Link Exchanges, Swapping Backlinks or Reciprocal Links – these are all the same terms and they refer to the process of acquiring backlinks for your website, while in exchange giving links back to your partner’s website. Is link exchange a viable link building option in 2022? The simple answer is yes, if you plan to do it properly.
What Is Link Exchange in SEO?
Link exchange is one of many link building techniques used in SEO. To put it even simpler, Link Exchange is an agreement that involves two or more sites to exchange links with each other.
What’s the point of a link exchange? The purpose of swapping backlinks would be to get a relevant link from a high-authority website, which would ultimately improve your website metrics, such as Domain Rating (DR) and organic keyword rankings. However, that should only be a positive side-effect – the real reason you should do link exchanges is to provide readers with relevant resources and match the search intent as much as possible.
The old link building techniques that worked in early 2000s, like spamming the same anchor text for any new backlink that you create (“best lawyer in Florida”) and hoping that will improve your organic keyword rankings for that specific keyword, are a thing of the past.
Google’s algorithm is becoming more complex and better at matching the search intent of the user and delivering the results that meet those needs. This is an important thing to keep in mind before doing a link exchange with a potential partner website that you found.
How does getting links through swapping backlinks impact your website’s metrics? Having backlinks that are pointing to your site on legitimate, quality websites that are relevant to your niche is a major factor for your website’s metrics, Domain Rating (DR), organic keyword rankings, and ultimately, organic traffic.
The thought process behind it is really simple – find good quality websites that will collaborate with you, and get a link from them. Sounds like “You scratch my back, I scratch yours” is a very common and lucrative type of deal when it comes to link exchanges, right? Well… not so fast.
Google’s Thought on the Matter
According to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, excessively exchanging links as a link scheme used to unfairly manipulate Google’s ranking system can negatively affect site’s ranking. If you get caught violating their policies, your site may get penalized which would be detrimental to your business.
The accent here is on the “excessively exchanging links” part. Google certainly has improved a lot to detect “unnatural” backlinks that you gained doing link exchanges, which can trigger certain spam signals and red flags.
Disclaimer: If you are not sure you have enough skill or knowledge to take care of your link building needs by yourself, it’s always a good idea to discuss your options and strategy with a professional team of link builder specialists.
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid doing link exchanges as a part of your link building strategy altogether – it just means you need to do it in a natural way. A reasonable question after that would be what is a natural way of doing link exchanges?
Things to Consider Before Doing Link Exchanges
Before you even consider doing link exchanges, examine what your goals are, and what you can offer to your link exchange partner. Approach the idea of link exchanges with common sense. Why? Because not all backlinks have the same value. Aim towards a trade that is favorable for both sides, doesn’t look forced and brings value and relevant information to the readers. Here are some key things you should analyze in order to make sure you are getting a link that will have a good impact on your website’s metrics.
Trust, Authority, Engagement & Reputation
These 4 factors make a difference between a bad and an amazing website. Carefully examining these is a necessity when considering a link exchange partner. Checking the user feedback and visiting their site will give you valuable insight. Once it’s established, you can move to other SEO metrics.
Are You in Similar Niches?
One of the most important metrics to look for if you don’t want to raise any red flags is searching for a partner in a niche closely related to your website. Topical relevance is a well-known thing in SEO and has a noteworthy impact on the value of the link you are getting. Google understands the need for websites in similar niches to link to each other.
Let’s imagine a simple scenario – You are running a music shop and you have a website for your local shop. Your friend from the same place is a guitar teacher and also has a website. Both of you are in the same location and have a very similar audience, but you aren’t competitors. Linking back to each other would be a perfect opportunity, as it would be a valuable help to people who are visiting any of your websites. Your visitors might be looking for a good teacher that can help them master an instrument, and your friend’s visitors might be looking to invest in a good quality instrument.
Goal of link exchanges is bringing real value to website visitors by providing relevant sources of information for their needs.
However, if your websites aren’t in the similar niches, that doesn’t mean that you should completely avoid doing link exchanges. In certain cases, it makes sense to get a link from a website outside of your niche, if it provides relevant information to website visitors. In most cases, using common sense is the only tool you need.
Is There a Good Place for My Link?
Always try to make a good quality link. Before doing a link exchange, you need to make sure there is a good place where your link would be a relevant source of information.
Do you have a tool that helps people find email addresses easily? An article about email outreach could be a perfect place for your link. If you can’t find a suitable place, you might consider doing a guest post exchange instead, or just skip that link exchange opportunity. It’s always better waiting for a good backlink swap than forcing your link in a place where it’s not relevant, or where it looks completely out of context.
Once you find that sweet spot where you would like to add your link and have all the information ready (right keyword, anchor text, place on the page), you are all set! All these things affect how efficient the links that you are getting will be, and how much link juice and value will the links generate.
Cheat Sheet for Metrics When Considering Link Exchange Opportunities
Most of the website metrics that can be measured, can be manipulated as well. However, in most cases, these metrics will provide a good baseline to determine if the website is a good fit for swapping backlinks with you:
Take your time to figure out answers to these questions, as they are crucial if you want to figure out if the website is a good opportunity for a link exchange, or if it’s just not meant to be.
Different Link Exchange Strategies
When you have made a list of suitable website prospects that meet your criteria, it’s time to do outreach and arrange a link exchange with the webmasters or editors. However, there are many ways in which you can swap backlinks, and some of them are “safer” and more efficient than others. Let’s analyze them.
Guest Post Exchange
One of the link exchange strategies that has become more popular in the recent years is guest post exchange. When doing a guest post swap, you and your link exchange partner arrange a topic for both of your guest posts, and then you insert the backlink to your website in the guest post that you are creating. Your link exchange partner will do the same with the guest post they are creating.
