When the concept of SEO was in its infancy, strategies for link building to boost search rankings were a lot more straightforward. Adding links to your web pages did not require much thought and often worked well.
One strategy that was widely used at one time is reciprocal linking. The technique involves two webmasters agreeing to backlink to each other’s websites to boost search rankings.
As time moved on, Google and other search engines started to up their game in terms of how their algorithms determine search results. Aspects of your website like relevancy and quality of your page are now far more important for search rankings.
So, with these changes in mind, is a reciprocal link strategy still worth your time? Do the gurus in the industry like the top seo company in Coimbatore still use such techniques? Or will search engines now actually penalize you for these types of tactics? We’ve broken down everything you need to know about building reciprocal links and how you can still take advantage of this SEO strategy.
White Hat vs Black Hat SEO
In the early days of SEO techniques, different tactics could be divided into either “white hat” or “black hat” categories.
White hat SEO includes any tactics where links or content are strategically built but in an authentic way. When it comes to link building, this means linking to authority websites that are relevant to your brand.
In the past, increasing your search ranking would have been as simple as littering your content with keywords and linking to authority sites. This was fine when done authentically, but often websites were taking advantage and ranking for popular keywords despite adding little or no value to the search engine user.
Many people took advantage of this more simplistic approach to SEO. These “black-hat” SEO techniques often resulted in pages of little value achieving a high rank in SERPs. An example of this is well known Google bombs, where bloggers deliberately took advantage of backlinking to influence SERP results for specific keywords.
Other black hat SEO techniques used in the past include:
- keyword stuffing
- using invisible text to increase keyword density
- page swapping
Google and other search engines quickly adapted and are now pretty adept at catching black-hat techniques and penalizing those who use them.
Reciprocal linking has always been considered to lie in a grey area between white-hat and black-hat SEO.
Follow vs No-Follow Links
When creating a blog post or webpage, you can direct search engines to follow or not follow a backlink within your content. This can be done through “no-follow” HTML tags, and most blog plugins or marketing automation software will make this an easy thing to do.
“No-follow” tags are supposed to tell search engines not to crawl or index that link. There are many reasons to do this, but some recent experiments by SEO experts have begged the question: does Google really not follow “no-follow” links?
In any case, if you are writing a blog post and backlinking to external authority sites, using “follow” links to authority sites is marginally good for your SEO.
Situations where “no-follow” tags should be used include:
- Ad links
- Paid affiliate links
- Any link to pages that may be deemed irrelevant to your content
The only time “no-follow” links may be relevant within your blog posts or content is avoiding too many backlinks. There is a danger that search engines will see this as stuffing your content with links as an SEO tactic. In this instance, it may be a good idea to look at the link density in your post and include the “no-follow” tag on some of the external links.
So that’s a brief oversight into the past and current landscape of using backlinks as part of your SEO strategy. But what about reciprocal links specifically?
What Is Reciprocal Linking?
Reciprocal linking is an agreement between two webmasters to link to each other’s websites with the overall aim of increasing search rankings for both parties.
Sometimes these agreements included the purchasing of backlinks on higher authority sites. It was a common practice previously but has become less popular now as search engines have become increasingly intelligent at spotting inauthentic linking methods.
Both paid and unpaid linking evolved quickly after Google’s introduction of PageRank, an algorithm that was primarily designed to obliterate the spamming of webpages with links for SEO impact. This is also where “follow” vs “no-follow links” comes into play.
Affiliate linking is where a webmaster may pay commission to people who backlink to their website. It is highly recommended that these links be “no-follow,” but they are still beneficial for driving extra traffic to your site.
It’s still relatively common to receive emails from webmasters with requests to share links to each other’s pages. But what is the impact today on continuing this linking practice?
Is Reciprocal Linking Good or Bad for SEO?
It only takes a quick search of reciprocal linking to realize that it’s a practice that has mostly died out. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be abandoned entirely. Reciprocal linking hasn’t disappeared completely, but webmasters have certainly had to refine their strategies. Adapting your SEO techniques according to more stringent search engine rules around linking is essential to avoid penalties from the search engines.
When it comes to good SEO, Google and other search engines are mainly ranking your web page for different search terms according to:
- Relevancy (how relevant and up to date is the information)
- Quality (of content and web page elements like loading speed)
- Authority (mainly website traffic and backlinking)
Creating content according to these guidelines is the best way to achieve backlinks. People backlink to quality content that provides value to what they are producing on their website. So, first and foremost, you should be creating highly valuable and thorough content that is regularly updated.
This applies to your linking strategy as well, both inbound and outbound. When search engines are crawling your page, they want to see that the links are relevant to the content. This is why things like anchor text have become so critical to linking strategies.
Good SEO these days is as much about avoiding the “don’ts” as ensuring that you’re following the “do’s.” So if you are investing time in building reciprocal links, it should be with authority sites that are relevant to your website and who are also creating high value, high ranking content.
An excellent way to practice good link building is by identifying authority sites within your niche that you would like to backlink to your page. For example, email another webmaster providing a link to a report you have created that they may find useful for one of their blog posts. It may also be a good idea to point to a place on your own site where you have already backlinked to some of their content that you found valuable.
Avoid reciprocal linking to low authority sites or pages that have little to do with the overall theme or topic of your website. It will do you no favours in the eyes of the search engine algorithms.
Regardless of your existing or previous linking strategies, the most important thing is to stay current on the latest updates that search engines roll out to their algorithms.
The linking landscape looks very different today than it did at the beginning of SEO, and doubtless, it will continue to evolve in the future.
Regardless of your existing or previous linking strategies, the most important thing is to stay current on the latest updates that search engines roll out to their algorithms. The linking landscape looks very different today than it did at the beginning of SEO, and doubtless, it will continue to evolve in the future.
While the “traditional” reciprocal link building methods may not be doing your SEO any favors, backlinks still play a vastly important role in your search rankings. How do you currently use links in your website content?