The aftermath of Google's algorithm updates has left many websites struggling to regain their search rankings, especially since the new search standards have rendered most of their search marketing efforts useless. Bad links top many to-blame lists for getting penalized. However, saying that they are solely to blame for a website's downhill run is an unfair conclusion. Link building has been one of the most important aspects of search engine optimization for as long as SEO existed and it still offers great value even as Google's standards have drastically changed. A website's link profile is composed of many different types of links, each offering good value to a site's search ranking. Some types of links offer greater value than others, but this is no reason to neglect other link-building strategies that offer less. All links, ranging from reciprocal links to backlinks, one-way links, and other link exchanges affect how your link profile is viewed by search engines and ultimately affects how your website ranks in SERPs. Going forward, we will discuss one of the most debated link building strategies: reciprocal link exchange and how you can maximize its value for your website.
Reciprocal links are basically mutual links that exist between two websites, therefore securing mutual traffic. Reciprocal link exchange follows a simple model: website A links to website B, and website B links to website A, creating a reciprocal path between the two sites. Submitting a website to a link exchange directory is a common means of acquiring this type of link. However, as many websites began using this type of link exchange as a way to inflate their rankings, search engines had to take necessary steps to keep the playing field fair, thus, devaluing reciprocal links and penalizing sites that have been found to use unnatural means of acquiring them. Reciprocal links may no longer viewed as an honest vote of referral or recommendation for websites, but even as their value has been diminished, small businesses shouldn't give up on them altogether. As earlier said, all links offer value to a website, others simply weigh more.
While reciprocal link values are less than before, they still offer some value, and some is always better than having no value at all. It would be a costly mistake for you to ignore reciprocal link exchange altogether, especially when your website relies greatly on referral traffic—where reciprocal links still offer good value.
Just as links carry different weight, not all reciprocal links offer the same value as well. This is why it is important to choose websites with whom you exchange links with. Here are some tips on doing link exchanges with other websites:
- Only exchange links with like-websites. More than anything else, you have to shoot for link quality and relevance, which are two of the main things that search engines look at when evaluating your link values. This is why you should only do link exchanges with websites that are directly or in some way related to yours. This will help search engines index and categorize your content better. Having a few links from several off-tangent sites is generally okay, but when your entire backlink profile is littered with irrelevant links, search engines have a harder time to establish the core subject or topic of your site as well as determine which keywords or set of keywords it should rank for. Moreover, you avoid being labeled as spam, as illogical and irrelevant links (especially when you have too many of them) can look very unnatural and spam-like in the eyes of search engines.
- Avoid reciprocal link exchange with low-quality websites. There is no concrete definition of a low-quality website, but the term has come to mean websites that are untrustworthy or are clearly set-up for the sole purpose of manipulating search rankings, among many. Linking to these low-quality sites can hurt the trust value that search engines assign to your website, giving you negative search signals, which can eventually cause great impact on your rankings.
- Distribute your link exchanges properly. Reciprocal link exchange shouldn't make up your entire link profile. If you want a strong link building strategy, leverage other valuable linking relationships, such as acquiring links via content marketing, online directories, and social media engagement.