Reciprocal linking happens when two sites link back and forth to each other. Often this happens when friends who both have websites link to each other — Joe links to Sally’s website and Sally reciprocates by linking back to Joe’s website.
This is also seen often in groups of business owners who are in a mastermind group together. One person in the group typically reads a blog post stating that you need lots of inbound links to get good search engine rankings, and without really understanding what they read or what it means, they get everyone in the group to link to each others’ websites.
Year ago, this SEO strategy was popular and widely used because, when search was less sophisticated, it worked. By getting others to link to your website, you could quickly increase your websites search engine results page rank — and friends would link to each other just for the link, not for any specific purpose or with any relevance in mind. Yikes!
Search engines, who want to bring you the most relevant, on point results, of course didn’t like this, and as search algorithms became more savvy and complex, this strategy began to backfire, as “gaming the system” with fake links is widely frowned upon. In fact, some links became bad links with negative effects on some websites’ rankings, and there are several websites that still today warn you of the “dangers” of reciprocal linking.
So SEO companies stopped using this strategy (mostly), website owners got scared, and the reciprocal link strategy slowly disappeared. But here’s the thing — Reciprocal links are still valuable when done right. You see, there are still instances when reciprocal linking is a smart for business, especially when it’s used as an online business strategy to gain visibility in front of new audiences.
Just one well-planned inbound link from a strategic partner can yield you an increased in website traffic, a surge in opt-ins, and new paying clients and customers, if done right. And it will do the same for them if you reciprocate and link to them as well.
The key is to find a strategic partner who shares the same ideal clients or target market that you do, that offers a different or complimentary service, product, or program. Then by linking to each other, you’re sharing each others’ resources, content, and offerings with a pre-qualified audience that is already a great fit.
This approach works because the links are to relevant sites, or relevant content, which is what both consumers and search engines are looking for.
Not sure what I mean?
When Reciprocal Linking May Be Beneficial:
- A hairstylist and makeup artist who often refer clients back and forth should link to each other
- A designer and a copywriter who serve the same market may want to link to each other
- A financial planner and CPA who work with the same clients and market to the same ideal clients should link to each other
- A car wash and windshield repair or dent repair company in the same city may want to link to each other
These examples are natural and they make sense. It’s very easy to see why they would be linking to each other, and the links could be considered helpful resources.
When Reciprocal Linking May Be Damaging:
- An orthodontist and a copywriter linking to each other because they are both chamber members
- A roofer and a publisher linking to each other because they are in the same networking referral group
- A florist and a tire repair shop linking to each other because they are in the same shopping center
- A public relations consultant and a financial planner linking to each other because they are friends
When it comes to reciprocal links, here’s what you need to know: This isn’t a strategy to employ as an easy SEO tool to build lots of inbound links from your friends and contacts. If the link seems forced, unnatural, or out of place, it probably is and shouldn’t be used.
This is a strategy to use to not only gain visibility for your brand and business in a new group of ideal clients and customers, but to also help your audience connect with and benefit from other relevant service providers, businesses, and retailers.
Now what about you?
Do you have a strategic partner that you leverage this strategy with? Has it worked for you? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
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