what is a reciprocal URL / reciprocal link?

what is a reciprocal URL / reciprocal link?
Most website owners need to drive as much traffic to their website as possible. There are many different ways to do this and they all vary in their effectiveness. One of the most common methods employed is through the development of reciprocal links.

A reciprocal link is when one website adds a link to another website on the promise of that website adding a link back. This means that visitors to either website may follow the links and end up visiting both sites.

An important additional benefit is that the more incoming links a website has, the better its chances of appearing higher up in the Google search results. This is perhaps simplifying it rather as it the importance (or ‘pagerank’) of the websites linking to your own site also plays a part.

Developing these reciprocal links is a very time consuming activity and generally requires you to write to lots and lots of websites. Try to make sure that the websites you request reciprocal links from are relevant to the topic of your own site. Be prepared to never hear back from most of those that you write to. There are a number of ‘link exchange’ websites on the net that allow you to contact other webmasters, but do not expect to find many websites listed which are particularly relevant or high in quality.

Despite this, getting lots of incoming links is essential to the long term health of your website. Start sending requests for link sharing to relevant websites today – just be prepared to need to send out lots and be turned down or ignored most of the time. At What2Learn we have had a couple of requests from people running a website about psychics to link to them… if they were any good at what they claim to be they would know what our response would be!
Reciprocal Linking : SEO’s Longstanding Contradiction:
Reciprocal linking is one of the most disputable SEO questions. The problem is that it is two-fold in nature. First, reciprocal links are natural being the essence of the Internet like linking overall. (So undoubtedly, we can’t do without them.) Secondly, it is the easiest way to manipulate your rankings by engaging in numerous link exchanges.
Google also gives contradicting definitions of the term:
It can provide visitors with links to other sites of a similar topic. [= reciprocal links are useful for human beings]
Reciprocal links are considered the glue that binds the World Wide Web together as they allow users to cross over between Websites, pages and documents. [= reciprocal links represent the nature of the Internet]

This is a proven way to build link popularity … [= reciprocal links can be used to unnaturally grow your link popularity]
We’ve had a plenty of discussions (one of them at SEJ by the way: “reciprocal linking and interlinking“) recently on whether reciprocal linking is worth the time, whether it can hurt and whether it is legit. We’ve also heard a few words from Googlers on that and that’s what I would like to bring up for discussion now.

John Mueller at Webmaster Groups mentioned that the violation takes place if a link was added in order to gain a reciprocal link (though I can’t imagine how this can be put into practice as no one knows another person’s intentions). He also considers reciprocal links harmful for the visitors as they might be distracted by seeing many links to alternative resources/ businesses. (which can be also up for debate).

Anyway, the two definitive points he mentions is that reciprocal links shouldn’t be numerous (“a handful”) and should be relative (“Would you hang a directory of wedding-hemed businesses up in your shop”). He also points out the social factor of exchanging links with people “people that I know really well” saying that that’s ok and natural.

Matt Cutts in his recent interview with Eric Enge also said that reciprocal links are ok as long as they are not “excessive” compared to your site other backlink sources:

if your portfolio has a very large fraction of links where you’re getting them by sending automated emails saying Did you know that exchanging links can help your rankings in search engines? That’s not a basis for fundamental long term, solid growth of your links if that’s all you are doing.
Now this brings us to two officially confirmed points:

reciprocal links should be relevant in order to be useful, natural and hence effective;
reciprocal links should be in minority (so focus on a couple of big players in your niche rather than wasting time exchanging links with everyone).
Another thing is that these rules are not for everyone naturally. While smaller players might be figuring if they are allowed to link back to their friends, big players will still be successfully building deep reciprocal links through their automatic link exchange program (a well known and widely discussed example is

Reciprocal link checker

Reciprocal Link Manager

Domain Name

List of URLs where your Reciprocal Links can be found
(One on each line)

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