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What do Reciprocal Links Mean in SEO?

Reciprocal links are a form of link exchange between two sites. However, exchanging links for the sake of cross-linking is a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines.

It is true that for your SEO marketing strategy to work today, you must find ways to get backlinks from other sites.

However, for other webmasters to link back, you must offer them value, something worth adding a backlink to you.

That is where reciprocal links come in hand.

What is a Reciprocal Link?

Image result for reciprocal links

Essentially reciprocal links are where a website links to your site, and in return, you link back to them.

It is like a “scratch my back, and I scratch yours” scenario. 

For instance, a high-traffic blog in your industry links to your website using relevant keywords in one of their articles.

You read the same post that mentioned your site, then check out other articles from the blog and link to them as well.

Also, referred to as two-way links, reciprocal links have been around for a while.

Actually, they are as old as SEO!

It is based on the idea that if two blogs or sites value each other’s’ posts, they can exchange links with each other.

Now, while some webmasters do not like reciprocal links nowadays, the reality is that they are part of modern online publishing and browsing behavior.

Just like, there are times where you can come across an essential post on the web.

And you decide to link your blog or share it on social media.

Then a few hours later, the owner of the site also links to your blog.

That is what reciprocal linking is all about.

Do Reciprocal Links Hurt SEO?

Do not overuse reciprocal links.

Go for regular backlinks rather than mutual ones if you want to improve your SEO.

Also, make sure that your links appear natural and not forced.

Try blending it into your content instead of linking on the sidebar.

Search engines usually look for links like that and may ignore them if they do not appear natural.

Similarly, there are other aspects that you should keep in mind when designing reciprocal links.

For instance, if you link to an unreliable website, Google may penalize you by lowering your rank in SERPs even if the link is useful.

Another aspect is link farming.

This is where you link to all manner of websites, even those that offer no value to your readers.

This tactic started when cross-linking was still new, and people who didn’t know much about linking would link to every Tom, Dick, and Harry website.

Search engines stopped this behavior and now penalize any site that uses such tactics.

So be careful.

In fact, Google states that exchanging links for the sake of cross-linking is considered a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines.

That said, these types of links are ideal for SEO if it’s done for the right purposes.

Just ensure that the sites you are linking to are natural and relevant.

Should I Still Build Reciprocal Links?

While reciprocal linking can help your SEO, just throwing a few backlinks here and there won’t cut it.

The tactic will only work if you adhere to certain requirements.

Keep Google quality guidelines in mind, as well as other practices that are white hat SEO friendly.

To help you with that, here are the basic rules that you must adhere to for your linking strategy to work.

The website that is linking to you must be relevant to your business or industry

Though it is good to get links from high authority sites in the automotive niche with millions of readers, it won’t help much if your website is in the weight loss niche.

The two websites are completely different.

Google also won’t take it lightly as it considers this a link scheme.

The site you are cross-linking with should not be a competing website

It is almost impossible for a competitor to agree to link to you or vice versa.

This is because they wouldn’t want to share traffic with you.

So, reach out to websites with related content to yours but are not selling the same services or products as yours.

Only exchange links with sites that have great SEO metrics

Be wary of who you link to.

If the site is associated with sites that have a bad track record or reputation, avoid it.

Instead, go for websites with a good page and domain authority, have high-quality content, and have a huge social media following.

When to Avoid Reciprocal Linking?

Just like any other digital marketing strategy, reciprocal linking can be abused.

Here are some situations where you should give reciprocal linking a pass:

  • When a site is awash with low-quality content, pages with plagiarized, scammy, or outdated content are not good for links.
  • When the linking site is, in fact, a link farm.
  • When the linking site performs black hat SEO tactics, some sites try to use underhand or black hat means to rave-up their SEO metrics.  This allows them to get as many clients as possible to purchase from their site. Avoid links from such sources. When search engines detect such tactics, you may be penalized, or worse, be deindexed.

Also, before you link to any site, ask yourself the following:

  • Can the external site potentially increase your site’s traffic?
  • Is the site content relevant or related to your own?
  • Is the owner of the external site your competitor?

Link Building Strategies You Should Be Using

link exchange

Write great content

When you design relevant and useful content, you make other sites desire to link to you.

While crafting high-quality content is not a walk in the park, it is worth the effort.

Valuable content that is advertised well can be widely shared to drive traffic.

So, create a piece with the following features:

  • Visually appealing
  • Elicits strong emotions
  • Addresses a timely interest or need
  • Answers a question in a different way
  • Detailed
  • Locations specific

Creating powerful content is one of the most effective ways to draw tons of links on a single page.

