It means exactly what it sounds like.
You link to me, I link to you. We exchange links.
Given Google’s original name of BackRub, this makes sense.
At the time when BackRub was being developed, search engines focused more on keyword density.
But Sergey and Larry figured that link volume would be a better measure of relevance.
Links became a form of currency (sort of).
Of course we now know that merely having a boatload of links doesn’t guarantee top rankings and in fact, could get you nowhere.
So what’s this got to do with link exchanges today in 2021?
There’s talk of link exchanges being a valid tactic right now.
I don’t think this is entirely accurate because of the way SEO has evolved.
Even up until the late 2000s, link exchanges were highly effective. And SEO folks gamed the system like there was no tomorrow.
I worked at a company that developed its own link exchange platform.
Sites that subscribed to it for a monthly fee would be part of a huge link exchange program.
They’d get a page added to their site which had links to other businesses.
Most times the businesses were not even related to one another.
The thinking was that this created mutual links between different websites seamlessly.
Diversity and volume.
That’s what we banked on.
And it worked well, for ages.
It’s just not something you can scale forever.
I mean, it may be “OK” for small businesses, but would Nike or Nestle be doing something like this?
Now not all link exchanges are “manufactured”.
If your business is mentioned in Forbes or Fast Company with a backlink, and you link back to that article from your site (social proof, innit), then that is in essence, a link exchange.
Perfectly valid. You may need to think about “nofollow” though.
But how many businesses get this opportunity? Not as many. You may get a mention but no backlink at all.
So should you engage in a link exchange?
It depends (sorry, it’s cliche but true).
Obvious notice: don’t go out asking for a mutual link. You’re not likely to succeed (and if you do, it may not “push the needle”)
I ran interviews of Digital Marketing folks in the UAE for a while. I linked to my guests websites and social profiles. Now if they linked to the interview from their own sites and social profiles, this would in essence be a link exchange. And it would also be valid.
You could apply this logic to lots of things like a listicle that featured people or businesses.
It would prompt (but not guarantee) a link exchange.
And I’d say it would still be valid.
It’s just one of many ways to get links.
But you need to be smart and practical about getting links.
Links hold the internet together *(not duct tape as some would have you believe!). *
But the way you do it depends so much on your industry.
Just don’t waste your hard earned dollars on Fiverr.
I can guarantee that’s not going to be worth it in the long term.
To end off, here’s the obligatory ‘build great content, attract great links’ advisory notice.