Link exchanges have been around for a long time. Are they still of any use?
We’ve all received link exchange requests. All the requests directed to me go through a filter and straight into a junk folder. They are of so little value, that even the time spent glancing at them would present me with an unacceptably high opportunity cost. Typical of these requests are automated forms that request I link from high profile sites to their non-related, non-entities.
However, if done properly, some link exchanges are worthwhile. It all depends on trading like-for-like value. Both sides must “pay” an even amount in terms of exposure, traffic, and reputation value.
The problem with the automated approach, in so many instances, is that the link swappers are attempting to buy their links at substantially less than fair value.
A further problem is that because the web is flooded with the latter, potentially valuable link exchange requests don’t get seen.
For these reasons, I think most link exchanges are a waste of time.
Ideally, in order to work well, a relationship must first be built up, or already exist, between the two parties. Then, fair value must be exchanged. The time cost involved is high, so that cost must be built into the cost of the link. Still worthwhile?
There is also the opportunity cost for that time. Could that time be better spent creating something that people actually want to link to, without first being asked?
Now, there’s a new problem for link exchanges.
Those who think that any algo Google come up with to detect paid links won’t also affect link swaps, think again.
Let’s assume Google’s veiled threat about an algo that will detect paid links is true. Google will surely be looking for patterns that quality pages exhibit, in terms of outbound link structure. If a quality page has on-topic outbounds, and we can reasonably assume this is the case given Google’s love of Wikipedia and other reference sites, a page that has too many off-topic outbounds would surely raise a flag.
Those off-topic outbounds are almost certainly for the purposes of advertising, especially if there’s enough of them, or they are all grouped together. It is irrelevant whether money changed hands, favors exchanged, or any other mechanism was used in the placement of those links – it is the pattern that is important.
Are link exchanges still worthwhile?
Maybe, but growing less all the time.
You can’t beat one-way, on-topic links from a trusted source.