This strategy is usually done when you (or your link exchange partner) can’t find a suitable place to insert the link, but your websites are in very similar niches, and linking to each other would be valuable to visitors of both of your websites. This process can be done in a few simple steps:
1. Arrange a topic for the guest post you are writing, and for the guest post you are publishing
2. You write a guest post and add your link to it, and your link exchange partner does the same
3. You publish their guest post on your website, and they publish your guest post on their website
Reciprocal Link Exchange
Reciprocal link is when you give a link from your website (website A) to your link exchange partner (website B), and you get a link from their website (website B) back to yours (website A).
Reciprocal links aren’t the safest strategy when doing link exchanges, as Google can easily notice if you and the other webmaster engaged in such an activity. However, it’s nothing strange when websites are linking to your site and you link back to them, so it’s not a surprise that this is one of the most common strategies used by website owners.
Should You Do Reciprocal Link Exchange?
How often do people use reciprocal link exchange as a fruitful link building strategy? Ahrefs reciprocal links study from 2020 can give us a reliable insight to this question, as they analyzed over 140,000 randomly selected domains that had more than 10,000 monthly organic traffic. Basically, websites that are being regularly updated and have a good amount of organic traffic. The result; over 73.6% used reciprocal links.
The conclusion is that reciprocal links are a normal occurrence with most websites, but you could get penalized if you overdo it, especially if you do it the wrong way.
3 Way Link Exchange
3 way link exchange refers to a link exchange strategy that includes three domains instead of two.
Any link exchange collaboration that includes more than two websites is also called an Indirect Link Exchange. Webmasters who have several websites often use it to their advantage. How do they do this? By offering links from their secondary sites. They add links on their secondary site, and in exchange get a link from your site to their primary site. It might sound a bit confusing, but it’s actually very simple, so here’s a short example:
Adam has 2 websites, website A and website B. He is trying to create links for his website B. His friend Brian, who has a website C, wants to do a 3 way link exchange with Adam. In order for this to work, Adam will give a link from his website (website A) that will point to Brian’s website (website C). In return, Brian will give a link from his website (website C) that will point to Adam’s website B.
Adam owns: Website A and Website B (website he is trying to improve)
Brian owns: Website C
Link Exchange Process
Website A links to Website C
Website C links to Website B
Should You Do 3 Way Link Exchange?
As we mentioned previously, Google’s algorithms may detect link exchange as an unnatural means of improving your website’s metrics. If you engage in a 3 way link exchange, there isn’t a clear footprint between all the websites that engaged in the link exchange, which adds to the fact that the links were made in a natural way.
While this is still not the safest way of doing link exchanges, it’s quite reliable and in most cases it looks natural and makes sense, especially if you use common sense when creating the links.
4 Way Link Exchange
4 way link exchange refers to a link exchange strategy that includes four domains instead of two, or three.
If you plan to do a 4 way link exchange, you need to have at least two websites. The process is very simple, if your websites are website A and website B, and your partner has website C and website D, you will give a link from A to C, and get a link from D to B. You are basically improving one of your sites, while linking to your partner from your other website.
Many huge, well-known companies use an upgraded version of this strategy called “Private Influencer Network”. When you are a big company, and you own many websites, you can collaborate with other big companies and swap backlinks from those sites without being limited to doing only 3 way, or 4 way link exchanges. The more websites you have, the more possibilities you will have to get links and link back to your partner’s websites.
Should You Do 4 Way Link Exchange?
Doing a 4 way link exchange is one of the safest ways of acquiring backlinks through link exchange. When you generate these backlinks, you aren’t leaving any obvious footprint behind that can get you penalized later.
This doesn’t mean that the strategy can’t have any consequences – any link exchange that is not done in a proper way can have a serious impact on your website as a whole.
Disclaimer: We recommend you talk to a reliable link building specialist before you start doing any link exchanges!
How to Find Link Exchange Partners
Finding link exchange opportunities is limited only by your creativity. The internet is a big place, with an almost endless number of various websites. What’s the best way of finding link exchange partners that are willing to swap backlinks? Here are a few:
– Slack Groups. Slack is a tool mostly used for work, so it’s no wonder why link exchange groups are so popular. Looking for groups to join? Don’t worry – we are here to help. Top free Slack Link Exchange Groups we recommend are #Backlinks , Growmance and CRO Growth Hacks
Fill out the form, and start searching for link exchange partners that suit your needs.
– Facebook. There are countless SEO groups on Facebook where you can find potential partners for link exchanges. However, there are many unreliable webmasters that are offering low-quality websites. Getting a link from these sites will do more harm than skipping them altogether. Make sure you research the website they are offering thoroughly before deciding to engage in a link exchange collaboration. One noteworthy Facebook link exchange group is B2B Bloggers Boost Group.
– Discord. While discord is mostly used for gaming, there are quite a few decent SEO groups that you can come across and find reliable link exchange partners. It will take some patience though.
– Manual Outreach. Our favorite way of doing link exchanges and making meaningful connections with webmasters and editors is manual outreach. It doesn’t matter if it’s through email, Skype, LinkedIn, Twitter or even Instagram – link building is all about making meaningful connections! Connect with people and try to provide resources that will actually help their website visitors and satisfy their search intent – you will be amazed at the results you will achieve.
Link exchange is just one of many strategies used for link building and strengthening of your backlinks profile. However, we suggest you don’t use it as a core link building strategy, as the results could be opposite of your expectations. Getting 1 backlink via link exchanges for every 10-20 links that you acquire in a natural way is a general rule of thumb.
Think about link exchanges as a good addition to your link building strategy, but not the main strategy for generating links for your website. Getting a few good links from link exchanges now and then is great, but overdoing it leaves a footprint of suspicious behavior in your website’s backlink profile that can cause you big problems in the long run.