Should you undertake Link Exchange with other businesses

In recent years the practice of arranging to create links to sites that link to yours has been frowned upon (especially by Google), but can this practice actually have a good and lasting effect on your website, traffic volume and rankings?

The idea of exchanging links with other websites, typically on some kind of special ‘we recommend’, ‘our partners’, ‘friends of ours’ or something similar, used to be a primary method of building links to sites.

One of the major ways that the Google ranking algorithm works is in making the suggestion that a link to your website from another one is a positive vote from them to you, Google used this vote to basically determine your reputation (in fact it still works this way today).

The problem was that as this method of gaining links if very cheap and very easy to do, suddenly all sites had hundreds (if not thousands) of links pointing to them, and search engines like Google realised that these types of links weren't really an honest vote of recommendation for the websites but rather just a way for businesses to boost their rankings.

Whilst website owners can still do this, this approach to link building is nowhere near as beneficial as it was in the past.

As a result, less weight was ‘reputation’ weight was given to what were labelled ‘reciprocal links’ – a term which covers the scenario I have just referred to.

As it became common knowledge that reciprocal links had been devalued, many businesses simply gave up on them. Some even went to the length of deleting all of the reciprocal links they had in case they incurred a penalty against their site.

It’s actually a myth that reciprocal links result in a penalty. These types of links have just become devalued, which is very different to them attracting a penalty.

Reciprocal links still provide value to the sites involved, however, the level of that value is less than it was before; but if you are struggling for links then some value is better than no value at all – so it would be a huge mistake to ignore reciprocal links altogether. You just shouldn't make this your only linking strategy, providing good quality content to attract natural and real links is always be best approach.

Two sides to every coin!


Whilst we are talking here about using reciprocal links to gain improved search engine rankings, there is also the other side of the equation and benefit to consider, that is, traffic referral.

Each link you have on another site is a chance that one of their visitors make click the link and come to your site; the way reciprocal links are tend to be set up (on special ‘links’ pages) then you probably won’t get much referral traffic from them, but again, some traffic is better than none.

Reciprocal links are not created equally!


Some reciprocal links are always going to be better than others and you do need to be very careful about who you exchange links with. For example if you sell soft furnishings and you have a link from a website that sells car parts, I don’t imagine you get any visitors at all!

Link partners should be in some way related to your own. In our example above, your soft furnishings site would be much better served if you had a link from a home improvement site!

Always think before exchanging links – “Would someone else consider this link to be logical? Or would they be confused as to why my site has a link from this one!”

A few links from irrelevant sites isn't a big deal, but the more you have the more confusing your site’s back link profile becomes, which makes it more difficult for search engines to clearly establish the topic of your website and which keywords to rank it well for.

Also, too many irrelevant links can look very spammy and would start to lead you to a penalty by the major search engines.

Quality wins!


Also consider the quality of the site you want a link from (Google will!), ensure that their content is of excellent quality and unique to that site.

If search engines see that you are linking to low quality sites, again this is a red flag to them and you may get a penalty (or just reduced ranking).

So, if you’re unsure about the quality or trustworthiness of a website then play it safe and don’t link to it.

Approaching other sites


Once you have a list of sites that look relevant and have great content, then it’s time to contact them, the best way is to use email or call them; explain that you have found their site, you love the quality of it and you think that a link between the two sites would be useful to both businesses.

You’ll find that the success rate for link exchange isn't great, and it takes some time and effort, but it does work. The key is to do a bit of research on them first. You shouldn't just send out hundreds of emails using the same set template. That might seem like the easiest way but your emails will mostly get ignored.

Finally!


As already mentioned, done well and carefully this can be a good way to get links to your site that WILL help ranking and gain real visitors to your site.

But this approach should be a low level tactic and not the main way to gain links, like I said earlier, great content will always attract natural links from other sites.

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