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Will You Swap Links?

by | Jan 20, 2011 | Search Engine Optimization

Link building is an integral piece of any solid SEO campaign. When you consider links make up about 42% of what determines where a site shows up in Search Engine Rankings, this is a factor you simply cannot afford to ignore.

One link building strategy is Reciprocal Link Building, otherwise known as link swapping. If you are the admin listed on a website, then you are sure to have received a request to place a link on your site in exchange for a link back. The universal question to SEO newcomers is: Should I do it?

What Does Yoda Say?

Ok, so the Search Engines may not be Yoda, but it’s important to know how they regard reciprocal links. Here’s what is listed on Google’s Webmaster Central:

…some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results.

So when we look at how Search Engines view links, think of it as a spectrum of authority. A link that is relevant to your site that has high authority on the web, which links to you without you linking back to them has the most authority. A link to a site that is irrelevant, that doesn’t hold authority and that you reciprocate the link has lowest authority. The links back could benefit you, but it could also hurt you.

Do Your Homework

Before answering, or asking, for a link, be sure you’ve done your homework on the site. Here are some gauges for determining if you want a site linking back to you:

  • Is the site’s content relevant to your own? (e.g., are you an engineering firm with a pizzeria pointing back to you?)
  • Does the site you’re gaining a link from point to a lot of sites? If yes, it starts looking spammy to Search Engine bots
  • What is the Google Page Rank of the site you’ll gain the rank from? While this page rank does not impact your own search engine placement, it is a good gauge for how authoritative the site is considered.

Then End Result

So you’ve done your homework and now you’re ready to answer those pesky emails asking for links. Or are you? If you think you’ve made up your mind, there’s one more very important question to ask yourself: “Will this hurt my bottom line?”

The key here is to remember if you’re giving a link on your site, you’re driving visitors from your site to someone else’s. If your site is a blog, that’s not that big of a deal. But if your site is one that sells your business, it’s your corporate headquarters or your company storefront, then you need to consider this question very closely. The pages you’ll want to link with are ones that are relevant (from the Search Engine’s perspective), and that means they could be your competitors.

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