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Link exchanges – How to do them safely without hurting your site

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A link exchange is when two or more websites agree to link to each other’s content to improve their search engine rankings and organic traffic. This practice is also known as reciprocal link building.

Link exchanges can be beneficial when done correctly. They allow participants to earn free or affordable backlinks and pass on link equity to everyone involved.

However, Google’s John Mueller said that deliberate link exchanges between two websites are against their webmaster terms.

John Mueller said      Source

Even if the links are topically relevant, they are not natural links to your website; they are part of a deal between you and your link partners. Google will see you as someone trying to manipulate search results and penalize your website for it.

So, how can you do link exchanges without being penalized? That’s what we’ll cover in this article.

The Best Way of Doing Link Exchanges for SEO 2024


There are two key link exchange methods — reciprocal and non-reciprocal. Let’s discuss these briefly and then decide which one is better for SEO.

Reciprocal link building


This is a tactic where two websites do a transactional two-way link exchange. Website A links to website B and vice versa. This is not a great link exchange strategy because if it’s done too frequently, Google might penalize your website and hurt your SEO.

This doesn’t mean that you should not link to websites linking to you. If the links are topically and contextually relevant, go ahead and link back.

A study by Ahrefs shows that reciprocal links are very common, so you can use these sometimes.

Reciprocal links study                               Source

However, don’t force them, and don’t overdo it.

Non-reciprocal link building


This involves three or more websites giving contextually relevant links to each other indirectly.

For example, As website A, you’ll add a link to a resource on website B. Then, your link partner (website B) will add your website A’s link to a page on website C.

Non-reciprocal link building
Which is better: Reciprocal or non-reciprocal link exchange?

As there’s no transactional, two-way exchange, the A-B-C method looks more natural. It’s more difficult for search engines to catch such link exchanges and penalize them.

Still, you can use both methods, as long as you only provide and seek contextual links and add them naturally within the content.

How to Do A-B-C Link Exchanges the Right Way


In this section, we’ll discuss how you can do A-B-C link exchanges without hurting your website’s SEO.

1. Find relevant websites or link exchange partners


The first step in the process is to find relevant websites whose content is closely related to yours. To build relevant and contextual content you need to find websites within your niche that have content similar to yours.

Here are a few tips to find relevant link exchange partners and websites:

  • Search for broad keywords related to your website or niche and see which websites are ranking. Use queries like “keyword + link exchange” and “keyword + submit link” to find websites that are open to a link exchange.
  • Use SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to find websites that are linking to your direct competitors.
    Competitor backlinks analysis
  • Leverage link-building services to find link partners.
  • Join LinkedIn, Slack, and Facebook Groups related to your niche to build industry relationships and organically find link partners.

2. Find the right contact person for the selected websites


After your initial research, you’ll have a long list of websites that can be potential link partners. Check their domain authority, quality of content, link building practices, and other parameters to shortlist the best websites for link exchange.

Next, research each shortlisted website to find the right contact person for link exchange. These could be SEO managers, content managers, editors, or authors of those websites.

Let’s say you want to find the right contact person at Forbes. You can search for keywords like “SEO manager Forbes” on LinkedIn. Use the “people” filter to ensure the search results are for people and not jobs. 

Select the location and company name to filter out irrelevant results and find the best contacts, as shown in the image below.

LinkedIn contact searchSource

Check out all the relevant profiles and read the job descriptions to find the right person to pitch for a link exchange.

3. Find the email of the contact person


By now, you should have a list of websites and contact persons for each. Now, you need to find the email information of these people to send link exchange outreach emails.

Use contact finder tools like Hunter, Swordfish, Apollo, or Lusha to find contact information. 

Hunter, for example, is a simple tool to find the email information of any professional as long as you know the person’s full name and company. Taking the previous example from Forbes, you can search for Dayne Richards’ email address, as shown below.

Hunter email lookupSource

4. Write personalized emails to these potential link exchange partners


Reach out to the contacts of potential link partners using personalized emails. Don’t just personalize using each recipient’s name, go beyond that.

Research the website and the kind of content it publishes. Mention some specific articles for each website to show your genuine appreciation for their content. This will also convince them that you have done your research and are proposing a genuine collaboration.

Here’s a simple sample outreach email to get you started:

Hi [Name]

Add a personalization by visiting their profile or website. 

I publish content on [insert a list of topics] on my website — [insert website URL]. I think we have similar audiences and publish related content, so I thought it would be a good idea to link to each other’s resources.

I think both our audiences will love to read in-depth content on these topics. What do you say? Would you be interested in becoming a link partner? Drop a line and we can take this further.

Looking forward to hearing from you.


[Your name]

[Your designation]

5. Offer your websites for link exchanges and request your link addition


Once you get a response to your first email, discuss the specifics of link exchanges in your follow-up emails.

Suggest specific content pieces and resources on your website that they may find useful. If you own multiple websites, ask for links to one and provide them with backlinks from another. 

This will ensure that there’s no direct link exchange. If you have other link partners, you can create a network of partners who regularly link to each others’ websites, without a direct exchange.

6. Get your link live and make their link live


Discuss the terms of your partnership and start collaborating.

Swap guest posts among your network of link partners. You and your link exchange partners can also contribute guest posts on various websites and include a link to each other’s websites, not just yours.

Guest post exchangeThis diversity in referring domains signals to search engines that your websites are valuable.

Tips for Doing Link Exchanges Safely


Here are some more tips for doing link exchanges safely:

  • Prioritize relevance. Search engines consider relevance when looking at backlinks. Exchanging links with an irrelevant website or an irrelevant anchor text won’t bring any value and might even hurt your SEO.
  • Avoid link-farm websites and PBNs (private blog networks that are websites owned or managed by the same person/company) with dangerous outbound link ratios.
  • Choose well-established websites that are at least a couple of years old and have a healthy link profile. Check the TrustRank of the linking domains.
  • Keep it natural. Refrain from doing reciprocal linking. Keep the number of exchanged SEO links to a minimum compared to the overall backlink profile of your website.

Start Building Links Today!


Link exchanges do not need to be transactional. If done right, A-B-C link exchanges can help you acquire regular high-quality backlinks to your website.

The key is to build connections and a network of link partners who work together to help each other get relevant backlinks. Of course, you need to pair this strategy with high-quality content creation as that’s key to audience engagement.

Use the tips shared in this post to do link exchanges in a way that Google approves. Use smart link exchange methods to build a solid link profile. You can also hire our link building company to do the work for you.

Renu Sharma

Renu Sharma has been in the content marketing and link building business for a solid decade. She has worked with industry giants, renowned agencies, and influencers, making her a true authority in the field.

Looking for a reliable link building agency?

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