What are mutual backlinks? Are they good or bad for your SEO? Backlink building plays a fundamental role in a digital marketing strategy and can be very beneficial for your business. This does not mean, however, that each and every type of backlink is always worthwhile. One in particular, mutual backlinks, is often confusing as to whether or not they actually provide value.
The theory or expectation behind using these backlinks is that they lead to improvements in your SEO and site authority. But is this really the case? Although backlink building is central to an SEO marketing strategy, mutual backlinks must be considered separately and can be good or bad, depending on how you use them.
If used correctly, they can benefit you. If used incorrectly, they can harm you. Essentially, reciprocal links can play a role in your strategy and can even provide you with value, but it will all depend on the reasons behind those backlinks. Read on to learn more!
What are mutual backlinks?
They are backlinks that are placed as a result of an agreement between two or more parties that decide to intertwine their sites. It is an exchange between site owners, in which each one says to the other: “post a backlink to my domain and I will post a backlink to yours”. These backlinks connect one party’s page or resource to another in exchange for a link on a website or guest post. The intention behind this backlink exchange is often to benefit the SEO and authority of each owner’s website.
While it may sound beneficial to both parties, mutual backlinks are always mistrusted by skeptics. It can all seem like a deceptive scheme, intended to lie to consumers by saying there is a relationship when there may not be. However, don’t dismiss them entirely yet. Not all reciprocal backlinks are bad. Naturally occurring reciprocal backlinks can be beneficial, particularly for your leads, and can also be important to your digital marketing strategy.
Do reciprocal backlinks benefit your SEO strategy?
Backlink building plays an essential role in your overall SEO strategy. When used correctly, even mutual backlinks can be beneficial. However, the goal is to make sure that you are improving the customer experience while on your website. These are the benefits of reciprocal links for your SEO strategy.
Improve the customer or lead experience
Mutual backlinks can improve the customer experience on your website. As a result, linking can lead to more engagement with your content, which will make search engine algorithms take notice.
Positions you as a trusted authority
Reciprocal backlinks can help establish you — and your website — as a trusted authority. By giving your customers and leads access to more related resources, you show that you understand them and their problems, and that you have enough confidence in what you offer to refer them to other sources of information. Search engine algorithms recognize this and can rank you higher in the SERPs as a result.
Increase website traffic
Backlinks can increase traffic to your website, attracting potential customers who may not yet be aware of what you have to offer. This increase in website traffic is another factor that alerts search engines that you are getting more and more attention, which also pushes you up the SERP positions.
However, while external backlinks on your website can be beneficial for your SEO, they are not the driving force behind SERP rankings. You can use them to benefit customers and leads and this, in turn, can lead to more engagement with your brand, which will have a positive effect on SEO.
Can mutual links be bad for your SEO?
While mutual backlinks can be beneficial, they also come with risks, making them bad for your SEO in specific circumstances. Of all the types of linking techniques, mutual backlinks present the greatest risk of abuse. When used solely to improve SEO, with no relationship involved, the result is often spam and annoyance for consumers trying to follow the backlinks. Also, excessive use of mutual backlinks will negatively affect, carelessly exchanging links can be bad for your SEO and website authority, in the following ways.
Penalization of your website by Google
Mutual backlinks, when added carelessly, can cause your website to be penalized by Google because they go against search engine rules. According to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, mutual links that are put in place to try to manipulate search results will be promptly penalized.
This is a big problem, so let’s stop here. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines specifically address link schemes and backlink exchanges for the purpose of PageRank, or search results rankings. What would a penalty look like in this type of situation? There are two potential penalties, including:
- demote your site in search results.
- deindex your website (for the most serious cases).
Penalties and the resulting negative impact on SEO can occur due to the following actions:
- buying and selling backlinks that exceed PageRank;
- excessive mutual backlinks;
- create partner pages with lower quality content for cross-linking purposes only;
- automate the process of generating backlinks to your site (use automation services for backlink acquisition).
Risk of losing trust in search engines
With poorly positioned mutual links, you risk losing the trust of search engines. This loss of trust can occur in a number of definable ways, including:
- you place numerous one-to-one backlinks on your website;
- the anchor text of your backlinks is suspicious or has no relation to the content it links to.
Decrease in website authority and SERP rankings
Links to external sites that are not in any way relevant to your customers or content can lead to dramatic drops in website authority and SERP rankings. The way to avoid this is to always make sure that the content that mutual backlinks link to is relevant. While the other site doesn’t always have to have good authority, the more often it does, the less your site’s authority or rankings will drop.
