Glossary | 3 mins
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Reciprocal links are links gained through a link exchange where two websites agree to link to each other’s pages. In theory, this strategy is mutually beneficial for the owners of both websites, allowing two brands to drive traffic to each other’s pages and improve their search engine rankings.
In the early days of SEO, reciprocal link building was a common way for marketers and webmasters to quickly develop their backlink profile and improve rankings. However, due to the abuse of this tactic and the sophistication of search engine algorithms, it is assumed that they don’t hold the same weight nowadays.
There are of course completely natural occurrences where two brands would link to each other, and the links would hold significant value. However, where it is clearly an attempt to gain competitive advantage, search engines might ignore the links as a ranking factor – and in some extreme cases, consider it worthy of investigation (where a manual penalty could be applied).
What are the risks of using reciprocal backlinks in SEO?
These days, Google’s algorithm is more than capable of identifying patterns in sites using reciprocal linking, and if they suspect a site has been employing this unnatural link building technique, it is likely to be ignored or worse.
One of the primary risks of abusing reciprocal links in SEO is the potential for your site to be flagged as part of a link farm. Link farms are networks of websites that link to each other for the sole purpose of manipulating search engine rankings. This practice was common in the early days of SEO, but is now considered a black hat technique and should be avoided.
Another risk associated with reciprocal links is that they may simply not provide any tangible SEO benefits. Webmasters who become comfortable with reciprocal linking can have a tendency to produce large volumes of irrelevant or low-quality links. If a website’s reciprocal links are not relevant to its content, or if the linking website has a poor domain authority, the links may not improve its search engine ranking and could even have the opposite effect.
Reciprocal links occur completely naturally all of the time, and are completely normal as it would be in any form of advertising. Of course, this type of organic link would likely provide benefit to the website’s SEO strategy. However, abusing this tactic as a route to gaming the ranking algorithm could lead to lead to unwanted consequences, which has made it less popular in recent years.
For more sustainable, long-term success in your link building campaigns, it’s essential to stay wary of manipulative, black hat techniques, and to prioritise natural links from quality, relevant sites that provide tangible value to your target audience.
Reciprocal Links FAQs
What is a reciprocal link?
A reciprocal link is a type of link exchange where two websites agree to link to each other’s pages. Though it was a common tactic in the early days of SEO, abuse of this activity can now be considered a form of link manipulation, which can lead to incurring search engine penalties in the most extreme cases.
Does Google approve of reciprocal backlinking?
While Google doesn’t explicitly mention reciprocal backlinking in its policies, it does consider it a form of link manipulation and may ignore websites that engage in reciprocal link building. To play it safe, it’s best to avoid reciprocal link exchange schemes, and focus your resources on creating high quality content to earn natural backlinks.
Questions to ask your link builder