Link exchanges have earned such a bad reputation I’m almost afraid to even type the words into this blog post for fear the Google crawlers will see it and give me the ol’ heave ho. They’re not all bad, though, you just need to go about it the right way. So before you start deleting all the links on your site, let’s take a look at what’s acceptable these days and what’s not.
Artificial or Manipulative Links
Google is definitely giving the thumbs down to artificial or manipulative links. For example, let’s say you have a blog about cupcakes and you put a link in your sidebar that leads to your friend’s Forex Trading blog. There’s absolutely no reason your readers would be interested in visiting that site, so you’re basically showing them that link in the hopes that you can somehow manipulate them into clicking through simply because they trust your judgment.
It gets even worse when you then contact your friend and ask him to put a reciprocal link to your site in his sidebar. To the search engines, both links now look artificial and you look like you’re just trying to manipulate your ranking.
And if there’s some indication that you’re actually paying for those links, well, that’s not good at all.
Natural Link Exchanges
Natural link exchanges are fine with Google. For example, if you link from your cupcake blog to a blog about baking cakes, that’s a link your readers would probably enjoy. As a good blogger who wants to provide the best experience possible for your readers, it’s only natural to link out to relevant content they might be interested in. You’re not trying to manipulate them, you’re just sharing information.
Chances are that other blogger is going to notice you’re linking to him and eventually link back to your blog, assuming you have good quality content. If not, it’s acceptable to contact him, but chances are he’s going to ignore your request unless you’ve already established some kind of relationship with him.
Instead of just asking him to link to your blog, why not point him to one of your best blog posts? Better yet, try submitting a well-written guest blog post to that blog. Most bloggers will allow you to link to your own blog from your guest post. Not only will you gain that backlink, but you may pick up some new readers in the process and you’ll make a new blogging connection.
The best way to determine if a link exchange will harm your site is simply to look at it from your readers’ point of view. Will they be happy with what they see when they click on that link? If you’re building links simply to manipulate your rankings then chances are you’re going to end up getting smacked by Google. But if you’re exchanging links for the benefit of your readers then you’ll be fine.