Reciprocal link building (exchanging links between websites to gain more authority in search engine listings) used to be one of the most powerful SEO techniques back in the past. A lot has changed in the search engine algos since then but incoming links still remain a major ranking factor. With Google claiming they don’t approve of reciprocal link building when it represents an attempt to game the search results a lot of SEOs have given up on link exchange and turned to newly emerged SEO techniques such as social marketing and blog commenting.
If you visit almost any SEO related forum you’ll see whenever there’s a question about reciprocal link building the ‘gurus’ will always reply that it’s ‘yesterday and ineffective’. Someone will always cheap in with ‘I’ve never exchanged a single link’ and there’ll always be at least a couple of ‘experts’ who’ll mention that Google disapproves of link exchange and it can hurt your rankings. Someone will go even more extreme telling you that if you exchange links you’ll get your website banned. But how is it in reality? Is reciprocal link building outdated or do SEOs just want you to think so?
First of all many SEOs misinterpret Google’s statement about reciprocal linking as ‘Google frowns upon it’. And it somehow doesn’t occur to them that reciprocal links can and do happen naturally. Search engines perceive a link from one website to another as a kind of ‘vote’ for it as an authority in particular topic. And if two websites with useful and relevant information put a link to each other (which is a very often case) that in no way makes the sites or their content less relevant and authoritative. Unlike lots of SEO experts out there Google understands that and doesn’t devalue the natural reciprocal links in any way.
Different tests show that reciprocal link building still works. Moreover it can be more effective than most of the ‘cutting edge’ SEO tricks out there. In one of such tests two websites were launched simultaneously. The first website was optimized using the ‘old school’ SEO techniques such as keyword optimization, reciprocal linking with relevant websites, etc. The other one was optimized the modern way with only naturally occurring keywords in the content and links built exclusively through social media and press releases. As a result the first website managed to get a high Google ranking and a decent amount of traffic within several months while the second one struggled to get anywhere in the top 100 results without any search engine traffic at all.
What this tells us is that if you run reciprocal link building rationally, with the right approach and using the right SEO tools you can achieve much with this proven SEO method.