You can also create highly targeted and specific content for particular pages if you have the right information.

Nonetheless, keep in mind that while you can achieve a higher rate of success with such content, it is not scalable.

Readers who come across this unique resource usually want to share it with friends and bloggers or tech-savvy webmasters through links.

This is important for building authority, trust, and eventually rank.

Assuming that you have a great keyword in hand, you can use tools like BiQ’s Content Intelligence to know what should go into your content.

For any keyword of the document created, the tool analyzes it with the top-performing organic content on Google.

What’s more, it gives you a detailed view of your keyword in terms of usage, similar keywords, and example sentences.

For instance, if you’re writing about “unrealistic standards,” just by running a Wordscope analysis can get you similar keywords like media standards trust, what is media ethics, and so on.

Guest blogging

guest blog for link exchange

Guest blogging is another viable link-building strategy. It is the art of posting on other sites with links to your pages.

Guest blogging allows you to engage with a different audience.

It provides brand visibility and exposure, with a chance of attracting more traffic.

That said, it requires proper and strategic planning because spammy/cheap link building can harm your SEO efforts.  

According to Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam, “Guest blogging mainly for generating backlinks may result in Google penalizing your site.”

This means that successful guest blogging is mainly about offering leaders value.

Before you embark on a link building journey through guest blogging, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the site you want to post on have your target audience? If yes, go ahead and offer value with links to your site.
  • Does the website have authority, or is it unreliable and spammy? Posting on an authoritative site with useful content is a great way of increasing your authority.
  • Would you be happy with the post on your site? If no, then re-evaluate your approach.

The main goal of effective, strategic, and relevant guest posting is improved domain authority for your site, which then leads to enhanced traffic as Google will start to regard your website as a helpful source of data.

That said, if you have a chance to write a guest post but don’t have a topic in hand, try BiQ Keyword Intelligence.

The “Content Ideas” feature will quickly help you find ideas that will make great blog posts that will keep your readers and visitors coming back.

All you have to is key in your phrases or keywords, and then the tool will give you a list of ideal content that you can utilize to craft your posts.

The tool will also show you a set of important metrics that you can use when determining the topics you want to write on.

For example, you can use the search volume feature to get an idea of the demand for a topic.

Similarly, the trends will tell you if the topic is new.

Capitalize on what is trending to get maximum engagement.

Be active on social media

social media for link exchange

The role of social media platforms in SEO and link building is still not clear cut.

Some people are still unsure of how social signals affect search engine ranking.

Some look at SEO and social media marketing as areas with different methods and objectives.

Nonetheless, most SEO experts disagree with that narrative.

In a survey on how SEO experts do link building, the results indicated that most professionals utilize social medial for link building.

The data shows that:

  • 88% of SEO professionals include links in their social media profiles
  • 81% of them share their content on social media
  • 53% have already experimented with social media marketing campaigns and contests

This shows that link building through social media is a popular tactic and an effective one.

But why are some people not utilizing it?

Links from social media channels are unfollowed.

Channels such as LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, and Google Plus fall into that category.

Reddit is a bit different, but marketing on the platform is a hard nut to crack.

Your service or product has to be incredibly relevant to a sub-community for your link-building strategy to work.

But does that mean you should ignore social media?

Of course not!

What about leads that come from links in news feeds?

What about social signals?

According to Matthew Woodward, here are some tips on how to approach link building on social media:

  • Add your site link in the site field under basic info and contact in your profile.
  • Add your site URL every time you post something on your wall. This includes articles, videos, and images.
  • Add your website link to your pinned post.

Do these to all your social media channels, including descriptions, images, bios, cover photos, etc.

Also, make sure you are active on these platforms engaging your targeting audiences by:

  • By sharing new images/posts replying to comments
  • Promoting your links anytime you share content to improve brand authority and social signals.
link in facebook update


Linking out to other sites is a good thing.

However, how effective your efforts will depend on your intentions.

If your only goal is to improve search rankings, then pass because the only links you want on your site are relevant and useful to your clients.

Before you incorporate a link, think about what your clients want to see.

If your customers will not be happy with that information, then do not link.

So, before you post any links, ensure they offer your readers important information or worthwhile experience.

Otherwise, the link is useless, if not toxic to readers and search engines.

Do not risk your rankings just because a company has sent you an email suggesting a link exchange.

It is not worth the hassle.

About Ken
A coffee aficionado who's fascinated with the world of digital marketing and SEO. When he's free, he'll be chasing plastic discs out on a field.