What are they? Reciprocal links are mutual links you and some other web site owner agree to post on your respective sites.
Why are they so important? It goes back to the basic nature of the Internet. The Internet exists as an information medium. When you go to a search engine, you are looking for links to the information you need. The better information sources have already been found by others, many of whom thought so much of those sources that they placed links to them on their web site. So the number of other web sites linking to a particular source of information, the better the chance it is a good source of information. All the major search engines take link popularity into account when they determine how to rank the results of any search. The end result is that to get a good ranking in the major search engines, an important step is to make sure there are lots of other sites that link back to yours. And, since the links are reciprocal, you will need to put a link to each site that links to you. You can't expect someone to link to you unless you link to them.
All right, you say, I will get all my friends to put links to my site on their sites. Not so fast! The number of links isn't all that matters! In addition to looking at the number of links that point to your site, the search engines also examine the quality of those links. Links from sites that are relevant to yours rank highest. If you sell dog food, for example, some good sites to link to yours would be pet toys, dog training, dog grooming, etc. Acquiring a lot of links that don't relate to your site not only doesn't help your search engine ranking, it will hurt it, because the search engines will assume you are trying to fool them into thinking your site is popular with a lot of "junk" links. Don't worry, there are lots and lots of relevant sites to do reciprocal linking with.
The number one ranking for any search term isn't entirely determined by the number of links to a site, but it is an important factor. And, as you know, having a ranking in the top ten for a search term will guarantee more visitors to your site. But in addition to improving your chances of being found through search engines, having links to your site on lots of other sites means you will get exposure to many site visitors who look at the links page or links section of a site for other related sites to visit. And, the more places your name and site name pop up, the more you are likely to be recognized as an authority on the topic of your site.
So how do you go about building reciprocal links on your site?
First of all you need to realize that reciprocal link building is an ongoing process, not a one shot deal. It needs to be something you continue to work on, although some of it can be automated. You will want to build a links page on your site, where you will place links to other sites which are also linking to you. Since you expect your links page to grow, you should establish separate link categories, all relating to the theme of your site. You can get an inexpensive script for creating and managing a link directory at Linking101.com, not to mention a lot of good, general information about linking.
On your links page, be sure to include simple instructions for anyone who wants to link with you. Many sites include a short piece of HTML code including all your link information, ready to be placed on the reciprocal sites links page. Be sure to place an easily-found link to your links page on the main page of your site as well.
Now you are ready to go looking for relevant link partners, sites that are complementary to yours, but not competitors. You can do it the manual way, by doing searches on your site's favorite keywords. When you find a site, evaluate it for content relevant to your own, evaluate its quality and note its search engine rank. If you have to choose between a site that is ranked #2 and one that is #20, always choose the higher ranked site. Look for the links page, where you should find instructions on initiating links between your sites. If you don't find one, it usually isn't worth your time to contact the webmaster to inquire about links; go to the next one.
One method to speed up the process is to use a free service from http://linkpopularity.com/. From this site you can check the link popularity of your site. But, you can also check which sites are linked to your competitors ? particularly your competitors with the high search engine ranking. With that information, you can go to each of these sites and most likely get a reciprocal link. A similar product, Link Survey, is available at http://www.antssoft.com/linksurvey/index.htm.
Another system for speeding up the process is http://links4trade.com/. Although not free, it also helps to manage the headache of link page maintenance.
Link exchange services which claim to completely automate the link exchange process can be found at http://www.powerlinks.com/ and http://www.softbizscripts.com/link-exchange-script-features.php.
A quite amazing tool you might look at is called Zeus, at http://www.cyber-robotics.com/index.htm. Zeus is an intelligent robot that builds a link directory and creates reciprocal links for your web site. A free version is available. You can also find a group of Zeus users ready to swap links at http://www.zeuscollective.com/.
Regardless of how you do it, continue to pursue reciprocal links and make it a part of your overall marketing strategy; you are sure to find it rewarding!
About The Author
Darryl DeLong is a successful Internet Marketer and Ezine Publisher. Learn how to build up your opt-in list, site visitors and sales with my brand new ebook entitled "Viral Internet Marketing Strategies" get a free copy here: <a target="_new" href="http://www.viral-internet-marketing.com">http://www.viral-internet-marketing.com</a>