Google Confirms, It doesn’t Consider all Reciprocal Linking Unnatural.

2 min read
Reciprocal link

Reciprocal links are still used to improve site authority and SEO.

In the early 2000s, reciprocal links – also known as “traded” or “exchanged” links – were a prominent strategy of link building, but their popularity has waned in the following years.


Reciprocal links are still very common. After all, they’re a natural result of having a website.

A link exchange occurs when two brands agree to swap links in order to improve SEO and site credibility by saying, “you link to me, and I’ll link to you.” A reciprocal link is essentially a pay for play, or a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” deal.


During the Google Search Central SEO office hours hangout on January 28, Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller revealed this.


In Google’s perspective, reciprocal linking isn’t always a bad thing. In many circumstances, linking back to a site that links to yours is natural.


Seth Mendelsohn, an SEO expert, joins the Livestream with worries about maintaining the value of backlinks.


He wonders if inbound links leading to his site will lose any value if he links to such sites in return.


Mendelsohn makes it clear that he is not interested in doing this as part of a link exchange. Instead, he believes that the links will benefit visitors.

Would linking back to those sites depreciate the inbound links pointing to his site?


Or, even worse, would Google consider this to be unnatural link building?


Here’s what Mueller has to say about it.

“That’s perfectly fine. It’s also kind of natural. Especially if you’re a local business, you link to your neighbors. Or if you’re mentioned in the news somewhere you kind of mention that on your website like ‘I was featured here in the news’ and essentially you’re kind of linking back and forth.”


Just because a few forms of reciprocal linking are forbidden by Google’s webmaster guidelines, Mendelsohn is being extra cautious about which pages he links to.


Link exchange is absolutely unethical, in which two websites agree to link to each other in an attempt to manipulate search rankings.


This, on the other hand, is not a link exchange in the sense that Google’s standards define it. It’s a natural form of reciprocal linking, rather.


Google is smart, Despite the fact that two sites linked to each other technically qualify as reciprocal linking, Google can distinguish between natural linking and a link scheme.


Mueller continues:

“It’s kind of a reciprocal link essentially, but it’s a natural kind of link. It’s not something that’s there because you’re doing some kind of crazy link scheme. So from that point of view, I think it’s easy to overthink it. And if you’re doing something naturally, if you’re not kind of making weird deals, behind the scenes, then I really wouldn’t worry about it.”


This clarifies the fact that natural link building, even if it means linking back to someone who has linked you is not a bad thing if you are doing it meaningfully. Don’t ever try to manipulate google with reciprocal linking.