Reciprocal links continue to enhance website authority and improve SEO, although their popularity has diminished since the early 2000s.
Reciprocal links, also known as “traded” or “exchanged” links, are still prevalent online. They arise naturally as a consequence of website interactions.
Link exchanges occur when two brands agree to trade links to enhance both SEO and website credibility. It’s essentially a “you link to me, and I’ll link to you” arrangement akin to cooperation.
During a Google Search Central SEO office hours hangout on January 28, Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller, offered insights into this practice.
From Google’s perspective, reciprocal linking isn’t inherently harmful. In many cases, reciprocating links with a website that links to yours can be seen as a natural occurrence.
An SEO expert, Seth Mendelsohn, participated in the livestream and expressed concerns about preserving the value of inbound links to his site.
His main query revolved around whether linking back to these sites would devalue the inbound links directed to his website.
Mendelsohn was clear that he wasn’t interested in engaging in traditional link exchanges. Instead, he believed that such reciprocal links could provide value to visitors.
His primary concerns were whether linking to these sites might diminish the value of the inbound links pointing to his website or potentially trigger Google to view it as 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.”
Mendelsohn is cautioned when selecting the pages he links to, primarily due to Google’s webmaster guidelines prohibiting certain forms of reciprocal linking.
It’s crucial to recognize that traditional link exchanges, where two websites mutually agree to link to each other, are considered unethical. This practice aims to manipulate search rankings.
However, the approach Mendelsohn is taking falls outside the definition of a link exchange as outlined in Google’s standards. Instead, it represents a more natural form of reciprocal linking.
Google’s algorithms are sophisticated, and even though the technical definition of reciprocal linking applies when two sites link to each other, Google can differentiate between natural linking and a deliberate link scheme.
“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 underscores the idea that engaging in natural link building, which includes reciprocating links with those who have linked to you, is perfectly acceptable when done with genuine intent. However, attempting to manipulate Google through reciprocal linking is strongly discouraged.