Reciprocal Links: Will They Help Or Hurt Your SEO?

Does reciprocal link building still work for SEO in 2020? Will it increase your rankings, or should building reciprocal backlinks be avoided?

There is no simple answer to these questions, but if you don’t get this right you are taking a huge risk with your website that could even lead to a Google penalty.

In this article, you will discover whether reciprocal link building still works for SEO in 2020. You will also learn how reciprocal link building can potentially tank your website’s rankings if you’re not careful.

I will explain how to generate hundreds of high-quality authoritative backlinks without screwing up your website’s rankings. I include three bonus tips on building reciprocal bank links that protect your website and still drive traffic to your site.


What is Reciprocal Link Building?

To put it simply, reciprocal link building is a “you scratch my back – I’ll scratch your back” approach to building links to your site. Basically, it is when a person links to your website and in return you link back to them. It is an easy way for you both to get backlinks and authority to your sites.


Is Reciprocal Link Building Bad For SEO?

Will reciprocal link building destroy your rankings? If you don’t understand how to correctly build links or the rules around this approach, then you are potentially taking some huge risks. I will explain this further in the next section.


What Does Google Say About Reciprocal Links?

The truth is that Google has said reciprocal link building can go against the Google webmaster guidelines, but it is only really an issue if you abuse the system and do it excessively. For example, if you build thousands of reciprocal links straight from your website to another website and they link back to you, this would be considered an abuse of the system.

It’s very spammy, and is not creating a better user experience for those using Google. You can potentially be punished as a result of doing this excessively. You have to be extremely careful about abusing this system. It should not be your number one link building strategy.

Imagine yourself like a modern-day stoic philosopher who for some weird reason loves a bit of reciprocal link building. Practice it in moderation, but don’t take it too far. Just like cat memes and karaoke; reciprocal link building should be done in moderation. If you take it too far, things will get strange.


Reciprocal Link Building Case Studies

The way that Google has worded their advice on reciprocal link building is so ambiguous and subjective that I think it may have been done this way for a reason, as I will explain below.

Google have essentially got their poker face on. They are dangling the carrot in front of webmasters, and the reason for that is because they don’t want you to abuse the system. How do you interpret their advice? What is considered excessive? Does that mean one or a thousand backlinks?

What does the data on reciprocal link building say? Ahrefs.com did a study on this topic, and they looked at 140,000 websites that had been getting 10,000 organic traffic or more. Essentially, they were looking at authoritative websites to see what works, and they discovered that 73% of these websites use reciprocal links.

This is a very common link building strategy. It’s still incredibly common to link to each other, especially if you’re in the same industry, or even if you are competing with one another.


How Can You Build Reciprocal Links Without Hurting Your SEO?

To begin with, you want to check the organic traffic of the website and consider the following:

  • What is the content quality like?
  • Does this website publish regularly?
  • Are they an authority in your industry?
  • Is it a website that you genuinely want to work with?
  • Can you trust them?

Domain Ratings

Look at the domain rating of the website versus the amount of organic traffic they have to see if there is a difference. Consider if it makes sense to link to them. Is it relevant to the content you’re getting and the content they’re linking out from?


Who Are They Linking To?

If they’re working with casinos, Viagra websites, or anything else that is dodgy, you definitely don’t want a link to them. This is called backlink profile and is something that you should be extremely careful of when it comes to reciprocal link building. Also check who they are linking out to, who they are getting links from, and if they are a PBN (Private Blog Network).

I actually used to make a massive mistake with link building in the past. I would build a link, walk off into the sunset, and never contact that website owner again. If you’re doing the same thing and missing out, you will love my next strategy.


Look For Partnership

You want to create a database of high-quality websites that you can work with and partner up with. They can keep sharing your content, you can keep sharing theirs, and build an extremely good relationship.

Every time you get a high-level backlink from say a DR30 website that gets lots of organic traffic and posts loads of high-quality content, put their name, email address, and details into a spreadsheet, and use that database to keep following up with them.

Of course, it’s important to be respectful here. Don’t just keep taking value and pitching to them all the time. It is important to make sure that you are giving as much as you are taking.


Networking Effect

Next, I would recommend following up with the websites in the database every month or two. Create a process around this because it’s much easier to get links from websites that already trust you, than it is to pitch to new ones. Having a process around reciprocal links is a competitive advantage for your website.

Even if these websites refuse more reciprocal links, they might share your website on social media or introduce you to other websites. The networking effect of these connections is really important. If there is one main point that you should take from this article, I would say that this networking effect might be the most important.


About SEO Relationships

Relationships are everything when it comes to Off-Page SEO. This is a competitive advantage and 90% of website owners don’t have it. The things you have learnt in this article won’t work without the strategy I’m about to show you.

If you’re going to approach a website for a link swap, don’t just say “If you link to me, I’ll link to you and we can both get link swaps”. If you do it that way it is kind of lazy.

It’s a very basic approach to link swaps that’s just not going to work in 2020 and might even offend some websites. You must be able to offer value. Give them value then see what you can get back from them.

Doing it this way is much more respectful, and a much better way to start a relationship with another website. You can’t just go into the relationship expecting something from the other person.

For example, you could tell them that you mentioned their website in a blog. You could pay them a genuine personalized compliment, not just a bullshit generic one.

If you do this you can start to build the relationship because you’re giving value without being a complete see-you-next-Tuesday. This is something I recommend and it makes a huge difference.


3 Bonus Tips For Your Reciprocal Results

As I promised at the beginning of the article, I will now discuss the three bonus tips on reciprocal link building that will help you get ten times the results you want.


Tip #1: Don’t use reciprocal link building as your number one link building strategy

This approach should only be supplementing all your other methods. Keep using HARO, the skyscraper technique, outreach, and whatever other link building methods you’re using. Use reciprocal link building to maintain relationships with people, keep chasing up more links, and get your new content shared.


Tip #2: Don’t use a site-wide link banner across your site and theirs

This is far too old school! It’s not the 1990s anymore and it is an excessive way of building backlinks to your site with reciprocal link building. My advice is to just avoid it.


Tip #3: Use the snooze feature on Gmail to keep those emails bouncing back to you

This will save you a lot of time because when you archive an email and snooze it, it will just bounce back into your inbox one month later. Then you can follow up with the webmaster again about reciprocal link building. Not only will it save you a lot of time, it also stops all your emails stacking up.