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Google Confirms That Reciprocal Linking Is Not Always Bad

Google Confirms That Reciprocal Linking Is Not Always Bad

Many SEOs wonder if reciprocal linking should be in their SEO linkbuilding strategy, given its negative reputation. But from Google’s point of view, reciprocal link building is not necessarily a problem. In many situations, it makes perfect sense to link back to a website that links to yours. This topic was discussed by John Mueller, Google’s Search Advocate, in an episode of the Google Search Central SEO office hours hangout on 28 January.

An SEO specialist joined the stream to express doubts about keeping the value of backlinks for linkbuilding in SEO. They asked if any value would be lost if he reciprocated inbound links that point to his site by linking back to them. However, they made it clear that he isn’t attempting this out of a desire for a link exchange. Instead, they think that users would benefit from it if they link back to those websites.

The SEO asked if the inbound links directed to their website would lose value if they linked back to the website. Would Google view this as unnatural link building?

Reciprocal Links Are Not Necessarily Bad

According to Google’s webmaster guidelines, some forms of reciprocal linking are prohibited. That is why the SEO was extra careful about which websites they linked back to. A link exchange, in which two websites agree to link to one another to improve their search rankings, is strictly forbidden.

On the other hand, this scenario is not a link exchange from Google’s point of view. Rather, it’s a natural form of reciprocating linking.

According to Mueller, linking back to those websites is perfectly acceptable and also kind of natural. SEOs can connect with their neighbours, especially if they are a local business. Moreover, if they are mentioned in the news somewhere, they may include it on their website, which means they would essentially have to link back to the news site.

While reciprocal linking refers to two websites linking to one another, Google can distinguish natural linking from a link scheme.

Mueller said that linking back to those websites is sort of a reciprocity link, but it’s natural linking. And it is far from a link scheme where the two websites planned to link to one another to manipulate their rankings. From that standpoint, SEOs can overthink it. If an SEO is doing things naturally rather than making odd deals behind the scenes, Mueller said there is nothing to worry about.

What Are Reciprocal Links?

A link exchange occurs when two websites agree to exchange links to improve their SEO rankings and site authority by essentially stating, “you link to me, and I’ll link to you”. In other words, a reciprocal link is a quid pro quo or a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” scenario. This might seem shady, but it all depends on how – and how frequently SEO sites use reciprocal links.

A Short History on Reciprocal Links

In the early 2000s, reciprocal links – also known as “exchanged” or “traded” links – were a popular technique of link building but have become less popular in recent years.

Reciprocal links are still fairly prevalent today since they are a by-product of owning a website. But what’s interesting is that the way reciprocal links appear on websites today is different from years ago.

An SEO linkbuilding study states that developing relationships between websites through genuine outreach and linking to sources without expecting anything in return is the most natural and appropriate way to develop reciprocating links. The study also shows that 26.4% of the websites do not use reciprocal links, meaning many sites out there still use them.

Still, many SEOs wonder if reciprocal links do more harm than good.

4 Ways Reciprocal Links Can Harm SEO

There are several advantages to natural reciprocal linking, but without common sense, swapping links may harm one’s site’s authority and position in the search results. Here are four ways that links may actually damage one’s SEO:

1. Manual action

Simply put, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines prohibit unnatural reciprocal links. If a site is guilty of taking advantage of backlinks to try and influence its search rankings, it has a high probability of being penalised by Google.

2. A drop in site authority and rankings

One should avoid linking to external websites that aren’t relevant to their content as it may harm their page’s site authority and SERP rankings. It is best to ensure that the content is relevant before linking. In some scenarios, linking back to low-authority websites is fine, but frequently linking to them does not improve one’s website’s authority.

3. Boosting SEO for direct competition

One should avoid linking to websites with similar target keywords and phrases. Doing so only boosts the competition’s SEO. Sites with similar themes and content should exchange links, not direct competitors.

4. Loss of trust

Reciprocal links can cause Google to lose trust in one’s website. This scenario can happen in two ways:

  • The link’s anchor text is consistently irrelevant to the content and highly suspicious.
  • The website has a high number of 1-to-1 links.

Building Relationships is Important

Developing relationships in the industry is an important aspect of any successful link building strategy. Creating trust and authority through relevant, reputable resources is a wonderful way to establish connections with companies in the same field. Linking to authority websites gives one a better chance of being discovered by other site owners, resulting in more link exchanges in the future.

Improve Your Link Building with Webmix NetworksSEO

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We’re a professional SEO agency that uses positive link building methods that are fully compliant with Google’s policies and guidelines. This means that we can help you avoid any penalty from Google and give your business the boost it needs in order to succeed online.

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