Potential to increase your competition’s SEO, not yours
While mutual links should be to a site that offers a similar theme or content, you should avoid linking to a competing site. It’s understandable that a similar site might use the same keywords or phrases as your website, but most of the time, linking to them will not generate a reciprocal link. You will only be boosting the SEO of the competition, not yours. Be sure to weigh all of these risks carefully when considering including mutual backlinks in your SEO strategy. Missing even one of them can wreak havoc on your search engine optimization plans.
Mutual Linking Best Practices: How to Use Them
Although using mutual backlinks can seem like a gamble at times, there are ways you can use them to your advantage. Follow these best practices to make sure you’re using them correctly and see how they can boost your SEO.
1. Make sure the link is to relevant content
For each link you consider, first ask the following questions:
- Is this link contextually relevant?
- Would the mutual link be a natural fit for us?
- Will it fit with our content marketing strategy in any beneficial way?
The answer to these questions should always be a resounding YES. By linking to higher quality sites that are in some way relevant to your particular content, you will not only improve your customer experience, but also increase engagement and SEO. On the other hand, linking to irrelevant content will make you look bad in front of your customers and leads.
2. Make sure link content adds value
Help your readers solve a problem or get more information by linking to content that adds more value. In other words, avoid focusing only on your SEO and SERP ranking and instead focus on the consumer and how to provide real value with quality content on another site. Try to put yourself in their shoes and find out what experiences will be most useful to them.
Empathic marketing techniques can help you in this regard, providing clues about what content will be valuable to your customers. By linking to high-quality content, you get the added benefit of becoming a trusted resource. If you receive a mutual link in return, that’s a bonus and continues to position you as a trusted source of information.
3. Check the SEO metrics of the linking site
To increase the effectiveness of your mutual links and positively impact your SEO, check the other site’s SEO metrics. If you find good SEO metrics, that site is a high authority website and linking to them can benefit you. Consider using free online tools like Free Backlink Checker or start with a free trial of Monitor Backlinks to locate and filter sites to prioritize based on certain SEO factors. Determine what will be most important to you, such as high domain authority sites or something else that will show up in these metrics.
4. Build authentic relationships
The key to mutual linking success is building authentic relationships as the first step. You can start the relationship building process by linking to another source without expecting anything in return. Choose to link to a site that offers relevant content that will be of value to your readers. At some point, the other site may link to you, cementing a genuine relationship.
- Google and the History of SEO – Is SEO Dead In 2023?The history of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can be...
- Learn 10 Key Factors of Link Building and Optimize Your SEO StrategyLink Building is the set of actions done with...
5. Get in touch with bloggers and influencers
Blogger and influencer outreach is another strategy to incorporate into your mutual linking activities. Keep the intention of building a relationship and adding value for your readers and not simply generating backlinks.
6. Identify ways to develop backlink potential
Re-examine your digital marketing strategy and identify more ways to develop backlink potential. This can eventually lead to mutual links. Build these backlinks through content promotion, guest blogging, being a podcast guest, and hosting panels to discuss a particular topic.
7. Avoid backlinks to competing sites
When reciprocal linking isn’t well thought out, you can cause competitors to rank higher in search results thanks to their actions. Always confirm that the person you are linking to is not a direct competitor. Avoid links to the same target keywords. If you link them, you will rarely get a mutual backlink. Instead, you’ll be helping to increase their website traffic and push them up the search engine rankings.
8. Evaluate mutual backlink requests
At some point, you will probably start receiving requests for mutual backlinks. Before accepting, always evaluate these requests and how they might affect your SEO and site authority. Determine the following before accepting a mutual bacllink.
- Is it a backlink scheme?
- Is it a natural fit for our business?
- Will it offer value to our customers or leads?
- Can this mutual backlink relationship lead to an increase in website traffic?
- Do we want Google to associate us with this other site?
If you determine that the relationship will be mutually beneficial, do so.
Adding mutual links to your marketing strategy can be hit or miss. As long as you understand what is involved, how to use best practices, and what can happen if you don’t use them correctly, these links can improve your SEO as well as your site’s authority. It all starts with planning. Building authentic relationships, linking only to relevant content that adds value, avoiding competitors, and confirming high-quality sites can all make them beneficial to your overall SEO strategy. Interesting, isn’t it? So how about continuing to learn? Read our post on the 10 key factors of link building and become a link building specialist.