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Reciprocal linking in its most common form is when website A links to website B and website B links back to website A. This link building tactic has been used throughout the web for many years and its main purpose is to help websites increase their search engine rankings. Some SEO’s claim that reciprocal links are dead, while others use it religiously, but before we discuss how effective it is lets first discuss the basic and advanced forms of reciprocal link building.
###Basic reciprocal link building
Have you ever received an email from a webmaster that was similar to this one?
My name is John and I am with DOMAIN.COM. Did you know that links are the most important factor in getting your website ranked high on the search engines? Currently DOMAIN.COM is a Google PageRank of 6 and if we link to your website it will help boost your search engine rankings. We are willing to link to you if you link back from your website, that way both of our search engine rankings will increase. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
This is usually how reciprocal link exchange emails sound. They generally involve someone trying to solicit you to link to their website, for a link in return back to your website. If you decide to go ahead with this offer you will usually get a link from a page that looks similar to this.
By getting a link from a reciprocal link page you are usually going to get a non-related link. These link pages are filled with tons of links, so your link will probably not get counted by the search engines or if it does get counted it will not hold too much weight.
###Advanced reciprocal link building
Search engines give one way links more weight then reciprocal links because a one way link seems more “natural”. Because of this some webmasters do advanced reciprocal linking where website A links to website B, website B links to website C, and website C links to website A. Although this form of reciprocal link building is more effective then basic reciprocal link building, it shares many of the same pitfalls:
1. Your link is usually on a page with 99 other outbound links.
2. In most cases the link is not related.
3. This tactic can potentially lead to a penalization or a ban on your site.
4. You have to continuously monitor the sites linking to you to make sure they did not remove your link or you have to pay for a service that monitors your reciprocal links for you.
5. Getting these types of reciprocal links can be very time consuming.
So how effective is reciprocal linking?
* Tampgov.net participates in reciprocal linking and for the keyword “tampa” they currently rank number 3 on Google, number 1 on MSN, and number 1 on Yahoo.
* MalekTips participates in reciprocal linking and for the keyword “computer tips” they currently rank number 5 and 6 on Google.
* Finer Design participates in reciprocal linking and for the keyword “website design” they currently rank number 1 on Google and number 1 on Yahoo.
There are other factors such as unique content, on page optimization, age of links and age of site that cause these sites to rank high on the search engines. However one thing that they all have in common is that they heavily participate in reciprocal linking. This does not mean you can start a reciprocal linking campaign and you will see great results, but if you want to get the greatest effect here are some recommendations…
1. Use advanced reciprocal link building.
2. Only get incoming links from related sites.
3. Try not to have your link placed on a links page with over 10 outbound links.
4. Make sure your link is on a content rich link page.
5. If you have a links page on your website, make sure it has a no index tag or the outbound links have a “nofollow”.
6. Switch up the anchor text; do not have all the sites linking to you use the same anchor text.
There may be a large number of sites that rank high because of reciprocal linking, but overall it is probably a small percentage compare to websites that do not use reciprocal linking tactics. Most of these sites are old and the reciprocal links are old. Most of the new sites that rank well by using reciprocal linking are going after small, niche, low traffic keywords since it is very unlikely that reciprocal links would get you a number 1 ranking for high traffic or broad keyword such as “jobs”. The search engines are getting smarter everyday and have caught on to reciprocal linking, even some of the advanced methods. If you do not have the budget for purchasing text links, or do not want to put in effort into linkbaiting, or you do not want to wait for organic growth then reciprocal linking might be the solution for you. Just be careful because it could result in a penalization or cause your website to be banned from the search engines. I personally do not think reciprocal linking is worth the effort and would not recommend it to people.