Link Trades: Tips for Making Reciprocal Links Work For Your SEO

I recently received a link trade (reciprocal link) request email from another site causing me to ask myself, how can I make the tons of link trade requests that I get, work in my favor. Most of these sites are low quality or riddled with spam, but some of the sites are actually pretty reputable (based on SEOmoz stats), related to the industry of the website they are asking to trade with, and have a good traffic profile. Each of these data points give the impression that trading links could potentially help drive traffic and conversions.

What is reciprocal linking?

In essence this tactic, started out clean, yet turned into a tactic used to inflate page rank. It’s the “you link to me, and I’ll link to you” mentality.

Google’s page on Link Schemes warns site owners that some kinds of linking might impact the ratings of their web sites negatively, including:

  • Links intended to manipulate PageRank
  • Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
  • Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)
  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank

Where sites get in trouble

In the traditional sense, and in my opinion where companies get in trouble for “trading links”, is with catch all “link pages” that popped up when reciprocal linking became popular. The issue with these pages is that they are not focused on a specific topic related to the site which they are on, but rather have links about any number of topics from sports, to gambling, trading, etc. all on one page. This is one of the tell tail signs to determine if the trading of links is strictly for SEO gains, and not for true added value to the end user.

The Ask

As mentioned above I recently received a link trade email from a website (email below).

link email

After reviewing their site (which had good SEOmoz metrics, ok traffic levels, and seemed to be more than just a “links page”), I concluded this would be a good site to get a link from, yet I didn’t want to “trade links”.

How to make reciprocal link requests work for you

As with most things when it comes to marketing, it’s about adding value, and looking natural, whether you are doing product placement, PR, or link trades. Going with that methodology, I wanted to add value to their site, as well as them adding value to my site. The concept below, is a good way to do traditional link trades in a way that is both white hat and adds value.

Start by reaching out to the person who requested the link (if the site has value), telling them that you don’t trade links, but are interested in doing a more white hat link trade that adds value for the users.

Let them know you would like to write a piece of content that will be published on their blog or website, or they can write one for your website. Either way the article should add value and follow quality guidelines.

If they agree then follow the steps below.

  • 1. Write an in-depth article (that is 900+ words, unique, includes images, resources, videos) about a relevant topic.
  • 2. In the article place a relevant and useful link back to an article or valuable piece of content on your website.
  • 3. In a future article on your website about the same or related topic, or in an article already published on your website, add a link to the article you just created. Again this must be relevant and add value to the user.
  • Both sites should then market their pieces of content through their social networks to gain user metrics and links.

Remember, since Panda, the level of value you need to add to any piece of content has gone up dramatically.

This idea will have the most impact for both sites as well as for users if the sites are relevant to one another, and the site that you are exchanging links with has value. If upon reviewing the site they are doing low value SEO, buying links, or all they do is traditional link trades, they are probably a spam site and will not add value to your site or users; so delete the email as you normally would.


SEObytheSea: information about Google and reciprocal links.

SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday Video – Sitewide, Reciprocal, and Directory Links.

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