Link Bartering

by Donna Fontenot February 2nd, 2009 

Gaining backlinks can certainly be one of the most frustrating aspects of any search marketing campaign. In the old days, when Googlebot was a mere child, incapable of rational thought, it was easy to obtain backlinks. Everyone just threw up a links page (and trust me, many of them looked like someone had "thrown up" on the page) and traded reciprocal links willy-nilly. Alas, as Googlebot gained in intelligence, those free-trading days disappeared into the links netherworld.

These days, we have to actually create content worth linking to! Oh my, what a concept. Still, even with excellent content, links are hard to come by. That's why I suggest doing a little link bartering now and then.

Link bartering is not simply the act of trading links with others. Instead, it is the bartering of services that may naturally lead to links. The key is that links should not be a required aspect of the service trade, but that getting a backlink from the trade would be at least somewhat likely, based on the fact that it would just make sense to do so. Let's take an example to show what I mean.

You notice via one of your social networks (Twitter, a forum you visit often, etc.) that someone has a problem that you can help with. Many of these "problems" are minor, and as such, you should freely give your assistance simply because it is the "neighborly" thing to do. Nothing should be expected in return for this type of help. On the other hand, occasionally, these problems are bigger, and it would not be un-neighborly to suggest some sort of service trade for these issues. The idea is that you would help resolve their problem, and in return they would trade some sort of service for you.

The type of trade might involve service-for-service (such as coding work for design work, for example), but it may also involve something more along the lines of service-for-review. In this instance, you would help the person out, in return for them doing a review of your site, service, widget, or product. In my opinion, it is important that you place no restrictions of any sort on the review. They don't have to give a favorable review. They don't' have to link to you. If they do link to you, they can nofollow it if they choose to. Assuming you have confidence in your site/service/product, you probably won't have to worry about getting a bad review – and you probably won't have to worry about not getting a good, solid link out of it. Obviously, it's best if your widget, product, or article is quality. That gives you the best chance of getting both a good review and a good link to it.

If all goes well, and your social neighbor writes a good review for you, be sure to socialize his or her review yourself! Let your social networks know about it. Encourage retweets to it. The person who wrote the review will appreciate the traffic, and you've also upped the chances of someone else writing about it and linking to it as well!

If each of you are happy with the services you've supplied each other, there's a good chance the two of you will naturally trade services again in the future – simply because it makes sense to do so! That's how it works in the "real world" and it works equally well in our virtual worlds. Be neighborly, give freely when you can, and trade services when appropriate to build strong friendly foundations that can result in backlinks now and in the future.

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23 Responses to “Link Bartering”

  1. david says:

    nice little post, i love the term barter, it seems so nice and friendly like just borrowing a cup of sugar.

    a thing to keep an eye out for is do they ad a nofollow tag… then the whole effort might have been worthless

  2. I like the idea of a mutual trade. It's a lot better and more rewarding than some simple link exchange. It keeps backlinks as having some respectable value.

  3. Yes, yes a great concept. I also agree the key is to get an honest review, as nobody with integrity will promised to write a glowing review (unless they are already a big fan). Much better ask them if they can review without restrictions, but could they please link both to your home page and directly to the product, widget, service, etc.

  4. Utah SEO says:

    Providing a free service in exchange for a link, free product or service is a good concept. You'd be surprised how many people are usually up for it.

  5. The bartering trade, who would have thought it's still practiced in any trading aspect these days. Lol! Thank you for the tips.

  6. Kids Soccer says:

    Mutual trade or barter are only good in theory. What happens when your in a niche and the big boys don't wont to share? You ask to do guest posts for a backlink and they continue to refuse. Some niches are easy to monopolise if you ask me.

  7. DazzlinDonna says:

    Kids Soccer dude, you'll notice that I mentioned in the post "someone has a problem that you can help with". I'm not talking about just willy-nilly getting in touch with some stranger and offering to do a guest post in exchange for a link. I'm talking about responding to someone who is actively seeking help and offering to give that help. See the difference?

