Link Exchanges: What Are They and Are They Safe?



Link exchanges have been around for a long time and like a lot of other aspects of SEO, they’re highly debated and widely criticized. 

The purpose of this guide is to help you understand what a link exchange is, what the positive SEO benefits are, and how to properly conduct link exchanges to boost your rankings and increase your traffic.

What is a Link Exchange? 

A link exchange is when two websites come to an agreement to provide each other with a link. This can also be called a “reciprocal link exchange.” 

The only difference between the two is that a link exchange can involve a number of websites whereas reciprocal links only involve two sites. 

The purpose of a link exchange is to attract more organic traffic to your website, build trust with Google, and potentially receive referral traffic from the link exchanges you’ve developed on other people’s websites. 

It’s important to understand that quality over quantity is the name of the game here. Your link profile matters to Google and the quality of your referring domains will impact your rankings. If you’re doing a ton of excessive link exchanges with any site you can find, you may actually get penalized by Google.

how google views link exchanges

It’s against Google’s terms to build outbound links for the purpose of cross-linking. Google refers to these as “link schemes.” We’ll get into that a little more later.

Types of Link Exchanges

There are four primary ways to exchange links. Each of them has their own set of positives and negatives but all in all, each strategy provides you with positive link juice that can help improve your rankings and increase your status in the eyes of Google. 

The important thing to remember is that there are no shortcuts in link building so you need to make sure to be careful and only participate in link exchanges with other high-quality and authoritative websites.

private influencer network

Private Influencer Networks

A private influencer network or “PIN” is a method of exchanging links between a group of websites that link to and promote each other to try and increase traffic and boost rankings. 

The reason this is such a powerful method of exchanging links is because everyone involved is putting all their resources together to try and build as many links as they can to every website and not just their own. 

That said, it’s incredibly important that you take caution using this method because if Google finds out that you’ve created a PIN, you will be penalized for it. 

This is an exact example of building sites and pages specifically for the purpose of creating link exchange opportunities.

Reciprocal Links

Reciprocal link building is when two websites agree to swap links. The goal is to create a mutually beneficial link building opportunity for both websites. 

As long as the two sites are somewhat equal in terms of quality and they’re both in a similar niche, Google shouldn’t raise a red flag on this type of link exchange. 

In some cases, it makes perfect sense for there to be a link exchange. 

For example, if you’re writing an article about growing pumpkins, you might link out to another article about buying the right pumpkin seeds. Then, another relevant article on that website about pumpkins might link back to a page on your site.

As long as it makes sense and you’re not forcing links where they don’t belong Google shouldn’t pick up on anything suspicious. Use common sense and you should not have a problem. 

Guest Post Swaps

A guest post swap is when two people agree to write guest posts on different websites and include a link to the other target website as well as a link to their own site. 

This is a great link scheme because it’s very easy to hide since you’re not writing the guest post directly on the other person’s website. It allows you to gain domain authority and topical relevance while also contributing new links to your site. 

I find this to be one of the best link exchanges but keep in mind that it does require a bit of effort since you actually have to write guest posts in addition to the outreach process. It’s well worth it and if you’re offering this option in your link exchange requests.

Three-Way Link Exchanges

The three-way link exchange is a solid link building strategy because it’s the best way to bypass Google’s feelers and ensure you don’t raise any red flags. 

It allows multiple websites to exchange links between each other and it’s a great way for lower authority websites to build links on high authority relevant sites.

three way link exchanges

A three way link exchange is when you exchange links from three or more sites to pass benefits between all of them. 

The first site links to the second site, who links to the third site, who links to the main site, and the process continues on like that. 

It’s hard for Google to figure out what website initiated the link building so it’s impossible for any website to get penalized. 

The reason this is so great for your link building efforts is because if you have a low authority website, you don’t have to offer outbound links on your site to the high authority sites you’re pitching. 

You can now offer them a link on another high authority website that you’ve built a relationship with. They get a link on a high DR website and they happily pass the benefits onto you.

Are Link Exchanges Safe? 

Yes, link exchanges are safe as long as you use common sense and don’t do anything that would stand out to Google. You want your link building strategy to blend in as much as possible. 

This means you need natural links only on relevant websites. Here are some of the things you can do to get yourself into trouble:

  • Exchanging links with website that have nothing to do with yours
  • Excessive link exchanges on any website
  • Too much reciprocal linking between the same two websites
  • A lot of powerful links to a brand new piece of content or website

All of these things will blow your cover and make Google investigate you a little harder. Never go through with link exchanges that seem sketchy or too good to be true. 

