When two website owners participate in linking to each others websites or blogs in such a way that both of them benefit by linking to each other, the links are called reciprocal links. A reciprocal link is generally a partnership between two allied sites or two non allied sites with the purpose of driving business or any other objective.
It’s like saying
You link to one of my pages from this page of yours and I will link to you from this page of mine to that page of yours.
Reciprocal links aren’t always bad and reciprocal links aren’t always good either. You need to understand how search engines view reciprocal links and what is considered a good reciprocal link and what is considered a bad reciprocal link.
Why reciprocal link matters in SEO?
Search engines like Google, Yahoo, Ask consider web links as a signal to understand and evaluate the popularity and authority of a web page. If a website has a lot of links coming towards it, it is generally a good signal that this website has good content on a subject. I used to term “generally” because there are other factors as well and just a large number of links is not a surefire way to gauge the popularity of a webpage or website.
That said, links do matter.
Now that this information is established that links are a good indicator of authority, there is a mad chase among bloggers and webmasters to accumulate links for their sites or blogs. Everyone wants to be linked from other sites so that it improves the visibility of their sites which in turn would mean more traffic which in turn would convert into more revenue or sales.
However, people ignore the fact that links have to be natural. Links that have been purchased from other sites, link directories, content farms or links that have been exchanged from another webmasters are viewed differently from “Natural links”.
Now you may wonder, how will Google and other search engines determine which link is natural and which link is not natural?
Google and other search engines have different ways to figure out which link is a “Natural link” and which link is not. You cannot fool around for long, eventually their systems will detect that the incoming links coming to your site are not “Natural” or there is some kind of “Pattern” in your link portfolio.
And that’s when your website may get caught in their filters as spam. Sites that participate in unnatural link building, exchange too many links with other similar or not so similar sites are sometimes flagged as “Spam” which affects the visibility of the site in search engine result pages.
Hence, reciprocal links do matter in SEO. One should be very careful while doing link exchanges with other sites since too many links coming from sources that are viewed suspiciously by search engines may actually hurt your website in the long haul.
When reciprocal links are considered Good?
Reciprocal links aren’t always bad.
You may link to another website or blog and that website may link to you from one of its pages. This will count as a reciprocal link and it won’t hurt both the sources, so long the links are “Natural”.
So let’s say you write a blog on business and marketing. You link to another site in the same niche and the same site links to one of your pages which has great content. This will count as a reciprocal link and this won’t hurt anyone. It is perfectly all right for two websites to share and reciprocate links so long the links are “Natural” and adds real “Value” to the webpage.
Here are a few things you should note with respect to reciprocal links
- Always check the authority of the domain to whom you are linking to. Is this website looks like a legit one? How long has this website around? Who is the person behind the website? Is the website popular and respected one?
- Do check whether the content you are linking to is relevant to the content of the page from where you are linking. Will your readers derive any value from that link? If someone clicks that link and arrives at the target site, will they find information that solves their problem? How valuable is the content in question?
- Never participate in link competitions, link farms, reciprocal chains and reciprocal schemes. These are cheap ways to gain some initial publicity but it won’t last and it will affect your search engine ranking and may get your site penalized.
Reciprocal linking should be done sparingly only when the links add value to the content of the page and provides additional insight to your readers. Do not do reciprocal linking in order to improve the search engine visibility of your website or blog, it will do more harm than good and eventually all your other efforts will go in vain.