Once you really begin link building, especially when you start getting into guest posting opportunities, you will find that reciprocal linking is everywhere. If you want to get your link on a website, that website is naturally going to want their own link on your website. Many individual blogs that focus more on the social and content creation aspects of blogging might not worry about you putting a link on their website, but any company blog is going to want something in return.

Because link building exists for SEO purposes, it’s important to understand the SEO implications of reciprocal linking. When faced with the decision of a link for a link or nothing at all, the SEO value should ultimately be your deciding factor.

When Reciprocal Links Work and the Benefits You Will Earn

If reciprocal linking is done correctly, you can earn quite a few SEO benefits. Below are a few things that have to happen in order for reciprocal linking to really work:

  • When it is natural. The best way to make sure that a link is natural is by embedding it into your content or into an author bio. Simply putting a link in the sidebar of a website does not seem natural to Google, and therefore that link will not reap any SEO benefits.
  • When it is relevant. If your company offers financial services and you’re exchanging links with a sports recreation site, Google is going to get suspicious and could penalize you. Make sure that the links are relevant and will help users—Google’s main goal.
  • When they are rare. You don’t want to have your entire link-building campaign built around reciprocal links. You can exchange links with some authoritative websites in your industry every once and a while, but don’t make it a habit.

It’s important to remember that you don’t want to exchange links with a competitor, but rather a complimentary business. Exchanging links with a competitor could potentially give your competitor more benefits than you’re receiving, so it’s best to stay away.

In terms of SEO link juice alone, it’s also worth mentioning that reciprocal linking does devalue your link just a bit because you are giving something to another company and causing more competition. If both sites are similar in terms of authority, it’s an eye for an eye trade. It won’t hurt your SEO, but it isn’t guaranteed to help either. You still have the chance that someone will click on your link when visiting the other site, so if done correctly this tactic is usually worth it.

When Reciprocal Links Fail and Why

In the past, reciprocal linking was extremely popular because it was easy and everyone was happy. Companies began exchanging links at a rapid rate, and in most situations these links were not adding value for readers. The links were going onto a page that was simply full of links. Naturally, Google decided to put a stop to this and penalize sites that were participating in this act, known as “link farming.” In these types of situations your will fail in terms of SEO every time. These link farms are still alive and well, so be careful.