Reciprocal links, also known as “traded” or “exchanged” links are simply mutual links between two sites — Site A links site B, then site B links site A. This is often done when an agreement is made between two brands. Brands usually conduct authentic outreach to develop relationships with other sites of brands and exchange links.
But there are also instances when you link to sources without any expectation or verbal agreements with them, but they reciprocate organically. Reciprocal links are used by brands with other relevant sites or brands. They often cover similar subjects or are offering products or services complementary to one another.
Can Reciprocal Links Hurt Your SEO?
Reciprocal links can contribute value to your website and presence when done correctly and for the right purposes. But there are a few caveats in using these links in your SEO strategy. For instance, reciprocal links are technically it’s against the Google Webmaster Guidelines. But it is not that easy for its algorithm to detect these types of links.
In its essence, it is totally okay to link a site and allow them to link your website as well. It is very common, given that link-building plays a major role in SEO. However, excessive usage of reciprocal links can lower the quality of your content. This makes it very obvious that a site is only creating content for cross-linking and ranking the search engines without delivering value to people.
The unethical reciprocation of links between brands can also be considered manipulation rather than optimization. This can ultimately hurt your SEO and damage your strategies and brand overall. You can lose search engine trust as well as decrease website authority and SERP rankings. In very serious cases, Google can even de-index altogether, meaning you will have no place within the search results and people will not be able to find you.
Avoid These Reciprocal Link Building Mistakes
Today, next to the relevance of content, it is important to have relevant hyperlinks in your web content. It’s always quantity over quality. This also applies when including reciprocal links in your strategy. There are types of backlinks you should avoid, specially non-contextual backlinks or those that do not cover related topics. Moreover, here are some common mistakes you should be wary of:
Excessive Link Exchanges
It can be tempting to link everything and more on your website in an attempt to appear in more search results. But note that Google’s algorithm no longer works that way. Google can crawl through content and recognize its relevance based on the information it contains. It is aware that link exchange happens and uses this to classify your content as helpful, only if the links make sense based on the content’s context.
It has to be done intentionally to support your content, rather than just blatant cross-linking. Increasing the number of backlinks on your website and having excessive link exchanges, whether it is your intention or not, can make you appear as if you are trying to manipulate the algorithm, and thus can be penalized.
Linking to Low Authority Sites
Many sites and blogs would offer reciprocal links. They will link your website if you can link them back. It sounds like a no-brainer, right? But as tempting as it seems, this may do more harm than good for your site’s credibility.
Google ranks pages and websites based on the value of their content as well as the site’s trustworthiness, a factor that you can build over time. And new websites as well as those with irrelevant content will most likely rank lower based on the algorithms, with low domain or website authority.
They can be considered low authority websites and these will not boost your ranking or trustworthiness on any level. When linking sources, go for authoritative and highly credible websites. This way, you are actually helping readers find relevant information and building your website’s credibility at the same time.
Linking to Direct Competitors
Just because your competitors are ranking on search engines, it doesn’t mean you should be linking them to your website. It can be an obvious attempt to manipulate search engine algorithms if you link sources with the same target keyword as yours.
It is important to identify your competitors and know their rankings on search engines. But you don’t have to reach the extent where you link them just to piggyback on their rankings. This is to save you as well if your competitor is using unethical link-building strategies. There are effective ways to collaborate with your competitors, but maybe not online for SEO.
Buying and Selling Links
In its essence, backlinks are easy ways to provide readers with sources and additional information. But ranking on search engines became a war for brands across industries. Link-building became a strategy, which led to people trying to manipulate the rankings on their one, for one, through buying and selling links. This is considered a link scheme and is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
It is much better to build links organically and use reliable and reputable sources or sites, rather than buy and try to outsmart the system. It can be a waste of your money and time, and can definitely create a negative impact on your SERP rank and your brand’s reputation overall.
Readers First Before Rankings
Successful link-building efforts can support your website’s credibility and improve your SEO. But this should not always be your top priority. Focus on delivering high-quality content with high-quality and helpful contextual backlinks. Always put customers first, because if they are satisfied with your service and content, they will be the ones to help you increase your rank and traffic organically.
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