Reciprocal Links: Are They Worth the Effort?

15 August 2002

Every Webmaster on the planet would be familiar with reciprocal link exchanges. Basically, the concept of a reciprocal link is that you allow someone to place a link on your Web site if they place your link on their Web site.

In theory, linking is an easy process that a monkey could be trained to do. However, in practice, there are associated problems inherent in reciprocal links that need to be overcome before Webmasters reap the fruits of their labor. Some Webmasters swear that the benefits of reciprocal linking, if conducted properly, far outweigh the allied problems that sometimes occur. Indeed, there have been some fantastic stories of Web sites becoming overnight successes as a result of putting their links on high-traffic pages. These stories are not far-fetched "I won the lottery"-type stories. Such successes are common and occur every day. An effective link exchange program may not perform miracles for you, but it can make a significant difference to the amount of incoming traffic to your site. If your traffic doubled, how would that affect your bottom line? Reciprocal links are free, so Webmasters really have nothing to lose.

The well-known saying "It's not what you know, it's who you know" is applicable to many facets of life, and reciprocal linking is no different. A link to a high-quality, respected Website may be worth 100 links to poor Web sites lacking in content and traffic. Regrettably, some Webmasters do not have the patience to undertake a persistent linking campaign and quit before reaping the benefits. Looking for quality reciprocal links is analogous to door-knock selling--sometimes the sheer volume of attempts will lead to success, while on other occasions knowing where to knock is equally important.

Webmasters participating in reciprocal links receive benefits in two main ways. First, if your link is prominent on another high-traffic site, you may receive a considerable increase in referred traffic. Many Web sites receive more traffic from reciprocal links than they do from search engines. A study of traffic recently completed estimated that 59 percent of browsers use links to find Web sites on the Internet. Secondly, reciprocal links can improve your search engine ranking out of sight. Alta Vista and Google weight reciprocal links at an importance level of approximately 80 percent and 90 percent, respectively. Most Webmasters simply cannot afford to give competitors a comparative advantage by failing to appreciate the beneficial results of reciprocal linking. These days, link trading should really be an essential component of the promotional efforts for any Web site.

When searching for potential link partners, make sure the demographics and interests of your own traffic is at the forefront of your mind. Remember that a potential link partner may not necessarily be a gambling-related Web site. Keep an open mind. As anyone who has been involved in link trading would know, links on quality sites are more difficult to get than links on small, low-traffic sites. My experience is that it is not worth compromising quality because of frustration. Linking to banner farms and low-quality "top 100" sites will normally prove unproductive and will cheapen the professional image of your Web site by association. On the flip side of the coin, if your Web site is a high-quality site brimming with excellent and relevant content, you will be far more attractive as a link partner. It may be worth reviewing the style and content of your site before commencing a link exchange campaign.

There are a number of strategies that you, as a Webmaster, can apply to dramatically increase your chances of a successful reciprocal link campaign:

Firstly, you will need to set up a links page on your Web site if you haven’t done so already. If you have got an existing links page, review it thoroughly. Remove any sites that no longer link back to you as well as broken links and sites that lower the tone or damage the credibility of your Web site. Keep only links that are productive and link to a respected Web site.

Secondly, research your field/industry and make a list of Web sites that you would ideally like to be associated with. Add to this list any Web sites whose traffic may share common denominators with your traffic. Find out which of these sites have existing link programs.

Thirdly, you may wish to write personal e-mails to these sites inquiring about the potential for a reciprocal link relationship. Personal e-mails take time, but prospective partners will appreciate the fact that you have made the effort. Mass produced “Dear Webmaster” e-mails will probably not attract the quality partners that you are searching for. In your e-mail, outline the purpose of your Web site and the mutual benefits associated with reciprocal links. Be prepared that some of the Web sites won’t be interested. However, the key here is to undertake a sustained campaign over an extended period of time. Don’t expect instantaneous success. Have a plan to target maybe 10 sites per day and be prepared to keep up your efforts for a period of months if necessary. Be realistic in choosing possible link partners.

Lastly, modify your Web site’s structure if necessary in case of a radical increase in traffic. Make sure you can cope with the excess traffic if everything goes to plan.

The results of a reciprocal link campaign often justify the effort and time invested in the process. Webmasters who are prepared to risk initial disappointment and battle thorough possible discouragement are likely to find their Web site enjoys a far better standing and patronage in the months that follow.

Mary-Ann Dick is the founder and managing director of, a full-service e-marketing firm specializing in the marketing of casinos, online sports books and other online entertainment products. Prior to setting up ispye, Mary-Ann was the marketing director of Captain Cooks Casino and was instrumental in its successful launch in 1999. In her capacity as managing director, Mary-Ann has been involved in all facets of online gaming including campaign management, Web site development and design and business consulting.