Exchanging Links: The Important Dos & Don’ts
Link Exchange Definition: A network where participating sites display text links in exchange for reciprocal text links from the advertised sites.
When talking to affiliates, I often suggest exchanging links with other relevant websites as a credible tactic for improving their link credibility and profile. The response is usually laughter, followed by a retort telling me that link exchanges are frowned upon by search engines and won’t get them anywhere. I aim to dispel that myth in this article and also tell you how you can link exchange the right way without negatively affecting your sites rankings.
Why have link exchanges got such a bad reputation?
There is no correct answer to why link exchanges have gained a bad reputation over recent years; it is a combination of a number of factors. In my opinion the primary factor for their bad reputation is actually the reason they became so popular, because they are free. Because a cost is rarely associated with a link exchange webmasters have sought them out excessively, to the point that I still get about 20 link exchange requests via email per day and that forums are set up dedicated for the sole purpose of exchanging links.
Because of the excessiveness of some webmasters, a normally highly ethical and natural way of link building, exchanging with your friends, has been targeted by search engines as spam. Consequently webmasters have followed this train of thought as well.
Why link exchange if search engines are against them?
Because of the above, most webmasters have assumed that all link exchanges are tarred with the same bad brush. The truth is that link exchanges are only bad if you acquire them from irrelevant sources and at high levels in proportion to your other link building activity. Providing you do it the right way then exchanging is one of the most effective ways to get high quality and relevant links, which are unattainable through other methods.
So, what is the right way to do link exchanges?
As with everything SEO related, there is no strictly correct way to do anything, it is all down to personal interpretation of the best practice guides from search engines and previous experience. From my interpretations, I always abide by the following rules:
- As a general rule, the link must benefit your site audience. If I think that my visitors would gain no benefit through clicking on the link then it is not worth the potential loss of a loyal visitor. Your visitors should always come first before search engines.
- Always make sure that exchanging links is one method of many. If it is your sole source of links then you need to change that or you are running a high risk of penalisation.
- The site I’m linking to must be highly related to my niche, if I run a casino site then it must be to another casino site. No mixing niches, even going from casino to betting is questionable in my book.
- The site which I am linking to must be regarded of a similar or higher quality by search engines, find out how many backlinks it has, how many pages, how well it ranks for relevant keywords etc.
- The main relevance of the link is attributed from the site theme which it is coming from, rather than the anchor text. Therefore I always like to stay on the safe side of spam and link with uncompetitive anchor text, usually just the site name.
- Always check the backlink profile of the website which you are linking to. Do they excessively link exchange? If so then drop them out.
What, in your opinion, is the best way to approach people for link exchanges?
Sending out a mass mailer to loads of webmasters every day is a sure fire way to either get yourself ignored or get responses from low quality websites. In order to effectively make the most of link building you need to network with fellow webmasters. Make friends in your industry and establish relationships which mean you are one of 5 links on the site, rather than one of hundreds that have been added from a mass mailer.
You can do this by attending industry events, or meeting people through forums such as here on Casino Affiliate Programs. I’d love to hear your comments, if you would like me to write on a particular aspect of link building just let me know!
David Merry spent the first part of his professional career in the link building strategy team at London based search marketing company Greenlight Search.
He now heads the online marketing team at CastleCasino.com and focuses the majority of his time on SEO and their affiliate program. You can learn more about Castle Casino’s affiliate program at CastleAffiliates.com.