Link Exchange Hurts Blogs

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 Stef dela Cruz 27 Comments

Tips on link exchange abound, what with SEO practices from years ago advocating such link schemes. But hold your horses! Before you sign up with fellow bloggers for a link exchange scheme, there’s something you need to know.

Link exchange schemes are black hat. Not grey, not white, but black.

That means Google abhors link exchange protocols. After all, these are schemes that guarantee backlinks even to blogs that don’t provide quality content. Engaging in a link exchange hurts blogs more than you think.

But why do people still do it? Why do other bloggers (at least the ones living in the past) still ask their blogger buddies to link back to their own blogs? And in case you have no idea what link exchange schemes are all about, what exactly does it do anyway?

Link Exchange: What It Does For Blogs

To those who have absolutely no idea what link exchange is, it’s the practice of asking other bloggers to link to your blog and in exchange, you promise to link back to their blog, too. Bloggers find link exchange schemes appealing because it increases their backlinks.

A blog’s “respectability” is represented by how many sites point to it. The more “respect” a blog gets, the higher it ranks in Google search pages – and the more visitors it gets.

So here’s a little SEO for those who have never heard of words like “link juice” and “backlinks”: Google ranks blogs and websites according to a unique algorithm that nobody really understands totally, except for the fact that Google loves sites that have gained the respect of others.

Link Exchange: Why It Doesn’t Work (Anymore)

If many sites link to one particular blog, that blog starts to smell good to Google. Google just might rank it higher in search engine results. That explains why in the black hat SEO practices of yesteryears, bloggers often conspire among themselves, agreeing to mutually link back to each other’s blogs to fool Google.

But engaging in a link exchange doesn’t work anymore. They used to, but Google is so much smarter now. It always updates its algorithm, trying its best to reward blogs and websites with good content.

Link Exchanges Can Hurt Your Blog

Yes, Google has found a way to track down existing link exchange schemes and punish those who still practice this unnatural way of building backlinks. Quit pestering your fellow bloggers from linking back to your blog! Instead, find ways to actually write useful posts that the rest of the blogosphere can’t help but link to.

A link exchange scheme builds unnatural backlinks, giving credit to blogs based on debt of gratitude, not on good content.

Given the complicated nature of Google’s algorithm, I can imagine how easy it would be for Google to detect link exchange schemes. For instance, if two blogs link to each other, and both blogs are engaged in other “mutual linking” activities, Google robots will assume that both blogs are engaging in a link exchange protocol. Soon, the pages of your website will no longer be appearing in the top search results. Just you wait.

Why You Shouldn’t Join A Link Exchange

Joining a link exchange is not good SEO. It gives credit to blogs based on unnatural backlinks, instead of giving credit to blogs that have great content.

And before you say that you only engage in link exchanges with credible blogs, ask yourself this: Would you have published that blog’s URL on your blog if you wouldn’t get a backlink in return? If your answer is no, then stop making excuses – and stop engaging in link exchanges.

Link Exchange: It Can Hurt Your Blog

Don’t engage in a link exchange that can hurt your blog. Don’t anger Google Panda; remember: it’s a wild animal. If you’re too stubborn to put a stop to this black hat scheme, Google Panda will hate your blog.

Google can tell if you’ve been a bad blogger. It knows if you’ve exchanged backlinks with other bloggers. Skip this underhanded practice and use natural backlink building practices instead. Again, there are three words to summarize how to do that: Create good content.

Instead of spending hours on end trying to get others to link back to you, you should learn how to keep your cool, how to deal with negative blog comments, and how to keep your blogger attitude in check. These “social media skills” can help you get ahead.

There are better ways of getting backlinks than joining a link exchange. Prioritize content instead of black hat SEO techniques. In case you’re wondering, anything that uses loopholes to fool Google into loving your blog despite the lack of great content is considered black hat SEO.

So yes, in this day and age, link exchanges are considered black hat SEO. A link exchange can hurt blogs and tarnish your pristine reputation as a blogger – in Google’s eyes, that is. And you’re better off learning how to create good content rather than learning how to create unnatural backlinks that will eventually hurt your blog.

