Historically, one of the biggest ways that law firms have built their web presence is through link exchange. Web link exchange is an old and time-tested method for building links, but in 2012, web design link exchange doesn't always work. If you are considering exchanging links with one or more other websites, there are things your firm needs to know so that you don't end up in trouble with Google and other search engines. In this guide, you'll learn the basics of web design link exchange so that you can work on your own exchanges that won't be detected by Google.
What is Web Link Exchange?
When people want to build links, it's usually so that they can make their search rankings better. Web link exchange makes it so that building links can be mutually beneficial to both parties. Ideally, web design link exchange will be contextual—that is, you'll be talking about the same things on your website that your linking partner is talking about on theirs. This makes web link exchange significantly more beneficial for your search rankings.
Using Web Link Exchange: The Early Years
When people began to use web design link exchange, the internet was still very young and search engines were still quite primitive in comparison to today's sophisticated algorithms. Before Google, many web searches based their search rankings primarily on keyword densities, but Google started also looking at inbound link numbers.
When webmasters realized that having more inbound links meant a quick rise in their rankings, they hurried to start the practice that we now know as web link exchange. At first, web design link exchange started on a very casual, ad hoc level: people who knew each other or who had personally enjoyed another website emailed an offer to exchange links, and that was that. However, web link exchange was about to get monetized—and that would change the face of the internet, and search engines, forever.
What Happened To Using Web Link Exchange?
When web design link exchange was used only among people who knew each other, and was done on very small scales, it wasn't really looked down upon by search engines. As link exchange began to become a business enterprise, though, search engines sat up and took notice. Google bans the buying and selling of links, and web design link exchange seemed largely about circumventing those guidelines.
When people began to use free web link exchange, it made it so that just anybody could have a very large inbound link presence, as long as they were willing to devote enough time to their link generation tools and reciprocal linking. This kind of overuse made it so that search results started getting worse, giving people web design link exchange spam instead of the results they were actually looking for.
To combat the continued practice of automated web link exchange, Google decided to start punishing websites that seemed to be abusing link exchanges for rankings purposes. Web design link exchange that appeared to be unnatural—judged by the percentage of reciprocal links as opposed to one way links—was lowered in the rankings artificially to compensate for the effect that the link exchanges were having.
Should We Use Web Link Exchange Today?
If you're thinking about using any kind of web design link exchange today, you need to give some very serious thought to why you're using it and what other kinds of links you'll be creating in addition to those reciprocal links.
It's still very much possible to use a web link exchange successfully. However, you'll need to keep your ratio of reciprocal links relatively small. In general, commit to creating three one way inbound links for every link that you create through a web design link exchange.
You should avoid using any kind of web link exchange that relies solely or primarily upon automated exchange. While it's a bit more work to create the links yourself and rely on links from websites you've actually visited, these links will also be more valuable and maintain their value longer. Automated links from any web design link exchange are very easy to detect, and Google routinely devalues links from known web link exchange services.
How Will Our Website Be Affected by Web Link Exchange?
If you used the kinds of web design link exchange strategies we've outlined above, your website should slowly start to increase in popularity and in search rankings. You should consistently use some kind of analytics application so that you can keep track of which of the links you're building is bringing in the most direct traffic to your website.
If you don't follow the guidelines above, though, it's very likely that Google will notice that you have chosen to use some form of automated web link exchange. If this happens, you'll receive notice about the links in question, and information about how to stop penalties from occurring to your website. Typically you'll need to have the links taken down, or at least prove to Google that you've made a serious effort to do so. This kind of proof can be difficult to assemble, so it's honestly better to just never make links through automated web link exchange services—ever.
Ways to Do Web Link Exchange in 2012
There are still a few great ways to do web design link exchange in 2012. For example, it can sometimes be beneficial to websites to accept awards, then reciprocate a link to the awarding site on their website. As long as you don't overdo it with this kind of reciprocal linking, some web link exchange will be just fine—especially if they're awards or other types of contextual linking that makes sense on your website.
You can also do some types of link exchange by using social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter. These sites allow easy sharing of links that makes it substantially easier for people to connect to your content and exchange links with each other.