The importance of relevance in link exchange

Reciprocal links have been a mainstay of link building, and we all still get emails with reciprocal link requests., but the value of this approach has degraded with the enhancement of search engine algorithms. Google, yahoo and bing have realized that webmasters with a penchant for backlinks will trade with other website without regard to the content and context of such a trade. Worse yet is the email requesting a link and offering directory entries in exchange. Read the email carefully, I find more than fifty percent are a waste of a link.

Let us say you have a page rank 3, and receive a link request from a page rank 4. Sounds like a pretty good deal. But the offers I have seen ask us to add a link to their site, and offer two links in exchange. On the surface it sounds like a good deal, but the fact is the two offered are directories that we can do without needing to give a link. It is not really a trade. They are offering no intrinsic value for a link from our website.

Furthermore, link exchange with unrelated businesses is probably a waste of a link. An exception to this would be local links. For example, if the dry cleaner is linking to the pet store who links to the 24 hour gym who links to the barber shop, it all seems fairly unrelated. But if we all are trying to improve our ranking against the keywords ‘flat shoals and Salem road’ this has value, and a lot of it. I have worked with a client using even the broader terms of Atlanta and Chicago to build relevant links, and have seen relevant value in exchange against these terms, especially when combined with relevant anchor text.

Indeed, I can make more cases of valid link exchange. But most link exchange does nothing to build keyword quality score and just because we can link, doesn’t mean we will.

If you have heard that link exchange is the way to go, and still don’t believe me, click on this, over five years old, from Matt Cutts. Matt, the most famous and outspoken google representative, files this under webmaster mistakes.