And before you say, “No way, link exchanges are definitely okay,” feel free to read the comments below. I’ve answered several of the queries, hopefully addressing any qualms about whether or not a link exchange can hurt your blog.

Remember: maybe you won’t get penalized for joining a link exchange today, and maybe not tomorrow either, but soon enough, Google will catch on. In general, Google doesn’t approve of SEO techniques that give power to blogs based on anything other than good content! And a link exchange just gives credit to blogs based on a mutual agreement, rather than on a confidence vote based on a blog’s great content. Leave a comment if you have any questions. You might also want to check if you are guilty of the 7 deadly sins of blogging!

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!


  1. thanks for the head up.Almost all bloggers with zero or a little SEO knowledge is engaging in link exchange. time to clean up the mess on our site,i guess.

  2. No problem, Ma'am Tess! Yes, a lot of bloggers engage in link exchange because it's been an accepted link building practice for years now. But Google continuously changes its algorithm and link exchanges are now frowned upon.

    Because many are still not aware of how a link exchange can hurt one's blog, I thought of making this post to provide an important update to fellow bloggers who still engage in mutual link exchange. :)

  3. Aww, I'm still guilty of this though there are only quite a number whose links are still up on my site and I'm truly following their blogs.

    Very informative post here, Miss Stef.

    Take care :)

  4. Don't worry; just to clarify, it's okay to have a blog roll that lists your favorite blogs, as long as you're listing them because you subscribe to them and like them, not because you agreed among yourselves to exchange links. :)

  5. Hi Steph,

    That was an interesting post. :) May I ask for the link from google releasign such information? Because I have read an article before from google tutorial that they are seems to encourage such kind of action. Just wandering though.

  6. You may search for "Google Panda updates" and "link exchange" on Google. In any case, it would make sense for Google to hate link exchange because it gives bad blogs/ spammy blogs a chance to get a higher ranking simply by exchanging links. In other words, Google wants blogs to rank higher because of natural backlinks, not artificial and "scripted" ones. :)

    Here is a statement from Google: "We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years."

    Of course, Google is way too mysterious; we can only speculate. But speculation aside, we should all try not to "cheat" the system into liking us; let's just stick to providing good content for our readers and Google will like us, with or without a link exchange! :)

  7. OMG! I just started doing it like 2 weeks ago. Mabuti na lang nabasa ko 'to! Thank you so much for sharing this Doc! Y_Y

  8. I agree wholeheartedly to what you've said here. It's better to create content and gain back links that being forced to in a link exchange. Found out about it just recently on an FB Group that I've joined. Some are only there for the link exchange and not the camaraderie or social aspect of a community of blogger.

    It's better to gain followers and likes because people likes the content of your blog than knowing that they are forced to so that you can return the favor.

    As per your previous blog entry: Amen to Blogging tips #3! :)

  9. Wrey and Robby, oh, no problem. :) Whenever I'm unsure as to how to interpret Google's algorithm, I always go back to this question: is what I'm doing something that's beneficial to my readers? If it isn't, I don't do it, because one way or another, Mama Google will find out and punish me for it. :)

    SWN, hahaha! Amen to #3 of the blogging tips indeed. :) I, for one, read your blog because I enjoy it immensely. I remember doing a satirical press release for Suplado Tips 2 and I had a lot of fun. Maybe I'll do one satirical article here and use your article as a "news source" of sorts. I'm just a little scared it might confuse my readers, haha!

  10. Link exchange,as far as I know will not hurt anyone's blog as long as the link are still updated and not a dead link.Link exchange will not hurt your blog,link farming will.

  11. Link exchange may not hurt your blog now, and maybe not tomorrow... but one thing is for sure: Google is ALWAYS trying to update their algorithm, trying to reward websites that get traffic because of their good content, not because they have mutually asked other bloggers to link to their blogs. Their focus is always to get the best websites on their search results based on good content, not on the most number of backlinks alone.

