What Are Reciprocal Links? Are They Good or Bad for SEO?

A reciprocal link is a two-way link between two websites. 

Website A links to website B, and website B links back to website A.

A reciprocal linking exchange can occur naturally. 

For example, both sites publish content that is mutually beneficial and relevant to their respective audiences. Each site recognizes the value in the other’s content, resulting in a mutual link.

It depends.

When reciprocal links are natural and relevant, they’re harmless. Even beneficial. 

For example, a beauty blogger publishes an article on finding the perfect shade of red lipstick. And inserts a link to a fashion blog detailing the best date-night outfit to wear with red lipstick. The fashion blog links back to the lipstick blog. 

Both links are natural and relevant. And can improve both websites’ credibility and authority. 

However, reciprocal links can also be part of an intentional strategy known as a link exchange scheme. 

This is when two sites agree to link to each other in order to manipulate search engine rankings and visibility.

Link schemes violate Google’s spam policies. And may result in a penalty. 

Manage your reciprocal links and all types of backlinks effectively using the best practices below.

Focus on Creating High-Quality Content

High-quality content attracts backlinks. Create informative, engaging, and relevant content. For other websites and industry experts to reference and link to your site. Because they see it as a valuable resource.

Go beyond the basics. Provide in-depth insights, original research, or innovative solutions. Offer information not easily found elsewhere. Become a go-to source for reliable information in your niche.

This helps establish your site as an authority. And attract more backlinks naturally. 

Consider the relevance of your content. Target your audience and industry. By addressing their specific needs, questions, and pain points. To increase the chances of your content being shared and linked to by others in your field.

To ensure your content satisfies search intent (why the user is searching for this term), head to Keyword Overview

To start, enter your keyword, select a location, and click “Search.” 

search for homemade dog food in Keyword overview tool

The tool will display lots of helpful information about the keyword, including search intent. 

Homemade dog food has 27.1k monthly search volume, 69% keyword difficulty, informational search intent, and other data

Use this information to optimize your content, outrank your competitors, and earn valuable backlinks.

Ensure your external links (links to other sites) are relevant and add value to the reader. (Reminder: External links are one half of the reciprocal link equation.)

This helps improve user experience (UX). And a better UX contributes to better rankings in several ways.

Relevant outbound links point to related content that supports your arguments and provides context. 

For instance, you could link to infographics, videos, or statistics that back up your claims or provide additional insights. 

Like this:

Adobe's blog links to Semrush's content marketing study

Naturally inserting links into your content is key. For both readability and effective SEO.

Add links to sentences where they improve and expand on the information. And make sure it flows seamlessly with the rest of the text.

Avoid forcing links into your content. They can disrupt readability and may appear manipulative to search engines. 

Instead, link to relevant articles or resources when they organically fit the topic you’re covering.

For instance, in a blog post about gardening, include a link to a plant hardiness map only when discussing local best practices. To ensure the link supports the content’s context.

Like this:

in a blog about pollinator gardens, the page links out to the USDA's plant hardiness zone map

Avoid Linking to Competitors 

Especially search engine results pages (SERP) competitors—those ranking for your target keywords.


You could inadvertently boost their SEO. 

Google and other search engines consider backlinks as votes of confidence from one site to another. They’re an important Google ranking factor

But if a competitor offers unique value that your page doesn’t, you could consider linking to their site. 

First, ask yourself whether linking to their page helps your readers: 

  • Does it provide unique information? 
  • Does the article provide exclusive research? 
  • Will liking it enhance your content? 

If you decide to link, weigh the potential user benefits against the SEO risks. Make sure it supports your goals without compromising performance. And use competitor links sporadically. 

Write Unique, Varied Anchor Text

Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. 

It looks like this:

in a blog about homemade lattes, the words chocolate syrup are underlined and in a color to distinguish the link from regular text

Anchor text is important because it provides context about the page you’re linking to. And helps users and search engines understand the relevance of the link. 

It’s good for UX and SEO. 

Optimize your anchor text by ensuring it’s unique, varied, and descriptive. But avoid using keywords you’re targeting for this page as anchor text for other pages. 

Doing so would signal to search engines that the external page is relevant for those keywords rather than your site. 

Instead, use keywords you wish to rank for as anchor text in internal links (links to other pages on your site).

Don’t Overdo It

Adding too many links can overwhelm users and hurt their experience on your site. 

If a high percentage of those links are reciprocal, it could be seen as a backlink exchange. Which Google advises against. 

You could receive a penalty. Which means you could rank lower or risk not showing up in the SERPs at all. 

When it comes to links, reciprocal or not, less is more. 

Reciprocal link building is risky if your goal is to manipulate rankings. 

But high-quality backlinks are a crucial element of boosting your site’s authority and rankings.

Start with the Link Building Tool. To quickly find quality prospects to contact for relevant and natural backlinks. 

After setting up your project, click “Prospects” to view a report of suggested websites. 

suggested prospect domains are listed with their authority score

The tool will surface prospects already linking to similar content. Which means they’ll likely link to yours too. Especially if it’s high quality. 

From there, you can prioritize and directly contact the best link prospects—all from within Semrush.

Connect your inbox to send an email requesting a reciprocal link from a site you already link to

You can gain valuable backlinks by promoting your content to relevant site owners. To increase organic traffic and improve your ranking. 

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