Thematic link exchange or also known as reciprocal linking is a link building method in which 2 different websites with a similar theme or niche give links to each other (Site A links to Site B and Site B links back to Site A). Exchanging of links is usually done through email outreach, wherein one sends a request to another other site to have a link partnership.
Links acquired through this technique are usually placed on the sidebars – which is more often than not in categories such as blogroll, links, networks, friends, etc… – or placed on the footer of the page as a sitewide link (links that can be seen in almost every page of the website).
Link exchange has been known to be very effective in improving search rankings before, and some are saying that it still works. So I’ve decided to see it for myself by implementing an experiment that I’ve started 3 weeks ago (first week of January 2011).
How It All Began (Case Study)
In my experience as an SEO, I’ve never tried this method – not even once – because I simply didn’t believe in it. I was a big fan of one-way incoming links and voluntary planted in-content backlinks, and yes, those are really some tough stuff to obtain.
Moving on, when I began to put up this blog, my main intention was to just put it up as my personal SEO lab rat, wherein I can do experiments to test what really works and what doesn’t (and I haven’t even thought of including link exchanges as a part of my future experiments, well I guess I was wrong back then).
Anyway, on the 2nd week of July last year, I’ve decided to start a dummy SEO campaign for this blog, which entirely focused on 1 keyword, a keyword that I really wanted to own – and that is SEO Strategies. I don’t really know why I’m so persistent with that keyword, I just like those words so bad! It was quite difficult to rank for and have substantial amount of monthly search volume, definitely the perfect candidate for a challenging match between an SEO and Google.
Getting back to my story, that campaign was very successful, in fact, I was able to see my page ranking for the targeted keyword on the second page of Google’s SERP within 2 weeks. The strategy was so easy, and you should check it out.
After that event, I then halted with this blog’s link building campaign, since clients started pouring in. But I did some few links (10 – 15 backlinks) each month, from September – November last year just to maintain its position. Fortunately, my most prized keyword has been dancing between the #7 – #13 search ranking positions for the past 4 months. It was frustrating, sometimes, but what can I do, I’m still busy with other things.
On the first week of January this year, I’ve contacted four active bloggers (online friends) and asked if they’ll be interested to participate with this mini experiment of mine – basically to do link exchanges with my blog. And I’m very grateful to them for having this post completed:
Kristi Hines of Kikolani
Udegbunam Chukwudi of Strictlyonlinebiz
Gary Lawood of Lawmacs
Zarko Zivkovic of Practical SEO
Within the period of the experiment, I haven’t built any other links pointing to my homepage to have full results coming from the thematic link exchange campaign. With the other links that I’ve artificially built recently, I have them all directed to my about page and About.me profile page instead (another experiment that I’ll be sharing next week).
Let’s get back to business, the links that I’ve acquired from this campaign was segmented into 2 different link placements, but all have the same anchor text used (which was “SEO strategies”). 2 incoming reciprocal links were positioned on the sidebars, one on Kikolani’s blogroll and one on Lawmac’s – both were sitewide links.
The experiment was scheduled to run for only 2 weeks, but I was not satisfied with the results I got and decided to extend it for another week and waited for something good to come up, well nothing really came up after the 7-day wait. However, I found something interesting instead of the results that I was really expecting (Google search rankings).
Google SERP Rankings
- My targeted keyword’s ranking didn’t improve; it stayed on the 8th – 12th position for the entire month of January. Clearly, Google doesn’t put any weight on this method any longer in boosting search rankings. Google uses different sets of search algorithms each week, or every 2 – 3 days, or who knows how many, but the point is that in the period of the experiment, this method hasn’t shown any potentials in terms of search rankings in Google’s territory.
- Obviously, the amount of links have improved, given that many quality pages from the 4 sites I’m exchanging links with are linking to my homepage, with some pages that already have PR. It did improve my homepage’s mozRank (from 3.90 to 4.04), perhaps Linkscape wasn’t able to index the links from the other pages where my links are placed yet. My homepage’s Page Authority – a metric used by SEOmoz’s Linkscape – also increased from PA – 40 to PA – 51.
- The recent Google Pagerank update hasn’t hit my website/blog and I sort of know what the reason is. When the Pagerank updated a few weeks back, I’ve observed other sites immediately, particularly the new ones (I have a list of them) and some older sites that I’ve been following. I’ve come to realize that the recent update only occurred to sites that were already live last April 2010. And with the sites that have just been launched/live last June and onwards wasn’t included on the recent PR update. Digging deeper also led me to another theory, I’m speculating that the recent Pagerank update was just partial – probably with just the links that were indexed from April 4 – last week of June last year.
- Well, with this experiment, I’m confident that it will affect my homepage’s Pagerank positively, given that links that I’ve acquired through this process are mostly dofollow links and are from authority and active websites. So, I guess I’ll be updating this spot on the next PR update.
In Referring Traffic
- Not so good.
Yahoo and Bing SERP rankings
- When I started the dummy SEO campaign – which I’ve explained above – my site’s targeted keyword didn’t even reach the top 100 results for both search engines. But doing this experiment made my homepage rank on 4th place for the keyword “SEO strategies” in just a week, and it hasn’t move up to this very moment. Both Bing and Yahoo use the same search algorithm since last year, after Bing’s acquisition of Yahoo.
What is it good for? If you’re aiming for organic traffic from Yahoo and Bing, then shoot for a thematic link exchange campaign. This method is also great in building a solid link profile for your website as well as in improving your homepage’s Pagerank, and I can attest to that.