10 tips for effective reciprocal linking

by Gary on September 14, 2007 · 5 comments

in Link Strategies

Due to excessive exploitation of this tactic many webmasters, and even SEO consultants doubt the benefit of carrying out reciprocal linking campaigns. Reciprocal linking means exchanging links with slightly similar, complimenting websites for search engine optimisation. Search engines, especially Google, rank those websites higher that are linked to by various other websites. They assume that when people link to your website, they endorse the value you provide to their visitors.

Reciprocal linking goes back to the late nineties in fact. Many websites (called link farms) were created specially to facilitate reciprocal linking, but such websites were soon blacklisted by various search engines. But this hasn’t mitigated the significance of well-crafted reciprocal linking campaigns. In this post I’m going to list 10 things you should consider while engaging in reciprocal linking.

  1. Choose your linking partners carefully: Some websites have a bad reputation. Links going to them from your website and links coming from them to your website can significantly harm your rankings and can even get your website blacklisted. I’m not going to mention what sort of websites are disreputed because the idea of disrepute differs from person to person.
  2. Choose websites that add value to your website: There is no use exchanging links with websites that are in no way related, even remotely, to your website’s theme. For instance, if you are a web design company and you don’t offer SEO services it would be OK to link to SEO websites and get links from them but linking to escort services websites or car rental websites wouldn’t make any sense (if they are your clients you should have their links on your portfolio page).
  3. Have a clear-cut policy on your website: Dedicate a separate page to your reciprocal linking policy and state in the policy what sort of links you can accept and from what kind of websites you would appreciate incoming links.
  4. Make sure proper anchor text is used: It’s very important what anchor text the linking websites use when they link to you. If you are a web design company then the phrase “web design” or something similar must definitely be a part of the anchor text otherwise the incoming link is of no use. If you are using an image request then to use the phrase in the ALT attribute of the image tag.
  5. See that the page is not dynamically generated: Hand-coded links are better search engine optimised compared to dynamically generated pages. Some webmasters use JavaScript (a client-side script) or other server-side scripts to generate the page on which they display reciprocal links. There is no use exchanging links with such websites.
  6. Exchange links with highly ranked websites: This is often a difficult task but not unattainable. When you approach webmasters for reciprocal linking offer check the page rank (although it’s not a perfect indicator of a website’s popularity). Links from highly ranked websites carry more weight compared to low-ranked websites
  7. Be patient: It’s not that people will start exchanging links with you the moment you send them an email request. It may happen that even after more than 20 emails nobody responds or even if they respond they politely (or rudely) refuse your offer. Don’t feel daunted; everybody goes through this. Unless you are very popular very few people will exchange links with you readily. It will take time, so practice patience, lots of it.
  8. Have great content, and a great website: Provide an incentive to the others to link to your website. It’s very difficult to get people to link to you if you have a lousy website with meager content. Some websites are so well-maintained and have such rich content that people love linking to them. You’ll always have an upper edge if you have a great website with lots of content because then everybody knows that sooner or later you are going to rank very high on all major search engines.
  9. Reply to as many link exchange requests as possible: Treat people as you would like to be treated. Politely reply to all link exchange requests even if you are not interested in exchanging links with the requesting party.
  10. Avoid page that have hundreds of links: The more reciprocal links a website has, the less is the impact of the inbound links you get from it (unless that website is a niche online directory). Make sure the page containing your link doesn’t have more than 25-30 links.

This basically encompasses all the things you should keep in mind while carrying out your reciprocal linking campaigns.

Unless I have forgotten something…..

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  • Marc Levy

    Reciprocal links are clearly the weakest form, but as mentioned, if two sites are similarly themed then it cannot be bad. The more links you have the better and I am a firm believer that if two sites have exactly the same level of content, on-site optimisation and in-bound one way links, those extra reciprocals can make all the difference!

    Always remember a bad reciprocal link far outweighs a good one… so be careful.

  • SEO Carly

    Another couple of tips is, check the cache of the page. Visible Pagerank means less when it hasn’t been updated since April, i’ve seen alot of “webmasters” selling/exchanging links with a visible PageRank however the page isn’t cached because the domain was dropped etc.

    I’ve also seen people cloaking link pages, so it shows the links to visitors but not to Google bot and passes no weight to you in return. With cache you will see what Google see’s.

    Another is to invest in a reciprocal link checker to ensure they are still reciprocating the link and run it once a week or so. It saves going through 20 odd pages manually checking if your links are still intact.

    Good list Gary

  • Vincent

    Does link comming from a bad reputation website have a negative impact on my website?
    If yes, this is not good, as there is no way of controlling it. What happen if competitiors just post my links on bad reputation website?

  • Gary

    Hi Vincent, it would not have a negative impact, so you have nothing to worry about there. Only outbound links to such sites can have a negative inpact.

  • Chris Boswell

    I did see something on http://seoblackhat.com/ the other week about taking competitors down by pointing volumes of bad links at them. Even if this does work, for this to have any impact on your own SERPS you’d surely have to take a lot competition down. My understanding is though that at least Google makes the assumption that websites have no control over one way inbounds and therefore wouldn’t penalise. Not sure how exactly how it handles this scenario for reciprocals, but I gather from the above that it might not be very good news.