Link Exchange Tips And Natural Linking

Many people would agree that having alot of links to your website is the key to rank well in all search engines. As Search Engine Optimisation becomes more popular, everybody tries to come up with new ways to get as many links as possible and link exchange is just one of the many techniques.
Introduction To Link Exchange

Link exchange is one of the earliest and most popular SEO technique among smaller websites to get inbound links (urls pointing to your website). Basically, what a web master does is to exchange urls of his website with another website.  There are a few variations to link exchange, ie it could be 2-way, 3-way, 4-way…etc.  2-way link exchange means site A exchange links with site B (This is the most common definition of link exchange). 3-way means A link to B, B link to C, and C link to A. You could figure out the rest of the variations easily… 

The most complex link exchange today is a Link Exchange Network. In the network, you post a url of another website in your site and the server will post your url in another person’s website based on a merit or point system. There are also people who incorporate the idea of MLM into link exchange, turning the whole linking system into a pyramid. Why the hassle? The whole idea is not to let the search spiders detect your linking strategies.

Link Exchange Is Often Abused

Search engines want to display the most relevant search results with the most important websites ranked first. If the number of links pointing to the website is the only criteria to determine the importance of the website, then search engine results could be manipulated easily. Nobody knows the exact Google, MSN or Yahoo ranking algorithm but we do know that Google especially, take strong measures to prevent people from manipulating search ranking results.

Many small companies are often blamed for manipulating search results because they are able to get alot of inbound links without spending any money using the link exchange technique. The link exchange boom makes everybody to post and exchange links in blogs, link directories and affliate pages… Almost everyone would want to incorporate a link directory in their website just for SEO purpose. As such, we also witness a boom in link directories.

Even if you can get 1000 links overnight, does it really mean that your website is important? Does the amount of links pointing to your website really equate to the importance of your website? These are debatable tough questions which is hard to answer in a short time.

Is Link Exchange Ethical?

Many people believe that Google and Yahoo have already started penalising web sites that does link exchange in a large scale but we do not know the extend of it. In my opinon, it is very hard to justify whether link exchange is ethical or not. Everyone will have a case to say but generally, all of us would agree that websites that get large amounts of links within a short time, has many outbound and inbound links to and from many unrelated websites are trying to manipulate search results but again, there can be exceptions.

It does not make sense to me to punish website A, B or/and C if they are practising 2, 3 or whatever ways link exchange; doesn’t matter if their websites are related or not. There are many real life examples. If my friend Andy is web designer and he has a web design blog and another friend of mine Joe loves swimming and he has a swimming blog. Both of the sites are totally different in nature but they are friends and they want to link to each other. If this is not permissible in the SEO context, then it will be a sad news for everyone of us.    

Search Engines Is Evolving But SEO Travels Back In Time

Search engines, like human being, are evolving everyday. they are getting more intelligent and are able to pick up websites that are trying to hack the ranking system. With enough computing power and time, I believe they would one day be able to detect more complex linking systems. Many experts believe that search engines are too clever to be manipulated and started advocating “Natural Search Engine Optimisation” – NSEO. The word “Natural” is important because it means that you are trying to optimise your website legally. In NSEO, you write content naturally, link to pages naturally and so on. To withstand the test of time, the practise of NSEO is highly recommended.

Natural Links

Many believe that links to a website will still be an important factor in calculating its searched ranking in major search engines. Therefore, link exchange and other SEO techniques to get inbound links should still be important. The only problem is that the inbound links have to be natural. Personally, I would think that natural links should have certain features:

1. The Ratio of Text to Links
If I have a 5 page website and 5 pages of links, do you think that there is something wrong with the site? I have seen many professional websites having a full section dedicated to link exchange and there are actually more link exchange content as compared to the site’s main content. Unless it is a link directory, I would personally devalue the site’s importance. 

2. The Density of Links 
If all the links are cramped together in one corner, I would think that the site is running a link exchange network or something similar. Natual linking means that you link at certain point in your content where you feel that it is important, ie you do not normally insert alot of links at one go. To me, 4 or 5 links together would be considered as unnatural. 

3. Google PageRank
Websites that only have high PR linking to them seems unnatural. It could be that the owner of the site is buying PR or is trying to manipulate the PR system. Why shouldn’t I link to Mr. Nobody when Mr. Nobody has good content in his site? I would think that a natural site should have a mixture of websites with different PR linking to it.

4. Quality Is Better Than Quantity
Many SEO packages in the web offers many one way links from different websites. The more money you can afford, the more links you can get. Buying links is a common SEO tactic nowsadays but whether the links occur naturally or not is questionable. I don’t like to think that buying links is wrong. To me, “Buying Links” is just the crude word for online advertising and it is wrong to penalise people for advertising online. I would like to think that a natural link in MSN is so much valuable that 10000 links from web directories. 

5. Time
An important website can withstand the test of time and will have its inbound links building up slowly. Unless the website is about a special event like world Web Design competition…etc, it is very hard to explain why a website is able to attain many links overnight.


I think the list for “The features of Natural Links” could go on. So back to the ultimate question… Is Link Exchange dead? My personal opinion is more inclined towards a ‘No’ but we have to start practising natural linking when doing link exchange. One think to keep in mind is that search engine spiders are getting more intelligent everyday.

If we are more careful with links, search engines will have an easier task of displaying relevant search results. Let us all make internet free from spam!

* Note: I use SEO to refer to Search Engine Optimization or Search Engine Optimizers in this article to cut short the typing time. The opinions expressed in this article is purely personal and speculative.

Author: bpeh

Bernard Peh is a great passioner of web technologies and one of the co-founder of Website Design and Reviews. He works with experienced web designers and developers everyday, developing and designing commercial websites. He specialises mainly in SEO and PHP programming.