What is reciprocal linking? It’s the practice of linking from your site to another site in exchange for a link back from the other site. It’s not a bad practice, but it’s not a particularly good one either.
Reciprocal links used to be valuable links, but not any more. That’s because the search engines value one-way links more. The reason is because an unsolicited one-way link is a greater measure of value than a link that is provided for the sole purpose of receiving a link in return. Here’s a useful analogy:
- Let’s say you were attracted to a certain person and wanted to ask that person out on a date. If you approach the individual and ask for a date and they say “Yes, pick me up at 7” then you feel good because you didn’t have to do anything to get that date. You just asked. But what if the individual said, “Well, if you let me drive your car for a week then I’ll let you take me to dinner.” That wouldn’t exactly make you feel good, would it? You’d think that person was just interested in your car. Right?
So reciprocal links are not as valuable as one-way links. Google actually rewards one-way links more so than reciprocal links. That is, in the search ranking algorithms.
However, all that said, I wouldn’t discourage you from seeking reciprocal links under the right circumstances. If your link partner offers the following benefits then your link exchange might actually pay off well, even if not with increased search rankings:
- High traffic
- Link from relevant web page (web page on the same topic as yours)
- Link has relevant anchor text (the word or phrase used to link to your site)
- In-text link used in a natural way (as opposed to a sidebar or footer link)
- The site linking to you is a respected website in your niche and seen as a voice of authority
- The site linking to you is not a link farm or fall into another category perceived as a negative by search engines or any reasonable person online
Keep in mind that reciprocal links are best if the site you are getting a link from actually passes value to you in ways that make sense for your business. Can it send you lots of traffic? That’s good. Can its endorsement of your site increase your own reputation? That’s good.
Look for the value in any kind of link, reciprocal or not. If it isn’t there then pass on the link.