How Google views link exchanging: The dos and don’ts of reciprocal linking

By Misael Brito | 21 Jul 2021

There was once a time when you could boost your organic presence through exchanging links with other sites by approaching them with a guest post in exchange for a backlink to your site. However, recent SEO developments have caused link-building strategy to shift into a more even playing field in which you need to earn natural backlinks to not be considered spammy.

When it comes to reciprocal links, however, there’s a correct and an incorrect way of approaching them that you’ll want to consider to avoid hurting your SEO.

The wrong way to use reciprocal linking

Google’s John Mueller has recently said that excessive reciprocal linking is against Google’s guidelines. The keyword here being ‘excessive’, in the sense that a webmaster demands rather than earns backlinks and that they use this as one of their key link-building strategies.

An example of a spammy way to approach this would be to get a bunch of free directory listings linking back to you in exchange for you linking to their site. Your site could get flagged for that if you do it too much.

The key is to ensure that you’re not primarily building links using this technique. Excessive link-building in the form of link exchange can result in manual penalties from Google.

The right way to use reciprocal linking

Although the above might make you think twice about reciprocal linking, the action of link exchanging isn’t completely out of the picture. There are some examples of how it can be done well.

Brand partnerships, for instance, where a brand has a genuine relationship with another and chooses to publicise that from both sides, is fine. In fact, it would be a sensible way to approach link exchanges, especially if you’re a business that has partnerships happening left, right and centre.

Also, bloggers’ relationships with brands rely on reciprocal linking. Typically brands will create a landing page linking out to bloggers who’ve already promoted a product. This is another example of an appropriate way to approach the tactic.

The key is to not overdo it; everything in moderation, especially when it comes to link building.

It’s important that you have a varied link profile, not just in terms of trust flow and authority but also link type. Remember: if it feels a bit too easy, it’s probably not going to be a positive exchange for you.