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Is Reciprocal Link Exchange a Good Idea for Your Firm?

 Is Reciprocal Link Exchange a Good Idea for Your Firm?

Millions of links are being added to the internet every day in 2012.  If you're looking to build links so that you can improve your search engine rankings, you may have started to consider reciprocal link exchange.  Reciprocal links exchange is one of the oldest ways of doing link building on the web, and can be done by just about anyone with even basic knowledge of internet issues.  If you're curious about the details of reciprocal link exchange and whether it would benefit your search engine marketing, keep reading this guide.

What are Reciprocal Links?

When a link is one way, Site A gives Site B a link on their website.  But when a link is reciprocal, Site B also gives a link back to Site A.  Why would two websites do this?  The answer is simple.  Every new inbound link that you receive makes it so that Google perceives your website as having more authority.  Therefore, every time you do a reciprocal links exchange, both websites that are linked will generally gain in the rankings.

Reciprocal link exchange in some form or another has been part of the web from its very beginning.  Even if you're just linking to a friend's website and they link yours back, you've done a basic form of reciprocal links exchange.  Of course, as technology has improved and become more sophisticated, the form that a reciprocal link exchange takes has changed as well.

How Does a Reciprocal Link Exchange Work?

The idea of a reciprocal links exchange has come a long way from friends swapping links in the mid-1990s.  Today, reciprocal link exchange is often done on a large scale, and has become big business.  A large number of websites are now devoted to creating a reciprocal links exchange for any websites that want to submit their URL to their directory.  Some of these reciprocal link exchange programs are completely free, while others cost money to join.

When you join a reciprocal links exchange, you'll give your URL, and in exchange, you'll have to host some other URLs on your own website.  Some of the reciprocal link exchange programs today actually do three way reciprocal links (in which Site A links to Site B, Site B links to Site C, and Site C links back to Site A) in order to obscure the fact that they are exchanging links.

Why Are Search Engines Suspicious About Reciprocal Link Exchange?

In the early part of the 2000s, it was very common for websites to try to build their search engine rankings through overuse and outright abuse of reciprocal links exchange.  Because of this, Google and other search engines have been working to discourage people from using too many reciprocal link exchange resources.

The problem that search engines were having with reciprocal links was that when companies got automated reciprocal links a hundred or a thousand at a time, these links were often to websites that had no relation to theirs.  It made it more difficult to navigate the web, and made it so that junk and spam websites were able to gain in the search rankings even ahead of legitimate businesses.  Since as a law firm your business is professional, you should actually be glad about these changes—you don't want a spammer to be able to exceed your rankings by using reciprocal links exchange too heavily.

What Websites Would My Reciprocal Links Be On?

Depending on what kind of reciprocal link exchange you're using, there are several different answers to this question.  Today, some reciprocal link exchanges are set up to allow webmasters to look through websites in particular categories that are hunting for reciprocal links.  If you see a website that is in a contextually relevant category for you, you can do a reciprocal links exchange with that website.

Other reciprocal link exchange websites don't allow people to be quite as picky.  You may be able to choose a basic category on which to get your reciprocal links, or you may just find a reciprocal links exchange site that automates the entire process.  Keep in mind if you use one of these latter types of reciprocal link exchange, you have less control over where your links are and what your reputation online becomes.

Are There Disadvantages to Reciprocal Link Exchange?

There are actually several different reasons that you might want to avoid reciprocal links exchange, at least as a primary link building method.  While it's fine to build some of your links using a reciprocal link exchange, Google actually penalizes websites that have a percentage of reciprocal links that is judged to be too high.

It's worth noting that no one knows exactly what that percentage is, or what other variables may be able to affect it.  Having most of your links come from a reciprocal links exchange resource will probably negatively impact your website, but there are no guarantees.

The other reason that you may want to avoid a reciprocal link exchange is that it can make your website look spammy.  If you don't want the appearance of link-grubbing on your professional website, you should try to get one way links instead of building reciprocal ones.

Fixing Overoptimization Penalties

If Google does say that your website has been over optimized (your webmaster will get an email), you may want to take your links off of some reciprocal link exchanges.  Remove the link from your own website and notify the webmaster of the reciprocating website that the link has been removed.  

This will generally lead them to stop listing the link on their website.  You may need to specifically request this removal if it isn't done within a few days or weeks.  If the link is now one way, you may not actually need to have it removed unless you really want to—so ask yourself whether you believe the link would be providing value as a one way link before deciding to email for a deletion.

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