he setup his network, and if there are any advantages to being part of a service like this.

He charges, I think 47.00 dollars a month for the service. You can have up to 20 domains in his network. I like the concept, and have a friend that will be using is soon, so I guess I will find out.

But, I guess my question is, how can someone set up a network like this - one that is legit - if doing three way linking this way can be done without consequence.

Also, how do you get websites to cooperate with you in a project like this - if that is what is needed to set up a network.

I know that Johnathan is in the web marketing business, and has more than a few contacts. So I don't think it would be too hard to get other sites involved.

Problem is, I just don't know all the pros and cons of joining, or developing such a network. Would not even know who to ask about building one. Any thoughts?

Robert C.

3 Way Linking
August 31, 2007 - 4:02pm

Hi Robert C,

Yes RAC is a perfect one stop shop for almost all solutions. There is one that I build and launched last week.

I am a coder from RAC and I liked the idea of 3 way linking and got attracted to it and once I saw Johnathan launched something similar I was extremely committed to it.

You can check the system I have developed, being a programmer and having some insight on SEO I think I did a good job if not excellent. This is over and above backed up by working with names like Ken Giddens in my career.


August 16, 2004 - 3:14pm

I read in the past, a post called, Pyramid Linking Strategies. If understand you, you are talking about the same thing?


August 16, 2004 - 3:31pm

its the same thing. and sometimes it is extremely smart and effective. my point though was that many times people use the idea in a selfish and deceptive way.

August 16, 2004 - 3:38pm

Yes is true, someones use the idea in that way...

August 17, 2004 - 3:12pm

I have several ESL web sites and sometimes try things like three way linking or other ways to avoid reciprocal links. It is mostly to manipulate search engines but I always deal with quality links so I think I'm safe...

Mike UK
February 11, 2008 - 9:52am

Hi Aaron,

What should I do? Just had an e-mail from a link manager representing my number 1 competitor offering a three way link. They are doing better over the last three months placement wise so I guess this linking is working.

I really am trying to get good rankings by honest SEO techniques (fine line I know) so my questions

Is 3 way linking technically good or bad SEO?
It does obviously work so should I get involved?
Are Google going to stop this one day? And ban sites that do this?
Should I grass them up to Google? And would they do anything about it?

Any views on this would be most useful.



PS “Grass up” is the UK expression for “tell on” or “dob in”etc etc

February 11, 2008 - 6:07pm

3 way linking is usually bad because most sites that need to use it are not worth linking at and do not have links which carry much link weight. Though doing a bit of it might help, as long as you have many other clean link sources and the 3 way stuff is a small percentage of your overall links.

Google has little control over most stuff like that. You can tell them but you probably will not see much of a response.

December 3, 2008 - 11:27pm

I used Ken Sprouls program over at one-way-links dot com.

Here's the problem. His system doesn't automatically check for linking compliance - meaning that at least half of his customers in the program either use a link="nofollow" attribute, or simply remove the link to their link page. Since he doesn;t check, you get crappy links. After a year I only ended up with 8 backlinks of my 90 in Google. 8 links from non relevant sites is not worth paying him 175 per month is it?

The other problem when you join a program like this is that you will be in bed with them forever!! You can't really quit the program after a couple years if you have good links back to you.... if they remove you, you risk the chance of alerting the search engines once all the links are removed.

Stay away form 3 way link programs, there are many other ways to get one way links. Be creative.

June 9, 2009 - 2:16am

i tend to shy away from any 3 way links for the reasons outlined by aaron wall.

one of the problems in my travel niche area is that one of my main competitors has several of his own websites and he links among them all to raise his rankings - nothing wrong with that really perse, understandable; except that one of the websites was used for his local boat cruise many years ago, yet he's still got this site up there even though the boat is sold and he hasn't had a cruise in over 6-7 years. lol. his main site gets a bit of juice from that old cruise site too; all his sites hosted on same server. oh well...

I imagine that search algorithms are even more advanced than a few short years ago and can generally detect and discount these artificially created 3 way links. so best to avoid them I gather....

June 27, 2009 - 7:04pm

I have done this mistake several times... going to take off those links straight away... thanks for the insight!

November 11, 2009 - 6:15am

I keep getting calls from this company. They really have spent a lot of time on me. In conversations with them they openly say that they employ three way linking.

From the comments that I've read here, it just confirms my lack of comfort even considering this company.

So this begs the question? What is the best kind of link? I've heard of one-way links, reciprocal links and three way links. What gets Googles' attention the most? Were should I be devoting all of my time?

November 11, 2009 - 11:00am

Tip companies are not above the medium they use to market. So if you want to get good at high pressure cold call sales calls then hire that firm. If you want to do good SEO then I would work with someone who YOU FOUND rather than someone who was SPAMMING YOU with sales calls.

The best SEOs do not need to cold call to pull in work. And most of the companies using cold calling are (at best) having $10 an hour interns work on the campaigns (while many take your money and then do nothing).

November 12, 2009 - 3:59am

I have so many questions for you that I don't know where to start, Aaron. Thank you for your reply. I really wasn't seriously considering them. I just wanted to get some feedback.

Let me ask you. Is there any automated tool that will help me to build quality links? I have already spent countless hours establishing link exchanges with other sites and getting listed on directories. And it has helped. But, it is mind-numbingly tedious, so an automated tool would be nice.

Speaking of link exchanging, is it a waste of time? Are one-way links the way to go?

By the way, I have been using your tools all along which have been terrific.

November 12, 2009 - 5:28am

Hi Crobro
If you have SEO strategy questions feel free to ask them in our member community support forums.

June 18, 2013 - 1:22pm


I want to know whether 3 way link exchange is a new techique and 2 way or reciprocal link is old link exchange techinque

June 18, 2013 - 5:42pm from 2004, so certainly there isn't anything new to it.

Jack Simpson
November 5, 2018 - 9:37am

Many of us things that three way linking is good for us in longer run. nowadays everyone would want to work on tier model linking. off-page SEO is continuously changing and very challenging task.

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