Friday, July 18, 2014

Is reciprocal linking worth the trouble?

Reciprocal Links, good or bad?

Reciprocal linking at one point was an important link technique.  Many people still use it and seem to think it's what linking is all about. What is reciprocal linking? It is linking with reciprocation. If you put a link to my website on your site, I will put a link to your website on one of my pages. Sometimes it is referred to as Link Exchange. You sometimes see links that simply say links, useful links, resources, or partners.

When you click those links you will see pages and pages of links to other websites. For a long time, reciprocal linking was a very powerful way to rank a website. It really did work and it worked very well. There used to be hundreds of companies providing reciprocal linking services and software that helped automate the process. Even now we get a few reciprocal link requests by email every week.

Over the years the search engines have devalued reciprocal linking to the degree that in most cases it doesn't work. The problem with basic reciprocal linking from a search engine standpoint is that the links have no real value (r
eal-web-links-and-artificial-web-links). The only reason they are there is to convince the search engines that the reference sites should rank well. Despite the fact that the reciprocal link companies always used to claim that reciprocal linking was about providing useful links to site visitors not manipulating search results.

That was nonsense of course. Over the years as the search engines reduce the value of reciprocal linking these companies have mostly disappeared. You may also hear however that reciprocal linking is actually dangerous, that doing it can get you penalized. In most cases that simply isn't true. Most reciprocal linking won't do any harm. It just won't do any good.

So when can reciprocal linking work? This type of linking may work if you are using it gain additional traffic. It is still a link to your site that someone might click on. For SEO purposes do not put a lot of faith in it.

What are the two characteristics of typical reciprocal linking? First of all, site A links to site B, and site B links back to site A. And the links typically appear in pages containing long list of links. So, what if site A links to B then B links to C and C links to A. Or maybe site A links to B, B to C, C to D and D back to A. And what if those links were scattered around a site rather than in a big list of links? This form of reciprocal linking is known as three way linking or one way linking. Because your links goes one way without a second link back. This strategy can work and many people use it.

In general, you'll probably want to avoid reciprocal linking. It's simply a waste of time. But if you run into some kind of multi-site link exchange in which you don't do A to B to A linking and in which you don't create big list of links, then go ahead. It could be helpful. A reciprocal link may not help with SEO but it may be seen by a potential new customer and provide additional traffic to your site.

Steve Steinberger

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