If you’ve been immersed in the SEO industry for years, then chances are you’ve received an email or Linkedin message requesting a link exchange. It’s an ‘I’ll link to you, you’ll link to me’ kind of deal used by webmasters to boost domain authority.
Link-building campaigns have always helped increase website traffic, especially with link exchange. How? It’s simple. If your platform is a featured link on a popular website in your industry, then you’re going to benefit from the attention they’re getting.
But the question is, can it truly help your rankings or make things even worse?
Let’s discuss its definition, types, benefits and the cold hard facts you need to know about this SEO strategy.
What is a Link Exchange?
Also referred to as reciprocal linking, link exchange is an agreement between two or more websites to link out to each other. Oftentimes, they use links and banners with a platform that has the same content.
Link exchange became popular since websites use this strategy to gain the upper hand in rankings. When you receive quality backlinks, it sends a signal that you have authority in your industry, helping you gain organic users.
This idea came from Google’s statement that links are considered a ‘vote of confidence’ when they are editorially vouched for.
Advantages of Link Exchange
When used in the right way, link exchange can drastically improve your overall SEO performance. Remember that having great content on your platform without links to back it up won’t do the trick, so putting extra effort into link building should be on your list.
So, what are the advantages of link exchange to your link-building campaigns? Check them out below:
Cheaper or Even Free
Ever since its inception, link exchange has been proven to increase visitor traffic without spending your hard-earned money on advertising. If you’re a startup looking to promote your business, then this should be up your alley.
How does it work? Let’s say you own a beauty parlour in your city and a popular hairdresser approaches you. They request that you swap links on your resource pages.
Since you’re both living in the same city and cater to the same audience, then there’s a chance that someone contacts you from the link. Think of it as leaving your flyer at the door of the beauty parlour for advertisement while doing the same on your end.
No money is involved in the process. Your connections will be your ultimate foundation.
Easier to Monitor
Another benefit of link exchange is that they are easier to monitor and manage. Once the banners are downloaded from the exchange, a monitor will determine how many times a website has displayed the banner of other websites.
This is measured using the referral information supplied by web browsers. Link exchanges usually run on a 2:1 ratio (this page impressions:credits ratio).
Moreover, through link exchange, reclaiming broken backlinks to help you regain lost link value will be less complicated.
Types of Link Exchange
To enhance your link-building campaigns, there are four common types you can choose from. Despite their differences, every strategy allows webmasters in boosting trust and authority in their websites while helping others pull off their goals as well.
However, bear in mind that some are more harmful than others.
Private Influencer Networks
Considered a private link-building model, a private influencer network (PIN) happens when a group of websites or brands collaborate and share backlinks. They promote each other’s products and services to step up their traffic and rankings.
Usually, PINs are made up of four or more websites that provide links to each other’s guest blogs, posts or homepages, to name a few. Anyone can also build a PIN from scratch by gathering resources together and sharing profits.
This type of link exchange is popularly used by companies in the same industry without intensifying direct competition. However, if Google discovers PIN exchanges, their link-building strategy would be somehow considered manipulative.
In reciprocal linking, two websites reach an agreement to swap links. You scratch their back, they’ll scratch yours.
When you opt for this link exchange, your goal revolves around gaining quality backlinks to help your SEO. This is by far the most obvious form of link scheme that can be flagged by search engines. However, two sites linking each other is undeniably a natural part of how digital marketing works.
Since reciprocal links sometimes happen due to coincidence, mutual agreement is not always required.
Guest Post Swaps
Guest post swaps typically occur when people contribute guest blogs on several websites. These posts include a link to each other’s target site along with a backlink to their own platform.
To know more about this type of link exchange, you can consult with an SEO agency to get you started with guest posting opportunities.
In SEO, guest blogging has lots of benefits like helping websites gain traction and domain authority through contextual backlinks. You also share relevant information with your audience, maintaining your brand’s reliability and trustworthiness.
If you’re going for this type of link exchange, you can start by reaching out to someone in your niche and offering a guest post link from another blog. In case they’re a fan of the idea, ask for a list of relevant target pages they have in mind.
Three-Way Link Exchanges
A three-way link exchange is a type of reciprocal linking where three websites link to each other (e.g., Site 1 → Site 2 → Site 3). Initially, this was created to evade the potential risk associated with direct link swaps that can be shady to search engines.
It means that this method is considered indirect. It allows two websites to resemble the effect of a direct link swap through a third party that sends and receives a link between them.
However, this can only work when there are two high-quality websites.
Is there a way for Google to determine where a three-way link exchange begins and ends? Can they know who partakes in this kind of reciprocal linking?
Luckily, search engines find it hard to know that several sites are participating in a link scheme when they’re not sending a reciprocal link to one another.
Is Link Exchange Good for SEO?
According to an Ahrefs study on reciprocal linking, 73.6% of sites contain reciprocal links. This means that a huge chunk of webmasters and marketers integrate link exchange into their campaigns. Some of them even send spammy outreach emails to achieve their SEO goals.
Regardless of its popularity in the SEO scene, will link exchange truly help you build domain authority? Or will it just do more harm than good?