  8. Weird! 2 hours before I read this post today I got a logo design from a highly professional graphic designer in exchange for a link from that clients website.

  9. This sounds like a great idea/concept. I wonder why I have never thought of it in the past. I'll have to see if I can find creative ways to add this to my link building strategies. Thanks for the idea.

  10. These recip pages are still pretty prevalent in my experience. They still look like someone has thrown up on them though :)

  11. Clint Dixon says:

    I'm trying to figure out how anyone falls for Googles Propaganda on links????

    Donna I also feel masking the word exchange, with the word barter is nothing more than a coy work around. Synonyms are great …trade links is another ……they all have the same meaning

    ….Reciprocal links still work…..

    Google cannot detect if I call a friend and ask him to reciprocate links between our sites and if everything is set up properly Google will never find the commonality between the sites….

    Don't fall for the propaganda Google NEEDs to put out there boys and girls!!!!

  12. DazzlinDonna says:

    I'm going to say this one more time and if it's still not clear, I give up.

    I am NOT advocating reciprocal link exchanges. NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT!!!!

    If that's what you got out of this post, then please re-read it (or read it completely for the first time).

    I'm talking about bartering a SERVICE (like me helping you get a plugin to work on your blog for example), in exchange for a REVIEW (which may or may not include a link, but if your page is worthy, it naturally will).

    When you see someone in need of having a problem solved – that you can solve – you have the opportunity to help that person – and in the process get something in return in lieu of money.

  13. This kind of barter takes place all the time in the offline business world.

    My husband maintains the sound system for a small-town coffee shop, which keeps their customers happy and saves them having to hire an expensive out-of-town technician whenever anything goes wrong. In return, he gets all the free coffee, bagels and sandwiches he wants (including bags of whole beans to take home).

    A community group uses the services of a drop-in child care facility in town to watch their kids while they have their monthly meetings, which increases the child-care facilities earnings and gives them a steady source of income. So the child-care facility negotiated a membership fee discount for their customers and includes ads for the community group in every newsletter they send out.

    This kind of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" approach has been integral to small business operations since Day One.

    I'm sometimes surprised so few of them think to carry the concept over to the online world. There are lots of things beyond "another link" that one can exchange for a link — well, if one is offering products or services that are actually of use to others, that is. ;)

    Excellent article, Donna! Too bad so many people immediately mentally add the word "reciprocal" whenever they see the word "links."

  14. DazzlinDonna says:

    Ahh, Diane, so nice when someone gets what I'm saying. Thank you! :)

  15. Nice little article, the term "bartering" is much better than "baiting" :)
    Thanks.

  16. Rick says:

    I agree that you have to add value somehow. People need to stop focusing on short-term strategies to get massive amounts of links and start trying to develop relationships. Just like we do as business people in the "real world".

  17. Utah SEO says:

    You ask to do guest posts for a backlink and they continue to refuse. Some niches are easy to monopolise if you ask me.

  18. [...] Here's another good point on building good links, from Donna Fontenot in Search Engine People's blog: Link Bartering [...]

  19. Jimmy says:

    The best thing to gain backlinks is to create high quality content, like lists of things, lists of tips, etc. That way everybody will link to your blog.
    For example if you have a seo blog you can create lists of directories, lists of social bookmarking sites, lists of articles directories, etc

  20. Sri says:

    there is no secret again backlinks atleast for now. But, link bartering is actually not as good as one way link..

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  21. Ilia - SEO says:

    I get approached every day by marketing/seo newbies asking for some help. I usually don't have any problems helping them out but sometimes I simply don't have the time. It is a good idea to ask them for a backlink in return for my help and hopefully with my help this backlink will actually be worth it in a year time or so. Hmmmm…

  22. DazzlinDonna says:

    I wonder how many times I have to repeat myself to make sure I'm understood. /sigh… one more time…

    @Sri – In my use of the term "link bartering", I AM talking about a one way link. I am NOT talking about recip links.

    I give…sheesh.

  23. hadoota says:

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    copy of this lesson on my site here