Do Link Exchanges Work for SEO in 2013?

Preface: Back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, link exchanges were one of the most popular ways to build links to your site. Everyone was doing it and nearly every website had a dedicated page strictly for reciprocal links. It was not only easy to do, but the success rate was pretty high because it was mutually beneficial for both parties.

Today, link exchanges are not nearly as effective as they once used to be. Search engines have become smarter and shady linking schemes have become detectable. By participating in link exchange schemes, you bear the risk of getting penalized or even banned by the search engines.

How does Google feel about link exchanges?

According to Google, they oppose “Excessive link exchanging.” (Source) The keyword there is “excessive.” Don’t over do it!

What does Matt Cutts (Google engineer) say about link exchanges?

Use your gut. Trading links is natural and it’s natural to have reciprocal links. At some level, natural reciprocal links happen, but if you do it way too often, it looks artificial. My advice is to go with your gut and if you’re worried, you can use nofollow. (Source)

My experience with link exchanges

Back in the days, I did a whole lot of link exchanges and they did wonders for my search engine rankings. Today however, I don’t even think about it. It’s not that I don’t think it works. It’s more that other people are not doing it. Plus nowadays, most people don’t even respond to link exchange proposals anymore. They just delete the email or mark it as spam.

My point is… your time is better spent on SEO work that is more productive, like guest blogging or building one-way links. If you happen to come across a link exchange opportunity that is good for all parties involved, then sure you can consider it.

Here are some things to think about when doing link exchanges:

  • Don’t exchange links with non-relevant websites.
  • Be selective with who you exchange links with.
  • Ask yourself – “is this a resource that I would want to share with my visitors?”
  • Link exchanges should not be your only or primary method of building links.


I believe link exchanges are still effective if done right and conservatively. If you focus on quality and relevancy, you should not have any issues. Remember to diversify your backlink profile and make it look natural.

4 thoughts on “Do Link Exchanges Work for SEO in 2013?

  • I used to do this but I’m currently in the process of disavowing a lot of links and I’m taking no chances so even if the reciprocators are relevant to me if they have the one spammy looking page and they are low in alexa rank and PR I’m still binning them even if those links were achieved naturally. It’s a shame but gotta look after number one!

  • I’ve recently been looking at link exchange sites but I’m not really “feeling” what I’m seeing. Google is a little brutal toward us “Affiliate Marketers” and I don’t like to piss them off (not that I’m scared of Google. I can kick their A** any day. Lol. Joking). Doing things NATURALLY tends to work better and last longer. I think the key is being selective and not excessive which will “red flag” google.

    • @ shawn,

      You are absolutely right. Going the natural route will bring the best and safest results. However, the “natural” route isn’t always the fastest way. I don’t see any issues in exchanging links with a trustworthy site as long as the topics are related. As you said, be selective.

  • Thanks for the input everyone. Looks like ranking is getting more difficult every year.


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