A few years back reciprocal linking was a HUGE thing. Just about any site you saw had a “resources” or “partners” page that was full of links. The idea was that you get as many Webmasters as possible to put your link on their resources page and in return you would put their link on your resources page. After some time you would have hundreds, even thousands of links pointing to your site.
The process was pretty easy and it actually worked! This was my primary link building technique when I first started online and I actually obtained many somewhat competitive rankings with Google.
That was then and this is now!
This type of reciprocal linking is no longer effective and can actually accrue penalties toward your website(s.) Google and other SE’s can very easily find these pages and discount them. But, that doesn’t mean all reciprocal linking is ineffective!
Google states on their “link schemes” page that “Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)” is in violation of their Webmaster guidelines. Notice the word “excessive” being used twice in there.
This means that selective link exchanges between quality sites is not against their guidelines and whether it is or not I can tell you for a fact that it does work!
The “blogosphere” is a perfect example of this. Analyze any “A-list” blog and I almost guarantee that 50% or more of the outgoing links are to sites that have linked to them sometime in the past…that’s a reciprocal link!
What Constitutes a “Good” Link Exchange?
The first thing to understand is that a “resources” page should not contain hundreds of links. I don’t even have a page like this on most of my sites, but those that do contain very few links. I only use these pages as kind of a bonus “I’ll give you a link “here” too.”
The best way to do a link exchange is contextual. Links that appear within content are much more “natural” looking than sidebar and footer links.
You’ll obviously want to insure that the site you’re linking to is not in a “bad neighborhood” and doesn’t use any kind of “black-hat” tactics.
A contextual link on a good page that is receiving some authority is considered, in my opinion, a good link exchange.
Another thing I like to do is triangular links where site A links to site B, site B links to site C and site C completes the triangle by linking to site A. This requires you have other sites that you can use to leverage the trade, but it’s very effective. I wrote more about that in a previous post titled “Leveraging Pre-Existing Sites to Build Authority.”
All-in-all I’ve been able to get many of my own sites ranked pretty highly to this day with selective link exchanges. It’s becoming harder and harder to find others who will accept these trades, but if you’re persistent and can write a convincing, personal, non-spammy email to them you have a good chance of obtaining these links.
Also, when attempting to do a link exchange with a site that has much more authority than yours, it’s important to balance the trade. Offering a unique article or multiple links in return for one link on their more authoritative site will often work.
Combine selective link exchanges with a solid article marketing campaign and you’ll see higher rankings!
photo credit: mikemindel