A reciprocal link is an exchange of links between two people who operate websites. If you have a website and your friend has one, you can agree to give each other links and publish these links on your respective blogs.
As a result, each one has a backlink. The burning question is: does this work and is it useful for seo?
Today, we will focus on why and how reciprocal linking works, provided that you do it with care.
Our topics are:
- Are the links relevant to what a user expects?
- Are the linked blog pages value-adding to the user?
- Are the interlinking websites related?
- Are the links superficial or deep?
- Are the two websites credible?
Yes, reciprocal linking works, but with some caveats. As you know, link-building is probably the toughest aspect of search engine optimization.
You have to be keen in not violating the guidelines of Google. Google hates schemes and black hat SEO, and reciprocal linking is an unnatural link-building process because you are colluding with another person.
Are the Links Relevant to What a User Expects?
Links work best if the anchor text provides relevant information to the user. The anchor text must also be relevant to the actual blog post where it sits.
In short, the backlink and the anchor text must be natural and not forced. For example, you cannot write an anchor text about a slot machine, with a link to a casino, when the subject matter of the blog post is COVID-19.
It just doesn’t make sense. Readers will find your blog post doubtful, and they are not going to click on that link. For a blog about COVID-19, an ideal anchor text or backlink must have something to do with the disease like:
- an update on the potential cure
- an explanation of how the virus works
- statistics about the pandemic either globally or in local areas
As you can see, you cannot just swap links between you and your friend, or anyone on the web, just because you want to spread links to your website. Reciprocal linking works if the anchor text is relevant to what a user expects.
Are the Linked Blog Pages Value-Adding to the User?
Related to point number one, you should only swap links if the blog post where your link will be placed is related to your own content.
If your blog post is about five steps to build a Shopify store, do you think it adds value to a user reading a blog about how to beat blackjack?
No, it doesn’t add value. A backlink that adds value is best placed in a blog section where the writer is recommending other materials that the user SHOULD read.
If the blog post is about beating blackjack, then examples value-adding reciprocal linking are:
- Card counting for beginners
- Decision matrix for blackjack hands
- How to play blackjack
- Blackjack for beginners
Shopify has no value to a person reading a gambling-related post. And because it has no value to the reader, the reader is not going to click it. Now, if nobody clicks your backlinks, Google is not going to see any value in it too, and this link does not serve any purpose at all.
The main difference between this point and the previous one is this: in the first point, users expect related anchor texts while reading. On this point, it is the blogger who has to proactively add value to the user so the user will click on the link.
Are the Interlinking Websites Related?
This is critical to the success of your website. Reciprocal linking can go wrong if the two websites swapping links do not belong to the same industry.
How does this happen?
There are two main reasons why this can happen. The first one is that you chose the wrong websites to swap links with, and the second one is you bought your reciprocal links.
If you are doing blogger outreach, make sure that you only work with websites related to your niche. If you are in the e-commerce niche, it is alright to work with a blogger whose niche is SEO. On the other hand, it does not make sense to work with a political blogger if your niche is cooking.
Never buy backlinks from private blog networks. They do not work. Also, be careful when dealing with freelancers who offer blogger outreach. Most of the time, these freelancers already have a list of websites that they recycle, even if these sites have nothing to do with yours.
Why should both sites be related? The answer is interest. A person reading a post about politics is likely not interested in SEO. As such, your backlinks will never get clicks, and you just wasted your money paying for backlinks—or you wasted your time working with bloggers who are willing to participate in reciprocal linking.
Are the Links Superficial or Deep?
A superficial link is your homepage link or your domain name. A link like this does not work for reciprocal linking. As you can see, your domain name cannot be placed on anchor texts. It also cannot be used for the area dedicated to “suggested reading materials”.
Deep links are blog pages. These are the links that work best for swapping links with other bloggers. A deep link can help fulfill our first and second pointers for reciprocal linking.
A deep link has relevance and can take people to useful content on your website. If your backlink only takes people to your home page, they really have nothing to do there, or they are left looking for the content they need.
If this happens, it results to higher bounce rates, and Google will not rank you in the SERP if your bounce rate is abnormally high.
Are the Websites You Swap Links with Credible?
This is another crucial factor you have to consider. Earlier, we talked about avoiding blogger outreach freelancers and private blog networks. Even if these websites can guarantee a do-follow backlink to your website, they are not credible.
If you associate your website with others that do not have credibility, Google will naturally think that you belong to the same private blog network. And this is gonna be bad for your business—really bad.
What you want is to establish a connection with websites that are active, websites that have a high number of organic traffic, and websites that Google deem credible enough. You can use the DA and PA scoring system of Moz to be able to identify websites that have authority.
If you do not want to pay for the services of Moz, your alternative is to search Google for a keyword or anchor text that you want to swap, and then contact the bloggers whose websites appear at the top of the SERP.
Reciprocal linking works only if done right. Never post duplicate content. If you have no time to guest post, use the services of an affordable freelancer.
As opposed to what naysayers say, a backlink is still a backlink, provided that it meets the conditions of Google. To begin with, Google has no way to find out if you had an agreement with another webmaster.
As such, the Google algorithm has no basis to penalize you unless your strategy fits what it deems as black hat SEO. Always exercise caution, and always think of the value that you can provide to the community, not the benefit you can get out of it.