January 11, 2012#

Reciprocal links. Then… and now.

Rewind the entire internet by 5 or 6 years, and you’d see that things were very different to how they are today. Blogs were only just starting to take off. Facebook was only just beginning to find its feet. And Twitter was still just a twinkle in its founders’ eyes.

One more thing you’d notice back then is that people were mad about swapping reciprocal links. In fact, if you had a website, it was perfectly normal to receive emails almost every day from other website owners asking you to place a link to their site on your site, and offering to do the same on theirs.


It didn’t matter whether either of the sites had similar content. Or even whether they were from the same industry. Reciprocal links made any site look busier, and way more popular than they probably were. But above all, they kept websites topped up with that all-important Google Juice – the not-so-secret ingredient that drove them up the search engine rankings, increased traffic, and ultimately generated revenue.


And it really did work. At least until the search engines wised up and realised that some links were a lot more valuable than others. Which is why, if you fast-forward back to today, you’ll see a very different story has evolved. Thanks to Google’s (and other search engines’) algorithms, swapping links with any old site no longer does the job. In fact, reciprocal links with non-related sites can often have the opposite effect, and send you hurtling back down the rankings.


But it’s not all bad news. Reciprocal links can still offer traffic-boosting benefits, as long as they’re done in the right way. By that, we mean only swapping links with sites that offer content that’s relevant, or complimentary, to yours. That’s because modern search engines rank sites by the importance – and the relevancy – of the sites that link to them. It’s the golden rule to remember when it comes to reciprocal links. And it’s also why, 5 or 6 years down the line, reciprocal links are still one of the most common and effective forms of website promotion.