Just like any other link-building tactic, link exchange comes with a couple of risks. It can hurt your rankings when search engines like Google detect excessive reciprocal linking, which is stated in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Take note that the word ‘excessive’ is used. Google understands that it is pretty common for websites to cross-link each other in specific situations. For example, if two restaurants guest post with each other, it offers something new to the table. Platforms in the same niche also find partnerships for cross-promotion which involves link exchange.
In short, exchanging links is good for SEO for as long as you do it in moderation. The best way to do this tactic is the same with guest blogging—aim for relevance and quality. This may not remove every risk of getting penalised, but it will significantly reduce it.
How to Do Link Exchange
Find Link Exchange Opportunities on Forum or Social Media
When it comes to finding link exchange opportunities, the process is almost the same with guest blogging. Either you have to do manual outreach or connect with like-minded professionals on social networks.
Take a look at these recommended platforms to get you started:
- Slack – Using online directories, Reddit or Slack bot, you can search for open Slack channels where you can find link exchange deals.
- Skype – Install the application on your phone or desktop and search for keywords in the search bar.
- Facebook – Sign up for an account and search for groups about certain niches, SEO, blogging and link building, among others.
Provide Data About Your Site Performance
To convince other platforms to do a link exchange with you, providing them with your website performance is a great start. It sends a message that you’d be returning the favour because your platform is high-performing.
Your website performance should show reduced bounce rates, improved visitor retention and good inbound traffic. This also includes the following:
Developed by Ahrefs, the domain rating (DR) is a critical SEO metric that measures the authority of a website. It is calculated using a website’s social shares, backlinks and other related data.
To achieve a high DR, you should optimise your website for better search engine visibility and build more backlinks. If brands or websites see that you have a high DR to show, then building connections for link exchanges would be a piece of cake.
Monthly Organic Traffic
Having high organic traffic on a monthly basis means that visitors discover your website from unpaid sources, including search engines link Google or Bing. This tells your future collaborators that you publish quality content regularly, use internal links and include long-tail keywords.
Creating a good link profile starts with running a backlink report. It will help you assess your SEO game and work on what needs to be improved for better website performance.
When preparing a backlink report, it should include the following:
- Broken links and other UX errors
- Anchor text
- Quality of links
- Total number of links
Start Link Exchange with Your Preferred Site
If you’ve already found a website to exchange links with, then it’s time to seal the deal! However, before reaching out to the site owner, make sure that you’ve written a personal email. Mention some positive comments about their platform and explain how cross-linking with you will help their SEO.
Things to Take Note Before Link Exchange
Quality of Your Exchanging Link Partner
One of the most important things in exchanging links is ensuring that you’re only going to partner up with quality websites. Make sure that they are not a direct competitor and are topically relevant to your niche.
You should also find another platform that ranks for the same keywords as you do. This can significantly step up your SEO game in the long run.
Where Your Link Will be Placed
Always ask your partners about link placement. Before closing the deal, ensure that the linking page has top-notch content quality, relevance and design.
Instead of having your links placed in low-value positions like the footer, try to place them in contextual content where readers can instantly see them.
Backlink Setting: Dofollow or Nofollow
When collaborating with another website, avoid the ones that give out nofollow links. These are the links that Google won’t recognise, so they won’t boost your PageRank or help your website reach the top of search results.
How Long Will the Link Exchange Last
Typically, websites agree to swap links over a specific period of time, depending on the mutual agreement that will be established. That’s why you need to ask how long the link exchange will last before they rotate their links!
Link exchange is similar when you’re out drinking and partying—do it moderately and responsibly. Depending on how you use this marketing strategy, it can either make or break your SEO performance, so tread carefully.
While Google and other search engines consider link exchange as PageRank manipulation, they acknowledge that exchanging links in certain situations is harmless. That’s why you should know the lines that should never be crossed.
Never do it excessively. Link exchange has been proven in helping websites rank higher on search results, but using it as a core link-building strategy should be out of the equation.
At the end of the day, investing your SEO efforts in creating quality content and precise keyword research can help you inspire links without relying on exchanges.
What is link exchange?
Considered a marketing technique, link exchange is a mutual agreement between two or more websites to cross-link each other. It aims to increase SEO rank and boost relevance by posting more information related to a website’s content.
They may appear as buttons, text or images. Although it is one of the most popular link-building strategies, websites can be penalised if this is done excessively.
Is link exchange good for SEO?
Link exchange can be rewarding for both websites involved, especially in regard to SEO. This is because backlinks from other websites can improve domain authority and direct traffic, among other things. Just make sure that you’re getting high-quality backlinks!
Is it safe to do a link exchange?
Always remember that link exchange comes with several risks, especially if you’re not careful. However, this strategy can be safe and reduce risks when you only collaborate with quality websites that give out dofollow links.
Moreover, your link-building strategy should be a set of various tactics. Making link exchange your focal point will make your link profile look unhealthy and forced. So, as much as possible, focus on submitting guest posts and other link-building methods that won’t hurt your rankings.