Playing the triangle

In the olden days, you used to get spam from people running link farms (groups of many-paged sites full of useless "directory" pages with hundreds of links to each other), telling you that they'd added a link to your site from one of their dreadful pages and unless you linked back, they'd DELETE THE LINK OMG.

Back in the mists of time this may actually have worked - if, by "worked", you mean "artificially inflated the value of these sites so their worthless pollution floated up into people's search results and they got some ad-viewing traffic".

It doesn't work any more, though. Anybody who joins in these scams by linking back now connects themselves to the "bad neighbourhood" mojo that's applied to all known link farms by the search engines. This achieves the exact opposite of the ranking-boosting traffic bonanza promised by the spammers.

So, nowadays, the spammers have moved on to trapezoidal triangular linking.

You used to get spam from someone who runs and is apparently convinced that some random page on your site where the word "snot" appears is a perfect match for his very important directory of links, but not if you don't link back. Now, you get spam from the same guy, except he's telling you that if you link to, he'll link to you from

Because the search engines don't know his two sites are connected, all of these links look like perfectly kosher "one way" propositions, and everybody wins. Eh? Buddy? Buddy buddy buddy?

A few of these e-mails a day have been leaking through to me. Here's a typically moronic example:

From: "Shamim"
Subject: Link Exchange Request
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2007 10:30:44 +0530

Dear Webmaster

I handle online marketing for my client's site

As you all know about the Google's new algorithym and the improtance of oneway linking. I am also looking for triangular linking ( New Virsion of Oneway linking ) to increase the linkpopularity of my site as well the ranking in major search engines.

I will also add your site on to my directory within24 hours of your positive reply.

please add my site at least page rank(2) page.

I request you to do have a look on to my website and add it on your website and reply me with your site's details.

Here is my linking details :-


Title :Canine Kidney Disease Treatments

Description :Effective natural pet medication for canine kidney disease treatments to reduce irritation and pain.

Link will be added at:

You can also paste the code given below :

Canine Kidney Disease Treatments Effective natural pet medication for canine kidney disease treatments to reduce irritation and pain.

Your link will be added on my site within 24 hours. So if you are interested for link exchange with my site please let me know and we can do a better work for our sites.

Thanks and Regards


There's no connection between the three domains mentioned in this e-mail as far as whois records go (although I was amused to note that the registrant of put what appears to be his real Australian Business Number in his registration!), but Google would have to be pretty stupid to be unable to connect them. Google are all about seeing patterns in links, and triangular linking creates repetitive patterns. A links to X, then X links to C. A links to Y, then Y links to C. Et cetera. This sort of thing seldom happens for valid reasons.

Oh, and these guys keep sending out these brain-hurtingly stupid e-mails to zillions of recipients, who then post them to the Web and Usenet, where the world can see the scheme exposed. Sometimes the spammers cut out the middleman here, by spamming mailing-list addresses and getting their messages archived online automatically.

So even if these dorks don't accidentally spam people (or spam-trap addresses...) that actually lead directly to the search engines, they can still be discovered very quickly.

Are they, though?

Well, the root pages for the sites mentioned in the above spam are all still sitting pretty at Google PageRank 4, which is quite good. The sub-pages actually mentioned in the spam are down around PR3, but it's normal for sub-pages on valid sites to have a slightly lower rank than the root page.

When I looked at some sites promoted in previous spams that've been visible online for months - here, for instance - I found that their root pages still had OK PageRanks - well, PR3 at least. More interestingly, the sub-pages that the spam tells people to link inward to are also still doing OK, but the sub-pages that link outward in return are now down on PR0 with the rest of the hoi polloi.

So it does seem that Google is somewhat wise to this scam. If you do what a triangular-link spammer asks you to do, your site's PageRank mojo will indeed contribute to the PageRank of the page you link to, but as soon as Google notices the pattern, the spammer's return-link page will plummet to PR0 and so his link will do you no good.

This isn't an optimal solution, since it means the triangular-link scam will still work just fine for the spammer, if people do what he says. It'd be better if triangular link beneficiaries were being classed as "bad neighbourhoods" just like the old-style link farms.

But if it becomes common knowledge that these schemes are as fishy as they sound, at least fewer people will fall for them.

2 Responses to “Playing the triangle”

  1. loseweightslow Says:

    The reason that the outbound links pages show no page rank is because the spammers put no follow tags on their links to that page. They are trying to stop pagerank from leaving their site. Or rather, they only let PR got to their other sites.
    Its a common "trick" for a spammer to exchange links with someone on the basis that both parties are linking from a high page rank site. Then, a few months later, the spammer removes the links to the linking page (or puts in no follow tags), making the links page an orphan. The page rank then whithers to nothing but they still get the link from person they traded with. To google, this looks like a one way link.

  2. LinkAssure Says:

    I have to say that I agree with about 75% of what you said in this article. I agree that using software generated link exchange requests, linking websites with unrelated content, and using nofollow links is spammy. I disagree however with your statement that 3-way link partnerships are a scam. They are as valid, if not more so, than reciprocal link partnerships when used responsibly. As long as the content of the web pages involved is useful and relevant, 3-way links offer benefits to both participants and their website visitors.

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