18 March 2009 | Team Tamar

Reciprocal Link Cloaking. Do you smell a rat?

Every now and then the internet springs another clever scam. Whether it's cloaking, doorwayRoland1
pages, or the recent and fiendishly clever con around parking tickets and dummy payment pages, there is always someone out there thinking up something new to misguide our trust and pull the wool over our eyes.

It seems another method has just reared its ugly but rather brainy head. Dubbed 'reciprocal link cloaking', the method was discovered recently when one of Tamar's clients was approached with an offer. It was rightfully and firmly ignored, of course. Those in the know shouldn't really go near reciprocal links, as it isn't even 'so last year' – its got a foot more firmly in the past than that – but to the innocent webmaster this might not be quite so apparent.

An outline:

Someone emails you, saying they have linked to your site.
You click through to have a look, and discover that they have very kindly placed a link for your site or company on their site.
On their email, they offer you the option to even change the anchor text if you like – how nice, and how convenient!
They invite you to link back to them, as it is 'mutually beneficial'.

There are a couple of things that smell a bit like Roland Rat here.

When you click through to their site to view your flash new link, they have used a tailored link and effectively served you a bespoke page. This is remembered in the cookies, and every time you go back, you will see the link, if you dont clear your cache.

They will therefore get a free link, if you choose to link back, which you might have done, because you are a nice person.

The main message here is dont trust emails that give something so easily up front, have a careful look for code at the end of the link that looks like an affiliate, and if it doubt – check from a different IP, it's as simple as grabbing a smartphone and bashing in the URL if you dont have another IP to hand.

Most importantly – be aware and dont trust *everyone*… much like I dont trust them traffic wardens. No such thing as a free lunch. Er, link…

Team Tamar