    It will always be a matter of speculation if any SEO technique is useful or not, link exchanges included. But again, as I always say, if the technique is something that can be done even by spammy blogs, then it's a technique that will most probably be discounted or, worse, punished by Google. :)

  12. ehhhh..katakot naman..I join link exchange kasi eh..hahaha..

  13. I still don't have a blogroll page and I actually considered putting up one. But I guess I was lucky to not get the time I needed to start one, especially since link exchange has become quite risky already. Anyway, thanks for the heads up! Really love how your blog helps SEO noobs like me know what's happening around ^^

  14. Google did not actually state that the link exchange will cause your ranking to lower. They are still part and parcel of getting good rankings. What they will penalize is non-related backlinks. If you're writing about let's say, Geology. Getting backlinks form websites that are about fashion may be a bit off since they're not related - unless you link to them about a certain stone that is now being used in jewelry. Legitimate and relevant reciprocal links are actually beneficial.

    But you're absolutely right about Google changing their whole algorithm. Now it's like being back to square one.

  15. You're right about going back to square one. But like I said before, although most of what we know about SEO is anecdotal (since we don't really have complete access to the algorithm), one thing's for sure: Google always aims to reward good content and will always penalize unnatural backlinks - today, tomorrow, or next year, I can never really say, but Google will say "no" to all SEO attemtps that even the spam-infested blogs can actually participate in. And it just makes sense that Google will do this, yes? :)

    In a nutshell: Google wants to credit backlinks that were made by other sites because your site has good content, not because you had a mutual understanding to get each other's backlink published. Again, the penalty may not be imposed today, but soon enough, Google will update its algorithm again and boom! Only natural backlinks will be credited.

    Let's not wait for that time to come. Let's all practice white hat SEO. Let's get ranked based on good content. It's just about fair. :)

  16. great anyone tell me about the seo and niche if you have knowledge then share with me and check out my blog........

  17. I think Link exchange is considered now as a black hat SEO technique. Luckily, I didn't do this. :)

  18. guilty of this.
    so this means link exchanges won't help us with Google anymore. :(

    thanks for sharing, Stef!

  19. Yep, link exchanges are no longer white hat. :) Many of us are guilty of this, hehe. No worries, now we know. :)

  20. urggg link exchange is no white hat anymore? arggg before getting No.1 in google as easy as 1-2-3 now its like a course hehehehe but its more fun doing it you will have many friends in the World wide web.

  21. Ouch. THanks for the info. I didn't care for link exchanges for the past 2 years until I became active in blogging again. Now I know better. :D

  22. Waaahh thank you for this! I was just about to ask fellow bloggers of the same niche for a link exchange. >__<

  23. Google will always keep changing its formula based on the SEO we do. I feel like the more "SEO" we practice, the more Google feels that we are manipulating our blogs to get to the top of the search results page - and they will reformulate to get the best content (not the best SEO) to get to that position. :)

  24. I found your blog because I was trying to figure out why on my preview page, I had backlinks from one site. Would you turn off the backlinks section of the blog? And an observation, after having blogroll for quite some time, I was having issues with their blogs having malware links on their sites...causing a warning to up for mine. I took the blogroll down and my stat numbers have shot way up again. Thanks for sharing this info.

  25. Good for you, Rohrerbot! White hate SEO does do our blogs a whole world of good. I never really turned on the back links section of my blog - the less links on one page, the better. But many bloggers still turn them on for the sake of courtesy and also to encourage people to link back (as the linkers get one free link back to their blogs, too). But if too many blogs link back to you, I'd say don't publish the backlinks.

    As Google dictates, do it right and white and you can't go wrong. :) Thanks for dropping by!

  26. Oh, I actually just imported my old blog to my new one when I started going back to blogging. I thought I'd be needing link exchange to boost up my new blog. I actually searched for link-exchange sites and I came here. Now I know better.

  27. Glad to hear that. :) Welcome back to the blogosphere, Sarah!