Off-Page SEO

Link Exchange

Shahid Maqbool

By Shahid Maqbool
On Jun 8, 2023

Link Exchange

What Is Link Exchange?

Link exchange means two websites agree to link to each other. For example, website A includes a link pointing to website B, and website B adds a link back to website A. This is called a reciprocal link.

The main reason sites do link exchanges is to boost their search engine rankings. Getting more websites to link back to your site can improve how a search engine like Google views your authority.

So link exchanges allow the two sites to gain backlinks that may help them rank higher in search results.

Why is it important?

Link exchange can help improve your search engine rankings, get more website traffic, and build relationships with other site owners.

When you exchange links, both sites connect to each other. This can benefit both parties if done properly.

Getting backlinks from quality websites related to your niche signals search engines like Google that your content provides value. So you may rank higher in search results.

However, link exchanges can also hurt your site if overdone or manipulated too much. Google penalizes "link schemes" trying to fake popularity.

Only trade links with reputable sites relevant to your topic. Too many exchanges or low-quality links could negatively impact rankings. The key is quality over quantity from reliable sources.

How was it used in the past?

In early SEO, link exchange was very popular to build backlinks. Website owners would contact each other and trade links, often in large amounts, to try boosting search engine rankings.

People did link exchanges through programs to automate link building. The main goal was manipulating signals to improve rankings rather than sharing great content.

But search engines caught on these shortcuts did not reflect real website value. Google started penalizing sites doing excessive links just for SEO.

So link exchange lost effectiveness as a ranking tactic. SEOs shifted to focus on creating high-quality content that earned links naturally over time.

Now, some sites still exchange links but more carefully. The goal is to form real relationships between relevant sites rather than just chasing links. Quantity matters less than quality sources aligned to the website's niche.

What does Google say about them?

Google clearly elaborates on its spam policies about link exchange:

The following are examples of link spam:

  • Buying or selling links for ranking purposes. This includes:

    • Exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links

    • Exchanging goods or services for links

    • Sending someone a product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link

  • Excessive link exchanges ("Link to me and I'll link to you") or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking

  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site

Along with other exchanges, Google mentions link exchange which will be considered spam if done excessively.

According to Google, if a website is found to be engaging in link schemes, it runs a high risk of being penalized, which can result in a significant drop in search engine rankings or even being removed from search results altogether.

Can link exchange help in SEO?

Yes, link exchanges can still help with SEO if done properly.

Note: Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors in search engine algorithms, and having high-quality backlinks from relevant websites can help to improve your website's search engine rankings.

Trading links works best between sites in the same niche. For example, two related businesses in an industry can exchange links to provide value for their visitors.

Also, if another site reviews your services, you can link back to their review from your own site's reviews section.

The goal of these links is to give users more relevant content, not just improve search rankings.

However, be cautious about link exchanges. Focus on building relationships with quality sites relevant to yours.

Avoid manipulative schemes or linking with spammy or irrelevant sites. Too many low-value links can actually hurt your reputation and search performance.

The key is exchanging links selectively in a meaningful way between sites your audiences would genuinely appreciate.

Link exchange strategies

There are several types of link exchange strategies that are usually used by website owners:

Reciprocal link exchange

Reciprocal link exchange is the most popular type of link exchange. This is where two websites agree to link back to each other.

For example, site A includes a link to site B, and in return site B links back to site A.

Reciprocal exchanges can be safe and helpful if done carefully.

Three-way link exchange

A three-way link exchange involves 3 websites linking in a circle. For example:

Website A includes a link pointing to Website B

Website B links to Website C

Website C then links back around to Website A

This creates a loop of links between the 3 sites.

The advantage is it looks more natural than two sites obviously linking to each other. Search engines may see it as added value for visitors rather than reciprocal link manipulation.

Guest blogging

Guest blogging is another type of link exchange. Two sites agree to publish a blog post written by the other site.

For example, Website A writes and publishes a blog article on Website B. Then Website B authors a guest blog post to be featured on Website A.

This exchange helps both sites gain exposure. It can also build relationships between site owners in the same field.

Guest posting works best with reputable websites closely related to your own niche and topic. Avoid low-quality or completely unrelated sites.

Carefully selecting partners allows guest blog exchanges to provide SEO value safely. Each site publishes other perspectives while directing relevant audiences to the other website.

Legitimate ways of link exchange

Keep in mind link exchange should only be done where it is necessary or makes sense, otherwise, avoid it completely. Here are some legitimate ways to get reciprocal links:

Reach out to website owners in your industry

One good way to get quality reciprocal links is by contacting owners of websites in your field.

Search for sites in your industry with useful content and solid online credibility. Email or message the owners explaining the possible mutual benefits of exchanging links between your sites.

Personalize your pitch to showcase why each of your audiences would appreciate a link. Demonstrate familiarity with the other site and why the pairing aligns.

Participate in online communities

Take part in online forums, groups, or communities related to your niche. Share your own content while also engaging with others' posts.

Getting involved helps make connections and build relationships with people in your field, including site owners and bloggers.

When you actively participate, it shows your knowledge and that you provide value to the community. This makes other members more inclined to check out and potentially link back to your website.

So participating first before outreaching can go a long way in increasing reciprocity opportunities when you do request backlinks. Help others out rather than immediately asking for links in return.

Only exchange links with relevant websites

When doing a link exchange, only trade links with websites closely related to your own site's niche and topics. Linking to irrelevant or unrelated sites does not provide value for your audience.

Keeping link exchanges relevant helps strengthen your site's focus for search engines. It signals your content and site belong in your given industry and subject area.

Avoid exchanging links with spammy websites

Do not exchange links with spammy websites trying to manipulate their search rankings. Their low-quality and sketchy tactics can transfer to your site too.

Avoid trading links solely to inflate traffic or backlinks. Google will penalize sites doing manipulative link practices.

Instead, focus your efforts on sharing valuable content. Link out to credible websites in your niche when relevant to help your readers.

This natural approach earns genuine links back as others reference your helpful resources.

Building authority and relationships this way grows traffic and conversions over time. Rely on adding value rather than artificial links to be seen as an industry leader.

How can it harm SEO?

Reciprocal links can potentially harm your website's SEO in several ways:

Done excessively

Excessive reciprocal linking can be seen as an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings and can result in a penalty or a drop in rankings.

It's important to maintain a balance between reciprocal linking and other link-building strategies.

Irrelevant website

Linking to irrelevant websites can signal to search engines that your website lacks relevance to a specific topic or industry, which can negatively impact your rankings.

It's important only to exchange links with relevant websites that have a strong connection to your industry or niche.

From the competitor’s website

Reciprocal linking with direct competitors can also harm your SEO as it can dilute your own website's authority and relevance.

Instead, focus on exchanging links with complementary websites that are relevant to your audience but not direct competitors.

Irrelevant anchor text

Using bad or irrelevant anchor text can negatively impact your website's SEO as it can signal to search engines that your website is trying to manipulate rankings.

It's important to use relevant and descriptive anchor text that accurately reflects the content on the linked page.


Exchanging links between websites can help build backlinks to try boosting your SEO. However, reciprocal linking does carry risks if overdone or managed poorly.

Too many links, especially with unrelated or low-value sites, may actually hurt your search engine rankings.

Instead of excessive reciprocal links, concentrate on publishing helpful content consistently over time. There are also safer options for earning backlinks through guest posting, outreach, etc.

High-quality content and alternative SEO strategies tend to generate more sustainable results rather than depending on reciprocal link trades alone.

While reciprocal links may provide small benefits, focus more on optimizing your overall long-term approach to improve organic growth, visibility and authority.

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