Exchanging Links: how to properly exchange links

Link exchange is one of the effective ways to build quality links to your website for free.

We know search engines love external links, especially from similar niche websites. Unless you are willing to buy some, you may want to consider good old reciprocal link exchange.
Of course, natural, one way links are more valuable than reciprocals, but when you are only starting where are they supposed to originate from? You can wait a year or two and see how that turns out for you…or give it a little push…and then wait a little less 🙂

It is important though, to exchange links with caution and focus on quality, rather than quantity.
Having a link-dump with tens to hundreds of external links on one page can get you banned.

Now let me try and outline a few rules I’ve adopted for myself here:


1. carefully select link exchange partners
2. the anchor matters
3. either with or without www
4. never link back from your main page
5. keep a record of backlinks and check for them periodically
6. never stuff more than 20 links on 1 webpage
7. do not link to your links page from every page of the site
8. check if your link has a chance to be indexed
9. never exchange links with websites on free domains/hostings


Carefully select link exchange partners.
You want a nice website that is dedicated to the same or very similar topic. Ideally it has some PR, but not necessary. What is necessary is that its pages are included in Google index, which means the site is not banned. You can check it by searching for “site:somedomain.com” in Google.
If a website is build for people, has some useful content, not overloaded with ads, affiliate and other external links – it probably has a chance of surviving, which means it may be worth our time to set up a link exchange.

The anchor matters
Mind the anchor of your backlinks. It would be silly, for example, to expext a website seotips.blah to appear on top of Google’s results under a keyphrase “seo tips” if it is linked from other websites with the “seotips.blah” in title (anchor) of the link.
In this case it is be more likely that the website will be found in Google under “seotips.blah” or “seotips”, but not many people are searching for terms like these, right?
Anchor text is basically one of the ways that search engines use to determine what your website is about, so make sure it contains some relevant keywords, not your website url.

Either with or without www
See that your website is either mentioned with www or without it. Choose your preference and stick to it. See that your partners use your preferred variant.

Never link back from your main page
Your main page, even if 0 PR today, most likely will have some later on, and it is probably going to be the highest PR page on your website.
You want to keep that PR to yourself and re-distribute it between the pages in your menu, so more of your website sections have some and become more compatible in search results.
Also, a link from the home page is often considered more valuable to search engines.

Keep a record of backlinks and check for them periodically
See thats why I hate link exchange 🙂
Once you’ve set up some link trades, your work is not over. You have to check if your links are still up in the arranged locations. As time flows, some of the webmasters will get rid of the link (bastards), some will have a major server crash and loss of data, some will close down their websites, some will attach a rel=”nofollow” attribute to your link thus making it useless to you.
Some peoople use software to help keep track of reciprocal linking deals, some store this info in a file and devote some time to go through backlinks manually.

Never stuff more than 20 links on 1 webpage
As previously mentioned, hosting a link-dump with tens to hundreds of external links on one page can get you banned.
There are smarter ways of accomodating links other than burrying all of them on one page. Create a small directory if you have to, arranging links by topics, if you absolutely have to link to more than 20 sites.
Some say 50 is the upper limit, I think 20 is a bit too much already, 15 being enough.
Also, consider exchanging articles as a better way of link exchange. This way links are more natural looking.
If you own a blog, why not link to a quality website from one of your posts.

Do not link to your links page from every page of the site
Why? Well, that would tell search engines that this page is very important since you have to link to it everywhere. On the contrary, the links page should be least important, but indexable, and linked from at least 1 page.
If you feel that you need to increase its PR to be eligible for trading links with some well established sites that have a minimum PR requirement, you may increase the number of pages that its linked from.
My links page and from this page now as well.

Check if your link has a chance of being indexed
The whole point is for your link to be noticed by search engines. However, some foxy webmasters like hiding their links pages or parts of them. Lets see how your link can be prevented from detecting by crawlers:

* – by adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute in the code of your link. Nofollow is almost like saying “I have to mention this website here, but I do not trust it or recommend it, so ignore this link and don’t pass any ‘link juice’ that way”. Its a very useful attribute that I use for all the affiliate links I publish. When you’re only payed for leads or clicks, why would you also share your PR?))
* – by placing your link inside an <iframe> tag. Everything thats inside an iframe is not indexable. Oh, same goes for redirect links or javascript links.
* – by adding a nofollow meta tag in the head of the page, that looks like this: <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”INDEX, NOFOLLOW”>
* – by prohibiting the crawling of the links page or the nested directory as a whole. This is done inside the robots.txt file that is located in the root of the site. To check the contents of the file you can simply type it in, e.g. somedomain.com/robots.txt If you get a 404 not found – thats ok, means nothing is prohibited from crawling. If you see the address of the links page or its directory mentioned there, e.g. Disallow /links.html – means the page is hidden from search engines.


Never exchange links with websites on free domains/hostings
No payed domain – no serious intention to be in business for a long time. And if the website turns out to be popular, the owner most likely will end up moving it to a normal domain name. And often they will forget to email every link partner to let them know about it.
Then also, a website on a subdomain often does not get ‘digested’ by search engines properly. Search engines can still ‘perceive’ subdomains to be parts of one huge website located on the domain.
Anyway, in my experience, its never pleasant or worth the hassle to deal with novices that can’t find 10 dollars a year to buy a normal domain name.
There may be some exceptions to the rule, like some very old and established wordpress blog or something.

Link exchange is a valuable but not the only way of building links and increasing website popularity. I would not recommend on focusing on this method for a long time.

Later we will talk about getting one-way links. Stay tuned 🙂

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