Is Reciprocal Linking Good or Bad?
While many tenets of search engine optimization have come and gone over the years, one of the most consistent aspects of it – link building – remains. Search engines view links as indicators of authority, helping to more accurately determine the true value and appeal of various websites. The more quality links a website earns from other websites, the more trustworthy it is considered by search engines.
There are many different ways to build links and different strategies behind each, with reciprocal linking being a common example. However, there are both benefits and criticisms surrounding the process. To help you better understand the dynamic, let’s examine whether the act is good or bad.
Does Reciprocal Linking Provide Value?
The biggest question – and perhaps the only one many care about – is whether or not reciprocal linking provides inherent value. For a long time, the common answer to this question was yes. When SEO algorithms were far less sophisticated, two websites linking to one another helped both parties, augmenting their standings and resulting in wins for both involved.
However, some will point out that pinging URLs back and forth between two or more websites can cause some repercussions. Search engines like Google are strict about what they consider to be link schemes; tactics such as buying links or arranging deals between websites to link to one another can cause penalties that nerf rankings and completely eliminate any gains from the reciprocal linking.
When Reciprocal Linking Makes Sense
The single biggest piece of advice that can be given regarding reciprocal linking is to ask yourself the question “does this arrangement seem natural?”. It is not surprising to find two websites within the same niche that each have links pointing to the other; such a situation is contextually relevant and sensible. However, if a fashion website and a gardening website suddenly have multiple links each pointing at the other, this sends up huge red flags for search engines.
Additionally, it should be obvious that reciprocal links should provide real merit to those who are reading your content. If the inclusion of a link actually provides benefit to those browsing your content, then its inclusion is sensible. Simply stuffing in links – regardless of whether the site in question is in your niche or not – is generally not a good idea.
When Reciprocal Linking Doesn’t Make Sense
Above all else, reciprocal linking shouldn’t be forced. The most common example of this is prearranged agreements through link farming or other tactics. Not only are these contextually irrelevant, but search engines tend to discover very quickly how these networks are built. If a single website involved with the broader network is discovered, then every other website’s relationships within the network will also be heavily scrutinized.
Likewise, you don’t want to link to any website that has poor SEO rankings or metrics, as link building is built around the notion of associations. Merely pinging URLs to a questionable website – even when it’s not reciprocal – can harm your own rankings.
Reciprocal linking can be a valuable asset when it isn’t forced, is relevant and is agreed upon without the desire for gaming the system. In all other situations, however, you could be exposing your website to more pain in search results than it is worth.