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October 17, 2010

Why Link Exchanges are Bad for Your Site’s Health

So you’ve got yourself a website and are all excited about it. You tell your friends, colleagues and business contacts and the first thing they say is ” Oooh.. that’s great, you can link to mine and I’ll link to yours”… and everybody involved thinks this is a great idea because hey, the more links you have the more popular your site is with Google.

Now this is all very well if you are talking about a few links between ‘networking businesses’, but in the bigger picture, exchanging reciprocal links is not a good way to ingratiate your site with Google.

Be wary of joining Link Exchange Schemes or you could catch a nasty cold!

If reaching Page 1 were that easy, all we’d have to do is put a couple of hundred (or a thousand) links from our web pages to other pages and ask them to do the same. Websites would immediately become ‘huge link banks’ rather than sources of information which is essentially what they should be in every case, even commercial sites.

Google views 1 to 1 reciprocal linking very, very low in importance, for just that reason.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do your friends a favor and they not do the same for you, but just think about what Google thinks is important or you might just experience a long-term negative impact.

Google LIKES inbound links to your site where there is no reciprocal link back. Why? Because that scenario is a neutral (and therefore more valuable) editorial vote for your site’s content.

Google ABSOLUTELY LOVES the inbound (and not reciprocated) link where the link is from a site that is relevant and complementary to your own, ESPECIALLY if that site is regarded highly by Google already. So if you do arrange that reciprocal link with a business friend, just consider that your visitors may find their site irrelevant to what they are looking for. e.g. don’t link to your friend’s Doggie Washing Service if your site is about Commercial Property Investment for example. Keep it relevant.

So how do you go about getting quality links?

What about Link Exchanges? You know, those people who drop an e-mail into your inbox, offering a campaign where your site offers other sites (with similar relevant content to yours) a link, and in exchange they add a link to yours.

Well, we’ve just blown reciprocal links out of the water, but schemes that promise hundreds of links are not a good idea.

Don’t take my word for it. This is what Google has to say:

“..Excessive link exchanges, could “negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results.”

“Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or Page Rank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or ‘bad neighborhoods’ on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.”

“Some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can
negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results.”

“The best way to get other sites to create relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can quickly gain popularity in the Internet community. The more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”

So ok. If you can’t use Link Exchanges, how do you go about getting quality ‘votes’ for your site?

Link exchanges used to be popular, but are the old way of getting links and although links of any type to your site are still counted, there is always the risk that you could catch a very bad cold if you actively participate in link exchanges.

Start to look at the social networking sites and get your site out there. Social networking sites such as Digg, Twitter, Delicious, Facebook, and StumbleUpon are able to drive massive traffic to your site; but only if you have unique and interesting content.

The more interesting your content, the greater the chance that someone else will find your content useful to their visitors and link to you. Always consider your outbound links as part of your content.

If you link to sites stuffed with irrelevant adverts or to a site that tells you how to Wash a Dog (and your site is about Property Investment), then visitors are going to question your motives and will not link their sites to yours.

So focus on good quality content and then look at using social networking to drive visitors to your site. If you have good content, then other sites will start to link to yours.

If you ARE involved in Link Exchanges, visit the reciprocal links as often as you can and make sure you don’t have an unhealthy neighbor and that you still have a link back.

Always remember that the risks of a Link Exchange system far outweigh the benefits.

Neil Holley-Williams runs HW marketing, a Chichester web design company providing very affordable websites and SEO for small and medium sized businesses. Neil has worked in the IT industry for over 25 years for companies such as IBM, Carnival UK, Invesco Perpetual, and Skandia Life. For more information visit

18 Responses to “Why Link Exchanges are Bad for Your Site’s Health

    avatar jdmnetwork says:

    I always thought exchanging links with quality websites that have related topics is a god idea, as long as you do not have too much links exchanges.

    avatar Tace Thompson says:

    Hi Neil,
    Excellent article, be aware all SEO newbies, it can be a bit of a mindfield out there, and its always best to do ones due dilligence before embarking on anything.
    With Best Regards Tace.

    Neil, I agree with you that interesting content gets the kind of links a blog needs.

    When you say ‘link to you’ please be more specific… put on their blogroll?… a hot link in their content?… quoting and using photos?

    Good affirmative article!


    The advice in this article are spot on in every aspect. Google definately does not like websites that have excessive reciprocal link exchanges and these will harm the ranking of your site long term. Great content and relevent inbound one way links are what matters the most.

    avatar Kevin says:

    Good content and inbound links that are useful to your sites content is the way to go. Thanks for a great article.

    avatar Web Design Company says:

    Good information on link building. Today every SEO try to get back links, but they forget that the relevancy is most important thing.

    Excessive linking is bad agreed, but related linking still gives your site relevance for your keywords. Article marketing is also a great way to build incoming links and something everyone with a website should be doing.

    avatar frank says:

    Hi,You are more than 100% correct on the Link Exchanges which is a bad practice for ignorant new website owners. I was among many blind new website
    owners who were hungry searching here
    and there for reciprocal links,thinking it will do us good,but
    rather than harm. It was only couple months ago i got to know this secret. This is real truth,and thanks to all who have come forward to reveal this distructive secret to the new and old alike to shine the site owners to be alert particularly on this very issue. Thanks one more time.

    avatar Elisabeth says:

    People are still very stuck on reciprocal links and it is useful to have a well-researched argument why they are not the bees’ knees.

    I agree: content is king.

    Very interesting articel, I always wondered if it was a good thing to use those exchanges, they advertise so much on the web that one sometimes wonders.

    Thank you for setting us straight.

    今天這篇文章寫得很好,thank you very much

    avatar Affiliateson says:

    Great article on link building.

    Exchanging links is bad, however, help in a first indexing.
    Find links one way is good.

    really it’s true
    reciprocal link exchange is bad..

    This actually means that what you should do, especially if you have multiple websites is not to cross-link, but to make one way links.
    For example you have sites A and B, and the other has sites X and Z, you will do such a link exchange: A links to X and Z links to B. Problem solved, with love 😉

    avatar Barb says:

    I tell clients all the time to never beg or buy links. Incoming links should be natural, not begged or bought. The goldmine is your internal linking.

    It may be good for a few B2B link trades with like businesses, but I wouldn’t do any more than that unless you feel like spending the time to make sure these other sites continue to link to you and that the page is still live.

    avatar Philippe says:

    I used to link exchange quite a bit, and then penguin hit and all the links I had made with the exchanges used my money keyword. I got hit bad, and now I’m screwed, I can’t even login to these webdirectories or exchange places to change the dam anchor text … errr I deleted all the outbound links I had to link exchange partners , only linking to good, well known website now

    Thank you so much for this useful info, I will definitely be more choosy in future to who I link too. Really didn’t realize how damaging it could be. I guess I should stick to directories for now?

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