It pays to play the slow game and only take on link exchanges that you know will positively impact your search engine rankings. 

What to Look at When Considering a Link Exchange

It’s important to qualify partner pages before choosing them for a link exchange. There are a number of factors you’ll want to consider when choosing the sites you want to reach out to for link exchange opportunities. 

Let’s take a look.

Referral Traffic 

Link exchanges aren’t always about link juice. In some cases, a link that you build on another website might actually bring you a lot of referral traffic. This could be an incredibly powerful link if you can get it. 

For example, let’s say you run a real estate staging company. This means that you go into people’s homes and make the house look beautiful prior to open houses and important showings. 

A reciprocal linking opportunity between you and a local real estate company could be incredibly powerful even if you both have a low DR and not a lot of brand recognition. 

The reason for this is because people that go to the real estate company website to list their property can find you on there and then use your services to stage their home.

There is a lot of topic relevance here and quality backlinks from this site will not only look good to Google but it will bring you referral traffic. This goes beyond general search engine optimization. 

Brand Building

If you exchanged links with a website that has a ton of high quality content and a great reputation, doesn’t that look good for you as well? 

There’s a reason why everyone includes an “as featured in” section on their website. We do it at WeOutreach too.

trust signals on weoutreach.com

Why do we do this? 

We do it because brands sell. Having inbound links from these websites makes us look more authoritative.  

While it obviously does a lot for our SEO, it does a lot for our brand as well. If you come across an opportunity to get a link from a popular website in your niche, don’t only think about the SEO benefits, think outside the box.


We designed a link building campaign in the first place for SEO purposes, right? When you’re considering whether or not to take on a link exchange, think about how it will benefit your SEO. 

All of the factors we’ve discussed in this section are important but ultimately, most of us chase links with the hopes that it will increase our rankings in Google and bring more traffic to our website. 

If you don’t think swapping links with a website will have any impact on your SEO, you shouldn’t give much thought to that link opportunity. 

How to Exchange Links? Finding Opportunities

You need to know where to look for link exchanges if you plan to have success with this. We know of a few ways to locate the best opportunities.

Leverage Your Network

The simplest and fastest way to find link swaps and three way exchanges is by leveraging the network you already have. If you have a few friends who have a few friends you can quickly build a network that makes building links pretty simple. 

You link to one website, who links to another, who links to another, who links to you and you continue this process while switching it up so you’re not always linking to the same website. 

Keep in mind that you need to all be in a relevant niche and you should follow Google’s guidelines as closely as possible so you don’t raise any red flags.

Manual Outreach 

If you don’t know enough people with quality websites in your niche, you’ll need to do manual outreach. 

The easiest way to do this is by researching your competitors in Ahrefs to see what websites are linking to them.

content in serps

If you’re trying to rank an article on “hose bibs,” plumbinglab.com might be a competitor of yours. It helps to use competitors that have a similar domain rating because you’ll actually find websites that will answer your emails and respond to your outreach. 

In this example, we wouldn’t necessarily want to use bobvilla.com because they have a much higher domain rating and likely have links from much more competitor websites.

link exchange research in ahrefs

If you go to the referring domains section in Ahrefs, you’ll see all the domains that link to that website and you can use Hunter.io to find contact information for those websites.

Social Media Link Building

There are a number of Facebook groups that can help you find guest posting campaigns, link swaps, and other ways to build links. 

The people in these groups want to find opportunities but you definitely want to take this with a bit of caution. There are a lot of scammers in these groups and people who have blacklisted websites that will hurt your SEO if you get links on their sites. 

Make sure the opportunity doesn’t seem too good to be true and vet each website carefully before accepting a link exchange.  

Final Thoughts 

A link exchange is a great way to increase trust flow to your website, boost your rankings, and possibly soak up a little referral traffic while you’re at it. 

Diversifying your link building campaigns by doing a little bit of everything is the best way to ensure that Google doesn’t catch you red handed. 

Be sure to take the long way around when it comes to link exchanges and only accept opportunities on websites that are relevant, high-quality, and mutually beneficial. 

Always be ready to raise a flag if an opportunity seems sketchy. 

At We Outreach we specialize in finding the right link exchanges for our clients. If you need help building links to your website or developing a high-quality link building strategy, contact us today!